From Japanese knotweed to a north-facing garden, there are many factors that can affect the value of your home. Some things you will be able to fix, while others you will just have to accept — which can be particularly frustrating if you are trying to sell your house.
When it comes to buying and selling houses, one of the biggest concerns is asbestos. If an asbestos survey has revealed the presence of the substance on your property, you may be wondering what to do about it.
In this article, we’ll advise on whether asbestos removal is a good idea and reveal the implications of selling your home if it is present. We’ll also explain exactly what asbestos is and why it can be so problematic.
Is it legal to sell a house with asbestos?
You can legally sell a house that has asbestos, but if you are aware of its presence, the Property Misdescriptions Act of 2013 requires you to disclose this during the house sale.
If a chartered surveyor uncovers asbestos in your home, you will not be held liable if you were unaware of its presence, as there are no laws that state you must be aware of asbestos in your house.
Keep reading to find out more about selling a house with asbestos.
What is asbestos?
Many people believe asbestos to be a manmade product, but in fact, it is the name given to a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals. These minerals can be found all over the world, but commercial asbestos mining mainly happens in Russia and China.
The six main types of asbestos are chrysotile (white), amosite (brown), crocidolite (blue), anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite, but it is the following types that are commonly found in homes:
- Chrysotile (white asbestos) — This is the most commonly used type of asbestos. Chrysolite fibres tend to be fine, flexible, and heat-resistant.
- Amosite (brown asbestos) — This is a particularly strong and heat-resistant type of asbestos.
- Crocidolite (blue asbestos) — This form of asbestos has very thin fibres and breaks down easily due to its brittle texture.
Even though it has been mined for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that asbestos consumption reached its peak. During this period, the UK imported more than 170,000 tonnes of the substance each year.
Where do you find asbestos in the home?
Asbestos can be found all over the home but is commonly found in the following places:
- Artex ceilings
- Airing cupboards
- Around water tanks
- Around boilers
- Behind fireplaces
- Behind fuseboxes
- Ceiling tiles
- Corrugated roofing or felt lining (especially in garages)
- Drainpipes and guttering
- Electrical wires
- Exterior window panels
- Pipe lagging
- Vinyl floor tiles
Why was asbestos used in construction?
If it weren’t poisonous, asbestos would be an almost perfect building material. Over the years, it has been used by the construction industry in more than 3,000 products, from adhesives and cement to textiles and insulation materials. This is because it is tough, cheap, and able to absorb sound, as well as being resistant to fire, heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion. Plus, it was widely available before it was banned.
It is for these reasons that some form of asbestos is thought to be present in around half of UK homes.
Health risks associated with asbestos
Providing it isn’t disturbed, asbestos is a relatively safe product. However, if you move, sand, or drill it, it becomes a potential health risk.
This is because abrasion and other processes can release asbestos fibres into the atmosphere, which, when inhaled by certain people, causes scarring of the lungs and can lead to a chronic lung disease called asbestosis. This disease has various symptoms, such as:
- A persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen fingertips (in extreme cases)
The inhalation of asbestos fibres has also been linked to diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Since the symptoms of these diseases only occur several years after exposure, asbestos was used extensively before its danger was realised.
All types of asbestos are toxic when disturbed and inhaled, which means special attention is required if you discover it in your home.
How to find out if your property has asbestos
Crocidolite asbestos and amosite asbestos were both banned in 1985, with chrysotile asbestos banned as a construction material in 1999. This means that if your property was built or refurbished before 1999, there is a chance it could have asbestos — especially if it were built in the 1960s or 1970s when asbestos consumption was at its peak.
Asbestos is relatively difficult to spot as it is often covered by another substance, but there are some materials to look out for, which are more likely to contain asbestos than others:
- Asbestos boarding — A pale grey material, this contains up to 40 percent asbestos and was used for walls, partitions, linings, and ceiling tiles.
