Asbestos has been used in construction for decades. In New Zealand it become most popular in the post-war era and the country would import tones of the substance every year until around the mid-1980s when the health consequences became obvious.
It is a highly heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral that can be woven into fabrics. While there are several types of asbestos, they all have a similar constitution and are made up of tiny microscopic fibers. The health danger of asbestos became clear with the rise of a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. This cancer was caused by the inhalation of the asbestos fibers, which became lodged in the lungs.
We know asbestos is dangerous to construction workers, but due to its dangerous nature to even people living or working in an asbestos insulated property, it also has some big impacts on buying, selling, renovating or renting.
Asbestos removal can be costly when it is used extensively throughout a property. As a seller, this can present a tricky dilemma; do you remove it yourself and pay the fee or do you sell your home without removing it and accept that you are likely to receive a lesser price? That decision is something that you should discuss with your real estate agent, but what you should know is that when you sell a property you:
- Must reveal any information you know about contamination, if you are asked
- Must not mislead a prospective purchaser about the state of a property
So honestly is ALWAYS your best policy and you should notify any purchasers of the asbestos.
It is important to find out about potential asbestos contamination before you purchase a property. To be safe, you should consider testing any properties built prior to the 1980s. If you do not investigate the potential contamination situation prior to purchasing, you are likely to be responsible for the removal and clean-up which could become costly.
Although asbestos use essentially ended by 1980, there are many old homes that still contain asbestos insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, shingles, siding, and other items. So, when renovation projects take place in the home, these items must be handled with care. Homeowners who perform do-it-yourself projects should never remove or manipulate asbestos products on their own. A licensed asbestos abatement professional should always be hired to do this work.
Any asbestos-related risks need to be managed by landlords when work is taking place at their property. This is to ensure the health and safety of tenants, neighbours, contractors and anyone else who may be affected.
If you're a landlord you must comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016. As a landlord you may not have to remove asbestos from your property but you will need to manage any related risks. For example if contractors are carrying out repair work, this could disturb material that contains asbestos. You can learn more information about this on the Worksafe website.
So be safe and be smart. It always pays to know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities when dealing with property and asbestos.