I have found asbestos in my house, what can I do?

Discovering Asbestos After the Fact

People in the market for a new home sometimes discover after they’ve placed an offer on a house (or perhaps even completed the purchase) that the home contains asbestos. There are a number of reasons why asbestos sometimes goes undetected starting with the possibility that the seller misrepresented the facts and continuing on to the possibility that the home was built within the last 30 years and so the buyer assumed asbestos would not have been used in its construction. In between there is also the possibility that the seller was simply unaware of the presence of asbestos containing materials and did not intend to mislead.

Keeping Things in Perspective

Discovering asbestos in a home you either plan to buy or have actually purchased can be a disturbing situation and one that leads to myriad questions regarding your rights and your health. You’ll certainly want to determine how this happened; although truth be told it’s not likely to make a huge difference in the long run.

  • If the seller was simply unaware, or even deliberately mislead, you may have grounds to either nullify the sale or seek restitution. Since asbestos containing materials that are still intact do not constitute an immediate health threat you may find it difficult to have the sale nullified. However, you’ll likely be eligible for restitution that could take the form of having the price reduced or a percentage of the purchase price refunded or by legally compelling the previous owner to cover the cost of removing the offending material.
  • On the other hand, because asbestos has been a known health hazard for so long many people assume that if a house was built within the past 30 years or so that there’s no chance it could contain asbestos. But while the dangers of asbestos have indeed been public knowledge for more than 50 years the fact is that asbestos was not fully banned until 1999. As a result there are, unfortunately, many homes in the UK built as late as the 1990s that contain asbestos. So assuming a relatively new home is asbestos free is never wise.

Regardless of how the asbestos was overlooked the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t pose a health hazard as long as the material that contains it has not been compromised. Asbestos is only a hazard when it becomes powdered and airborne at which time it can be easily inhaled. Once the presence of asbestos is confirmed bring in a professional to assess the risk and supply options.

You may want to pursue litigation against a seller you feel deliberately mislead you – and that is certainly your prerogative – remember however, that your new home could still be made completely safe by having a qualified asbestos mitigation company either encapsulate or remove any asbestos containing materials.

Conclusion

Unless the home is brand new you should always test it for asbestos before you put down an offer. A simple asbestos sampling kit may save you a lot of anxiety in the long run.