- Asbestos cement — This brittle, grey material contains between 10 and 15 percent asbestos fibres and is often found in cladding, roofing materials, and guttering, as well as pipes and flues.
- Asbestos sprayed coatings — One of the most dangerous forms of asbestos, these contain up to 80 percent asbestos and were used as fire protection and to insulate walls and ceilings.
In the 1960s and 1970s, asbestos was widely used in garages as well as houses. So if you have a property that’s more than 50 years old, it is wise to look for signs of asbestos in outbuildings too. Some of these telltale signs are:
- Cracking roof panels — After decades of weather exposure, asbestos panels will crack and erode. Because asbestos is toxic when it is disturbed, it is important to resolve the problem before the panels fall apart.
- Fungi — Fungi on top of the roof could indicate asbestos exposure from sunlight.
- Imprints on roof panels — Some manufacturers would imprint ‘AC’ on the underside of asbestos roof panels.
But while it can be useful to look out for these signs, the only way you can be sure that asbestos is present is to have a professional asbestos survey carried out.
As mentioned, you are not legally required to arrange an asbestos survey before you put your house on the market, but if you are concerned, it is wise to do so. This is because it will allow you to make a considered decision about what to do if it is found. Asbestos surveys are relatively inexpensive and should only set you back a couple of hundred pounds.
Selling a house with asbestos
If you discover that your house has asbestos, it is not the end of the world. If the material containing the asbestos is in good condition, you may still be able to sell your property. Just remember that you need to declare this to comply with the asbestos disclosure requirements.
If, however, the material is damaged, the asbestos may be a health risk. In this case, you will need to look at getting it removed — which can be costly.
Can asbestos affect property prices?
Unfortunately, the discovery of asbestos can devalue your home. How much it devalues it by, though, depends on the type of asbestos found, how much is present, where it is, what condition it is in and the age of the property.
Since asbestos removal is expensive, it is likely that you will need to adjust the price of your property to account for the cost of the removal, although this is something you will need to weigh up according to your individual circumstances. You may find it makes more financial sense to hire the experts yourself than take a reduction in price.
How to safely remove asbestos
While firms that remove asbestos as a paid service need to be licensed, if you want to remove asbestos from your home and dispose of it yourself, you are legally allowed to do so. However, you will need to abide by the asbestos disposal requirements in your area, as you cannot just send it to a landfill site. Before tackling the problem yourself, it is important to be fully aware of the potential long-term health risks and ensure you buy the correct breathing apparatus and protective clothing.
Although you can remove asbestos yourself, we would recommend hiring a professional to do it for you, even though it can be pricey. How much it will cost you depends on the type of asbestos and how much there is, but to give you an idea, a survey costs about £200, the removal of asbestos from a garage roof costs around £1,250, and it will set you back roughly £50 to remove one square metre of asbestos panels or tiles.
Should I buy a house with asbestos?
It’s only natural for buyers to be scared off by asbestos, but many UK homes have it, whether the owner is aware or not.
If you’ve found your dream home, but the buyer or your surveyor informs you it has asbestos, you shouldn’t be put off altogether. You should, however, be aware that the problem will need to be dealt with at some point — and when the time comes to do so, it will cost you.
With that in mind, your options for buying a house with asbestos are to negotiate the price down to offset the cost of removal or ask the seller to remove the asbestos before you commit to buying the property.
You can legally sell your house if it has asbestos, but if you know about it, you must disclose this to potential buyers. If a chartered surveyor uncovers asbestos in your home, you will not be held liable if you were unaware of its presence.
If your property was built or refurbished before 1999, there is a chance it could have asbestos — especially if it were built in the 1960s or 1970s when asbestos consumption was at its peak. Some of the materials to look out for include asbestos boarding, asbestos cement, and asbestos-sprayed coatings. If you have a garage, cracking roof panels, fungi, and imprints on roof panels can also be indications that asbestos is present.
If asbestos is detected in your property, you may still be able to sell it, but it is likely you will need to adjust the price of your property to account for the cost of the removal.