Dumped with a prosecution for illegal waste – the risk for commercial landlords
The Environment Agency has issued a warning to land owners and companies to be vigilant when letting commercial properties due to the fact that empty units are being used for the illegal dumping of waste.
The units will generally be rented out by a 'tenant' who will use the opportunity to dispose of their potentially hazardous waste. This can affect landlords, property managers and farmers. Once the waste is discovered, the owner can be subject to thousands of pounds in clean-up costs and possibly even face criminal prosecution for failure to operate without an environmental permit, which could result in fines and even prison sentences.
Farms, industrial units, abandoned factories and derelict sites are highlighted as the most susceptible to illegal dumping. The following steps should be taken by landlords to try and avoid becoming a victim of criminal waste-dumping:
- Conduct rigorous checks on all prospective tenants
- Ensure all tenancy agreements comply with relevant regulations
- Check empty land regularly and make sure it is secure
- Do not allow waste to be stored on your land without the relevant permissions
- Do not accept an offer of payment to temporarily store waste
- Be aware of waste crime and report any unusual behaviour from prospective tenants
The Environment Agency state that between December 2016 and November 2017 they investigated over 18,000 bales of dumped waste which would have amounted to an estimated cost of £1,277,000 had it been disposed of properly.
This issue also highlights the risk to businesses when disposing of their waste. Every business has a duty of care to ensure that their waste is being disposed of properly and should carry out the correct due diligence when considering their disposal methods. In the case of Thompson Waste Ltd, the firm was issued penalties of £14,700 and received a criminal conviction as 585 tonnes of their waste had been illegally dumped in a disused factory warehouse. It was found that the company had acted recklessly in paying a local man below market rates to remove the waste and failing to adequately check where it was going. The landlords of the disused warehouse in this case were also landed with disposal costs of over £100,000.
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If you have fallen foul of the illegal waste laws, please contact our Regulatory team on 02076324300