Landlords environment warning

Commercial landlords warned over environmental liability

Cowens claims they could face claims for damages and be subjected to action from regulatory bodies for failing to address environmental safety, even if it is a tenant who is at fault.

Commercial property landlords could face claims for damages and be subjected to action from regulatory bodies for failing to address environmental safety even if it is a tenant who is at fault.

That is the claim of Cowens Survival Capability, a firm that advises companies on how to assess any potential risks to their business and aims to ensure that they have the correct policies in place to cover any eventualities.

It added recent changes in legislation, including Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act and a number of EU directives, coupled with increased public awareness driven by the media, means that there is now more pressure on landlords to take action.

Stuart Williams, from Cowens SC, commented: “The changes mean that a lot of landlords do not have the correct insurance cover in place should they be held liable for damage to the environment, whether that’s to water, land, buildings or people.

“For example, property insurance does not normally cover historical pollution or contaminated soils, often found when brownfield sites are being developed. With existing liability insurance, there’s often no cover for damage to one’s own property or cover for historical pollution.

“Our advice is for landlords and the owners of commercial property to complete a thorough review of the risks concerned with environmental liability and ensure that their insurance cover is more than adequate.”

He concluded: “There is a lot of cover now available, such as specialist policies that cover premises pollution or contractor pollution. It could prove costly to take the risk of not being insured.”

Cowens claims businesses who should examine their cover include land developers, manufacturers, SMEs, service companies, the petro-chemical industries, owners of sites where hazardous materials are stored, companies working in the utilities sector and contractors.

According to figures from the Environment Agency, there were 723 pollution incidents during 2008 that had a serious impact on the environment in England and Wales, with 79 causing major environmental damage. In 2008 there were 251 companies fined as a result of action by the EA, with the average fine totalling £10 580.

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