Domestic Asbestos

This month we’re looking at the complications surrounding asbestos in domestic properties.

Current Regulations

At the moment, domestic properties are not covered by CAR 2012 (The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012), but instead fall under general duties in section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act). This applies to protect homeowners from risks when work is being carried out in their homes. All CAR 2012 related issues and responsibilities fall to the company carrying out the work. However, this means that it does not cover the likes of selling and buying domestic properties.

The Benefit of Asbestos Surveys – Health and Financial

When buying a new home people are already facing a number of fees, so the idea of adding yet another cost on top of that, and in the form of an asbestos survey, is daunting and likely seen as a major inconvenience. But having an asbestos survey carried out can potentially save the buyer huge financial and health costs. This could be seen as quite controversial to many. From the seller’s point of view, the discovery or even mention of asbestos could potentially cost them a sale, or drastically affect the market price of their home, giving the buyer leverage on the price.  Arguably, the financial issue is not priority though. Aside from the buyer inadvertently taking on a home with the deadly material inside, it could also alert the current owner of the danger, meaning they can avoid potential exposure. Having an asbestos survey carried out might not always find asbestos, giving both the seller and buyer peace of mind. It also means that the seller would have proof to show other potential buyers that their home is asbestos-free (provided they funded the survey). Either way, having a survey carried out at the cost of a few hundred pounds, could save thousands in removal costs in the long term, and also prevent unnecessary exposure.

Dubious ‘Home Improvements’ and Removal Implications

In recent years, MDS Limited has come across domestic asbestos that seems to have been ‘applied’ by previous home owners, possibly going back decades, in what surveyors can only describe as an attempt at ‘home improvements’.

It’s bad enough finding out that there is asbestos in your new home, applied professionally decades ago when the building was constructed, but to find out your home contains asbestos haphazardly placed by previous home owners, can be much worse. MDS Limited, unfortunately, have encountered this very recently and in the form of asbestos lagging, one of the worst forms of asbestos, notorious for its friability and severe levels of exposure it can cause. On the most recent occasions, it has been in a recently purchased house where the new home owner had no idea about the presence of asbestos. Having already spent thousands in moving costs, they then faced thousands more in removal costs. On these occasions the lagging was loose and throughout most of the voids within the home. Unfortunately, because of its sporadic and fibrous nature, it meant that furniture and decoration was also contaminated, and could’ve exposed the new home owners to serious asbestos fibre levels.

Should Regulations Change?

At MDS Limited we have noticed a rise in recent years, calls from estate agents or potential buyers, requesting asbestos sampling and surveying services, so perhaps times are changing to address the asbestos issue in domestic properties, at least from an estate agent’s point of view. It is already obligatory before the sale of a house, to have a general building survey carried out, so should regulations change to also include the requirement of an asbestos survey? In some cases, general building surveys can pick up on potential areas of asbestos, but this is usually on an observational level, and is by no means a professional opinion.

With constant improvements in ensuring commercial, retail, industrial etc. properties are protected and managed, it does appear that domestic properties have been left behind, and that home owners are still in the dark about how to manage asbestos in their homes, despite such heightened awareness of the danger these days.

The complications lie in the many questions that the issue raises:

Who pays for, and arranges the survey? The seller or the buyer?

Where do home owners stand regarding asbestos removal, and how do they best manage it?

And these are only some of the questions, so it’s no wonder it’s such a grey area in the asbestos world, but perhaps it is time to consider the complications surrounding domestic asbestos.

Do you think regulations regarding domestic properties should change?