Can I Rent a House with Asbestos?

By Cristina M. in Health

Asbestos is a mineral with a fibrous texture that used to support the largest part of the construction initiatives in North America taking place in the first half of the 20th century. Praised for its ability to provide strength to the materials it was added to, as well as for its property of resisting fire, asbestos manufacturers had quickly transformed the substance into everyone's go-to choice of insulation. In the 1970s, the mineral was declared a carcinogen and both its industrial and commercial uses were heavily regulated. The new safety regulations stated that as long as an item contained no more than 1% asbestos, it could be used without having to worry about future health issues.

Asbestos Use Regulation

Although watchdog organizations, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission are constantly monitoring the ways in which the current regulation is implemented to protect the consumer and using the observations to come up with better plans to remove asbestos entirely from the market, their single biggest concern remains the many American homes that have been built before the ban on asbestos was issued, therefore, being suspected of having been constructed with materials containing the toxic mineral. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) put forth the idea that it would be the safest to operate based on the assumption that all the buildings that were constructed prior to 1981 have had asbestos fibers poured into their infrastructure.

Asbestos has been exposed as a carcinogen after a few decades of medical records following the connection between the exposure to the mineral and the diagnosis of cancerous diseases. Lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer that affects the thin lining of the chest area or of the abdomen, could be the result of years of irritation caused to the internal organs by the sharp fibers. The reason for the research on the issue taking so long is that the latency period for such illnesses is usually a few decades long. It has also been common for asbestos-related diseases to be misdiagnosed a few times before coming to the correct conclusion, but since medical professionals have caught on to the pattern, symptoms are being identified earlier and earlier.

Disclosing Asbestos Information

Landlords have the responsibility of making sure that the property they are putting out for rent is safe to use as a living space. In this sense, they can schedule a proper inspection of the premises before a lease is even signed so that they can avoid any legal complications. If it is the case that someone develops a serious condition caused by toxic materials found on the property they were renting, the landlord can be sued for the injury.

If the landlord has had samples tested and asbestos was confirmed on the premises, they have the obligation to let the tenants know that. Additionally, if no inspection whatsoever was performed and the building could be suspected of containing asbestos, then they are required to inform the tenants of the lack of testing. The bottom line is that the tenant should know if there is or there is not any asbestos in the building. Even if the mineral was found on the property and the asbestos professionals concluded that it was in a good condition, and therefore, not posing any danger, the owner still has to give the information to the future inhabitants so that they can be thoroughly informed before making a decision.

Asbestos Removal on Rented Property

A landlord is not legally obligated to remove asbestos yet it may be the case that tenants will refuse to live on the premises knowing that the living spaces are polluted with a toxic mineral, leading to the failure of their renting endeavors. It is generally the case that asbestos fibers that are contained in compounds, and are not released as dust, are not damaging in any way, but this is a conversation that ultimately needs to be had with the possible occupant. If the landlord had brought in an asbestos professional and has documents attesting to the fact that asbestos was indeed on the property but there is no reason to be concerned, then they should show the tenant that as well. Giving your word might not do it.

The homeowner needs to keep in mind that while their attitude toward asbestos is one thing, there are regulations that might alter their personal beliefs if they want to rent the property. If you find asbestos in the building you are planning to rent out and you are thinking of removing it, you should once again remember that you are operating as a landlord. While a homeowner might engage in a DIY project and live with the consequences of that, a landlord could get in serious trouble since the circumstances could possibly lead to the injury of another. The safest way to go would be to hire an abatement team and get that responsibility off your shoulders. That way, you will have done your part and you will have protected yourself both legally and financially.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.