What to do if your dream home has an asbestos problem

Going through the process of buying a property can be time-consuming, stressful and challenging. But it all feels worth it when you find the perfect property – your new dream home.

Unfortunately, some things in life are never as simple as they could be, and there may be a factor that you are overlooking with your perfect property – and that is asbestos. A naturally occurring substance, asbestos was commonly used in home construction especially through the 1960s to the 1980s.

Often hidden away in the fabric of the building itself, asbestos can be functionally ‘invisible’ but this substance can be a significant danger to human health. So, what should you do if you’re concerned that the dream you have found contains asbestos?

Isn’t asbestos a thing of the past?

Asbestos was banned from use in 1999 after it was shown to have been responsible for a number of serious illnesses – especially those affecting the lining of the lungs. The ban has had the effect of making some home buyers assume that asbestos is no longer an issue in properties – but this isn’t the case.

While asbestos was banned from use, there was never a specific rule put in place to force the removal of asbestos in situ. This means that any property that was built before 1999 could potentially contain asbestos.

Will a standard homebuyer survey notice asbestos?

You can try to do asbestos testing yourself if by any chance you’re not able to get a professional to do it. While homebuyer surveys do provide a very useful service – they simply do not provide the kind of in-depth insight and specialised expertise necessary to properly recognise and assess the condition of asbestos across the home. This means that you can have a survey carried out on the property you love, and it won’t include vital details on asbestos.

“Most residential property surveys will note common asbestos materials used in the building industry and advise further investigation,” says Dave Hanley, Director at asbestos specialists Crucial Environmental “but even a full RICS Building Survey is unlikely to give any advice regarding the condition of asbestos in the property, or the costs involved in removing it.”

It can be extremely important, then, to have a survey carried out that specifically looks for asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. When this survey is carried out by experienced asbestos professionals, it can offer you an understanding of both the risks associated with the asbestos, and how much remedial works might cost.

Does the asbestos need removing?

You might assume that there is a simple solution to having asbestos in your dream home: have it removed! In theory this is fine, but in reality it is more complex. Not only is it not always necessary to remove asbestos from your property, in some cases doing so is actually far riskier than leaving it in situ.

Asbestos can be dangerous to human health, but when it is in good condition and is unlikely to be damaged, it is often the safest, simplest and cheapest option to leave it where it is. This is something that can be established via a survey.

How to manage asbestos on your property

So, it may be the case that simply leaving the asbestos in position is the safest thing to do – but that doesn’t mean that you can then simply forget about it. Remember that asbestos is only safe if it remains in good condition and is undisturbed. Asbestos can deteriorate over time, so this is something that needs to be monitored closely.

If you know that you have asbestos, or asbestos-containing materials on your property, it is recommended that you have the home re-surveyed on a regular basis. This helps you to understand whether any aspects of the condition have changed over time.

Final thoughts

Having asbestos on your dream property doesn’t have to mean giving up on the idea of buying it – but it does mean that you need to take things carefully and follow sensible precautions. Asbestos can be dangerous, however, this is sometimes overstated, and assumed that it is true in all circumstances. In fact, when it is properly managed, having even a significant amount of asbestos in your home does not need to be a problem.

The key here is taking advice from professionals as relating to the specific circumstances of your property. Only through the advice and expertise of those with years of experience can you do this effectively.

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