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Nearly one in three homes could be hiding a toxic secret: asbestos.

This dangerous building material was widely used in homes until the mid-1980s, so can still found in many parts of houses that are older than 30 years.  

Exposure to fibres can cause extremely serious health problems, including an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma.

So as a homeowner or buyer, it is important to be aware of the risks and what action to take if you suspect there’s asbestos.

Where is asbestos in the home?

Asbestos had a huge number of construction uses – in and outside the home.

You can find it in:

  • Wet areas, such as internal wall linings or compressed floor sheeting
  • Eave linings
  • External wall linings
  • Corrugated roof sheeting
  • Pipes, gutters and flues
  • Verandas, sheds, garages and car ports.

What should I do if I don’t know if there is asbestos?

Home Buyers

The good news is, as a home buyer, you have some legal protections.

The Sale of Land Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) came into effect on 1 March 2020 and introduced changes that prevent a vendor or agent from knowingly concealing material facts about a property, which is a fact that may influence someone in their purchase of a property.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has released Material Fact Guidelines which include prior testing or investigations revealing asbestos as a material fact.

What this means is: if tests and investigations have been done and  asbestos has been found in a home, and where vendors or agents know about it, they are required to inform buyers.

Vendors and agents can no longer rely on home buyers becoming aware through making their own enquiries or due diligence procedures.

Despite these positive changes to help protect home buyers, there is currently no obligation for vendors or agents to arrange for the asbestos testing of properties.

As a prospective buyer, it is worth asking if the owner is aware of asbestos in their property. 

Home Owners

A good starting point can be to request the building plans for the property from the local council. However, they are not always conclusive, can be incomplete, difficult to read, of poor quality, or altogether inaccessible – so don’t rely on them.

If in any doubt, it’s worth seeking a professional opinion for the testing and removal of asbestos. This can be relatively inexpensive and worth the peace of mind.

What should I do if there is asbestos in the home?

Asbestos is generally safe if it is kept in good condition, sealed and not disturbed. But if damaged, exposed or disturbed it can pose a serious risk.

If you become aware of damaged asbestos, or you are wishing to renovate an area which might contain it, the safest way to manage this is to contact a licensed asbestos removalist. They can arrange either for the testing or removal.

Many houses in Australia built prior to 1985 contained asbestos, so it is imperative that home buyers and owners arm themselves with an awareness of where asbestos may be located within the house, if suspected, obtain a professional opinion.

If you have any concerns that you may have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to make your treating doctors aware of your exposure and register your details on our asbestos exposure database.

 

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