When buying residential and commercial properties, our clients often have concerns regarding asbestos. This blog aims to highlight the issues around asbestos and what clients should do in the event that asbestos is found or suspected at their property.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was widely used in construction as a component in building materials, typically from the 1950s up until it became banned in 1999.
The use of asbestos was widespread in the manufacture of building materials for many years and it is therefore not uncommon for it to be found in properties constructed or refurbished prior to the year 2000.
Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases, including cancers of the chest and lungs.
What should I do if asbestos shows up in my Home Survey Report?
We commonly see suspect asbestos in both residential and commercial properties. Artex ceilings, lagging, wall panels, roofing felt, flooring, walls, and heating systems and equipment are all commonly associated with asbestos usage. Garages and other outbuildings may also house asbestos.
The identification of asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) is beyond the remit of our survey reports, and ACM’s can only be sampled by a qualified Asbestos Surveyor and be confirmed through laboratory analysis. However, if we suspect the presence of ACM’s we will mention this.
If asbestos is suspected in a property you have had a survey on, you may want to have a further specialist asbestos report for your own peace of mind.
As long as asbestos is in good condition and there is no disturbance or damage to the materials, the risk to health is very low as fibres are unlikely to be released. However, it can affect the use and value of some properties.
Who is responsible for asbestos in a commercial property?
Commercial lenders can be cautious about asbestos in properties and may insist that a specialist asbestos report is undertaken before lending is released.
For those leasing commercial property, the responsibility for asbestos depends on the terms within the lease. Usually, where there is asbestos in the building, the duty to manage this would rest with the tenant as part of their general repair and maintenance obligations.
Can asbestos be removed?
Exposure to asbestos poses serious health risks and removal should only be attempted by an individual or contractor who has the skills, knowledge, expertise, correct training and insurance. A specialist asbestos surveyor/contractor will be able to undertake a survey to identify the extent of asbestos and make a plan for removal to take place, with the safe disposal of the asbestos containing materials.
Although the presence of asbestos itself is not necessarily dangerous, the danger comes when property owners are unaware of its presence and undertake building or maintenance work on the property, inadvertently exposing themselves to asbestos fibres.
A survey report from a Chartered Surveyor, either before you buy a residential or commercial property, or before taking up a lease as a tenant at a commercial property, can be helpful in alerting you to potential areas where asbestos may have been used.
We also have a blog relating specifically to asbestos in schools.
For more information about any of our surveys as undertaken by our team of specialist Chartered Surveyors, please get in touch.