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Do I need to declare asbestos when I sell my house?

Contrary to what many people might think, it isn’t illegal to sell a house in the UK that contains asbestos.

However, since the repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act in 2013, all sellers are obliged to disclose the presence of asbestos when they are selling a house.

So if I don’t remove asbestos before selling my home, I have to tell the buyer about it?

Yes. You are legally required to disclose the presence of any asbestos that you know about in your house or flat. If you choose to hide this information from a buyer, you could face legal action in the future.

However, it’s important to note that you will not be liable if you really are unaware of the presence of asbestos in your home that is later detected by a chartered surveyor or other professional.

It’s okay for me not to know about the asbestos in my house?

It’s entirely possible that homeowners may not know that asbestos is present. As the material has not been used in the construction industry during this century, the age of the property will be a good indicator as to whether or not it may contain asbestos.

The three main types of asbestos that were used in house building were:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
    This is the most common type of asbestos. The fibres are usually fine, highly flexible and resistant to heat. It’s commonly found in cement and roofing materials
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
    The very thin fibres of crocidolite can easily get lodged in the lungs if inhaled. Their thin fibres and brittle texture mean that it can easily break down
  • Amosite (brown asbestos)
    This form of asbestos is particularly strong and heat-resistant so it was used in cement, plumbing and electrical insulations

Importantly, all types of asbestos are toxic when they are moved, or when they disintegrate.

Chrysotile (white) asbestos was outlawed as a construction material in 1999, and crocidolite (blue) and amosite (brown) asbestos were banned in the UK in 1985.

It’s therefore reasonable to expect that for properties built before 1999, there’s a good chance that some form of asbestos may be present.

Where would I find asbestos in my home?

You can find asbestos in lots of places, but these are the common places to find asbestos:

  • Artex decorative coating
  • Behind a fireplace
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Exterior window panels
  • Gutters
  • Insulation
  • Pipe lagging
  • Roof and roofing felt (especially on garages)
  • Soffits
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Water tank

There are also some materials that are likely to contain asbestos. These are:

  • Asbestos cement
    This is a grey-coloured, brittle material that contains around 10-15% asbestos fibres. It’s commonly found in cladding and roofing materials or guttering, but can also be around plumbing, such as pipes and flues
  • Asbestos boarding
    Used for creating walls, linings, partitions and ceiling tiles, asbestos boarding contains up to 40% asbestos and the boards are usually pale grey
  • Sprayed asbestos
    When mixed in with other materials, this is difficult to identify, but can contain up to 85% asbestos

Asbestos is often coated or covered by another substance (such as an Artex ceiling that has been painted). Although these are indications about what to look for when seeking asbestos, the only way of detecting if a substance is made from asbestos is to have a laboratory test conducted.

I’m not certain if there’s asbestos in my house. Should I declare it anyway?

As a house seller, you are not expected to detect the presence of asbestos in your home by yourself, but it’s likely that this information will have been uncovered by a chartered surveyor before you moved in.

There is no legal requirements to have an asbestos survey of your property done before you go to market but if you do have one, an asbestos survey on a residential property is relatively inexpensive and costs around £80.

What happens if I’m unaware of asbestos, but a survey says it’s present?

If a buyer’s survey uncovers asbestos and you were previously unaware of it, there will not be any repercussions for you. Presently, there are no laws stating that you need to be aware of asbestos in your property before a sale.

Surveyors often encounter asbestos whilst conducting surveys for buyers and it can affect the sale, so you may want to have your own survey done before putting your property on the market. That will make sure you don’t have any unexpected revelations when you’re selling.

Could the presence of asbestos really stop a property sale?

Potentially, yes, having asbestos within your property could affect the outcome of the sale. However, there are a great many things to consider so it’s not a straightforward answer. For example, the current condition of the asbestos, whether there are plans to remove or disturb it, and the type of asbestos – as well as the buyer’s attitude – will all play a part in whether or not the sale goes ahead.

Can asbestos affect property prices?

Having asbestos in your property can negatively affect the price, but the extent to which this will happen is going to vary due to how much asbestos is present, the condition in which it is found, the type of asbestos that is identified and the age of the property. As the removal of asbestos can be expensive, property prices are sometimes adjusted to reflect the cost of the work involved to get rid of it.

How much will it cost to remove asbestos (so that there’s none to declare when I sell my house)?

The cost to take asbestos out of your property depends upon how much is there and the type of asbestos that was used when your property was built. Specialist equipment will be required and it could be labour intensive. As a rough guide, budget on around £200 for an Asbestos removal survey, £1,250 to remove an asbestos garage roof, and £50 to remove each metre squared of asbestos tiles or panels.

Do I have to pay someone to remove asbestos from my home before selling it?

The answer depends on how quickly you want to sell your property and whether you can afford to pay for the removal of the asbestos.

It’s possible that you’ll get more interest from a greater number of buyers if you can show that there is no longer asbestos in the property, but equally, it may be expected in an older building.

Many homeowners cannot afford the time or the expense of removing asbestos before selling their house or flat, but if you can, it will likely make your property more attractive to potential buyers.

If asbestos is removed from your property before a sale, there would be nothing to declare. However, you may want to reveal that the work has been undertaken because it’ll be a positive for potential buyers to know they won’t have to pay for that work to be done in the future.

To help me maximise how much I get for my house, can I remove asbestos by myself?

Whilst it’s not illegal in the UK to remove asbestos from your own property, you should remember the long-term health risks that come with handling the material. If you decide to do this, you are allowed to remove and dispose of it yourself, although you will need to be aware of the asbestos disposal requirements in your local area. It’s not something that you can put into the landfill bin collection.

Also, due to the potentially fatal health risks, you’ll need to make sure you’re wearing the correct protective clothing if you decide to tackle the job of removing asbestos. In this case, protective clothing extends to breathing apparatus as well as clothing.

Handling asbestos can be extremely hazardous, so it’s recommended that you leave it to the professionals. Tradespeople are permitted to remove asbestos if they hold a BOHS P402 Standard certificate, are HSE licensed and have a Hazardous Waste Carriers Licence to transport the asbestos after it has been removed.

Are there any alternatives to removal that I’d have to declare when selling?

A process called ‘containment’ (or sometimes ‘encapsulation’) removes the human health risk from potential asbestos exposures, but it still leaves the substance in your property and will therefore have to be declared. Despite the asbestos being contained, some people may still be discouraged from buying it, but as mentioned, that will depend upon the age and location of the house, as well as the buyer’s attitude.

Any questions?

We hope this article has given you some ideas to consider and made you more aware of where you can find asbestos as well as the legal standpoint on declaring asbestos when you sell a property. If you have questions about selling your home quickly to a property buying company because it has asbestos, contact us and we’ll be happy to have a chat with you.