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UK Laws: Do You Need to Declare Asbestos When Selling a House?

Asbestos. It’s a word that can make any homebuyer or seller feel a bit uneasy. Why? Because it’s linked to various health risks and can become a significant issue, especially if you’re selling a house and discover asbestos lurking around. Here, we delve into whether you need to declare asbestos when selling a house under UK law and what it all means. 

Understanding asbestos

So, what is asbestos? Well, it’s a term that refers to a group of six different types of naturally occurring minerals. These minerals are made up of fine, durable fibres that are resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion. This unique set of properties led to their extensive use in building and construction materials, particularly between the 1950s and 1980s.

These materials include everything from insulation for pipes and buildings to floor tiles and roofing. Asbestos was seen as an ideal, cost-effective solution to many construction needs. Its strength added durability to structures, while its insulation and fire-resistant qualities were invaluable for safety purposes.

What’s the problem with asbestos?

The problem arises when these materials are disturbed. For instance, during renovation or demolition work, asbestos fibres can become airborne. They are so small that they can be easily inhaled and become lodged in the lungs. 

Over time, these fibres may cause inflammation and scarring, leading to serious health problems. These include asbestosis, an inflammatory condition of the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing and eventually lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is almost exclusively attributed to asbestos exposure.

In the UK, it’s an unfortunate reality that many homes built or refurbished before the year 2000 may still contain asbestos. It was only in 1999 that the UK fully banned the use and import of asbestos. So, it’s not uncommon to find it in older buildings, especially in places like insulation boards, ceiling tiles, boiler and pipe insulation, and sprayed coatings. 

It’s a lurking issue that many homeowners may be unknowingly living with. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of this possibility, particularly if you’re planning any DIY or renovation work on properties primarily built between the 50s and 80s.

Asbestos and UK law

Let’s delve into the intricacies of UK law when it comes to asbestos. The use of asbestos is completely banned in the UK. This prohibition didn’t happen overnight but was the result of increasing awareness of the health risks associated with asbestos. It culminated in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, which consolidated previous laws and firmly established the ban on asbestos use.

But the law doesn’t stop at just banning future use. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a UK government agency responsible for enforcing health and safety at work, takes a lead role in managing the presence of asbestos in existing buildings. The HSE provides guidance on how to manage asbestos and enforces compliance with the law.

There’s also a clear ‘duty of care’ established under these regulations. This duty falls on those who are in charge of maintaining or repairing commercial premises or non-domestic premises like factories, offices or shops. Even landlords have responsibilities when it comes to residential properties.

As part of the duty of care, individuals are required to manage any asbestos present in their premises effectively. They need to identify the presence of asbestos, assess the risks and take appropriate action to manage these risks. This could involve either leaving the asbestos undisturbed if it’s in good condition or having it professionally removed if it’s posing a risk.

So, to wrap up, under UK law, it’s not just about banning asbestos; it’s actively managing and mitigating the risks it poses in existing buildings. This comprehensive approach is designed to protect people from the potential dangers of asbestos exposure.

Does the seller have a duty to disclose asbestos?

When selling a property, honesty is more than just a moral principle: it’s a legal obligation. As a seller, you’re required to be open and truthful about any potential issues with your property, and that includes the presence of asbestos.

The importance of transparency

The principle of ‘caveat emptor’ or ‘buyer beware’ traditionally applies. But that doesn’t mean sellers can hide known faults. The law requires sellers to disclose any known material defects, which can include the presence of asbestos. The benefit of transparency isn’t only about avoiding legal repercussions but also about fostering trust with prospective buyers.

Disclosure through the TA6 Form

The typical method for disclosing information about a property, including asbestos, is through the Property Information Form, commonly referred to as the TA6 form. This comprehensive questionnaire covers various aspects of the property, including:

  • Boundaries
  • Disputes
  • Notices and proposals
  • Alterations, planning and building control
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Insurance
  • Environmental matters
  • Rights and informal arrangements
  • Parking
  • Other charges
  • Occupiers
  • Services
  • Connection to utilities and services
  • Asbestos

For asbestos, you will need to state whether your property may contain it. If you’re unsure, it’s better to say so rather than guessing.

What are the consequences of non-disclosure?

If you fail to disclose known asbestos issues, you could face legal repercussions. This could include being sued for compensation or even facing a misrepresentation claim. The buyer could potentially rescind the contract, reclaim the money paid and recover damages for any loss suffered.

In a nutshell, the golden rule is that you should be honest and transparent. That way, you’re complying with the law while also protecting the health and well-being of those who will purchase your home. 

Asbestos surveys and removal

When selling a property with potential asbestos presence, it’s good practice to arrange an asbestos survey. These surveys are conducted by trained professionals and designed to identify any asbestos-containing materials present in the property and evaluate their condition. Not only does this provide you with important information, but it also offers reassurance to prospective buyers​. 

If asbestos is discovered during this survey, it’s generally recommended to employ a licensed company to remove it safely. Removal of asbestos is not a DIY task due to the hazardous nature of the substance when disturbed. Professional asbestos removal companies have the required skills, experience and protective equipment to handle this task safely and effectively.

Although arranging and paying for a survey and potential asbestos removal may seem like an additional expense, it’s an important part of the seller’s duty of care. The cost of a survey is usually around £80, while the removal of asbestos varies. As a rough guide, you might budget around £200 for an asbestos removal survey, £1,250 to remove an asbestos garage roof and £50 to remove each square metre of asbestos tiles or panels.

Buyer’s rights and recourse

If asbestos is discovered after the sale of a property and the seller hasn’t declared its presence, the buyer has legal recourse. This undisclosed defect could form the basis for a claim of misrepresentation or breach of contract against the seller. 

The buyer may be entitled to compensation to cover the cost of asbestos removal and any other associated damages, such as health issues related to exposure or devaluation of the property. It’s worth seeking legal advice in such situations to understand the full extent of buyer’s rights and potential remedies​. 

Tips for sellers

So, you’ve got asbestos in your property. Now what? For starters, get a professional survey done and if necessary, arrange for removal by a licensed company. When it comes to disclosure, be honest. It may seem like a potential deal-breaker, but most buyers would rather know upfront than discover it later.

Is there a way to sell my house with asbestos?

It’s not all bad news if you discover asbestos. In some cases, you won’t even need to pay to have it removed. Here at Property Rescue, we buy your house fast – regardless of the condition it’s in, including asbestos. 

We handle the complexities of the sale, from legalities to the potential removal of asbestos, making the process less stressful for you. It’s a straightforward way to sell your property without dealing with the complexities of asbestos yourself.

Learn more about Property Rescue and how we buy homes fast

Avoiding asbestos

To sum up, if you’re selling a house with asbestos via traditional methods, it’s crucial to declare it. Not only is it a legal obligation, but it’s also a matter of health and safety. When in doubt, always seek professional advice.

There is, however, a way to sell your house fast, even if it has asbestos. Get a free, no-obligation quote from Property Rescue to see how much we can buy your house for, whether it has asbestos or not.

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