Asbestos in houses UK

Asbestos in houses UK

For many children in the 90s, asbestos was a scary thing that lived in their home’s attic. “Don’t go up there”, their parents might have said, and the children would picture something ghostly pacing the floorboards over their heads. But even if the details about asbestos became a little clearer as we got older, (spoiler alert, no ghosts, just a nasty contaminant in the air), there were still a lot of questions that went unanswered…

Like, where does asbestos come from? And, how is it dangerous? If asbestos has ever felt like an enigma to you, or if you’re here to learn about asbestos for the first time, keep reading and we’ll reveal the mystery…

What is asbestos in houses?

Asbestos was a material used in construction up until the year 2000. It’s a type of naturally occurring fibre that was sprayed on ceilings and walls to help with insulation, flooring, and roofing. There were 3 kinds of asbestos used before the dangers became known, and they were called…

  • White asbestos (chrysotile)
  • Blue asbestos (crocidolite)
  • Brown asbestos (amosite)

So while there was never a ghoul living in your attic, a name like “crocidolite” would have been pretty spine-chilling if there was! But what exactly is the danger in a house with asbestos? I mean, naturally occurring fibres sound pretty harmless, no?

Well, asbestos that remains untouched in a home shouldn’t pose much risk at all. But when asbestos is disturbed or comes loose (which is unlikely unless there’s sudden damage to the area), that’s when tiny fibres are released into the room which people can then breathe in. Exposure to these tiny fibres can cause damage to your lungs and their lining, which can lead to several illnesses later down the line such as asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) or lung cancer. So while an asbestos house isn’t a haunted house, you can still see why it’s best to take care!

Where can asbestos be found in a house?

Okay, so aside from creepy attics — where else can asbestos be hidden in the home? The list is pretty extensive, but here’s an idea of some of the prime locations:

  • Walls, ceilings, roofs, and roof cavities
  • Underneath carpets, vinyl, or cement flooring
  • Wall panels and kitchen splashbacks
  • The insulation around hot water pipes and tanks
  • Fences and gutters
  • Fireplaces and fireplace flues
  • Garages, sheds, and outside toilets

As mentioned, undisturbed asbestos isn’t a danger and for this reason, it’s still present in many homes today. But if you suspect you have asbestos and want to redevelop your home… Let’s say you want to add another storey, tear out the old kitchen, or remove a fireplace — then you’ll want to check whether you might be disturbing asbestos first. To safely detect and remove asbestos, you can request specialist help via your local council.

When was asbestos first used in UK houses?

Asbestos was first used around the 1920s, with peak usage falling between 1930 - 1980 before it was eventually banned in the UK in 1999. So if your home was built in 2008? You won’t need to think about asbestos at all. But if you’re wondering…do houses built in 1910 have asbestos? Then it’s important to note that while pre-1920s buildings are unlikely to have been built using asbestos, these houses are 100+ years old and they could have been renovated (using asbestos) during this time. For this reason, it’s hard to rule out the presence of asbestos in homes unless they’re relatively new.

Declaring asbestos when selling house UK

If you’re hoping to sell a home with asbestos, that’s no problem as long as you declare it within your property’s information. The Property Misdescriptions Act of 2013 states that it’s an offence to withhold the presence of asbestos, so you could get into trouble otherwise.

Luckily, because there are so many properties in the UK that contain asbestos, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a buyer — after all, stable asbestos poses no significant threat to a resident. However, for homes where asbestos is an active problem…you’ll still be able to sell, but it could affect the property sale price. That’s because the removal of asbestos can be very costly.

Okay, so what do you need to know if you’re renting a house with asbestos? Well firstly, it’s not illegal to rent out a home with stable, undisturbed asbestos. However, a landlord does have a responsibility to keep their tenants safe, so the situation should be monitored closely and action taken immediately should the asbestos deteriorate. They also have a legal obligation to carry out repairs on their property under section 11 of the landlord and tenant act of 1985. So any damage that could have disturbed asbestos should be seen to right away.

Can I sue my landlord for asbestos exposure UK?

So let’s say there’s been damage to your home or you’ve become aware there’s a risk of asbestos — the first thing you’d want to do is inform your landlord asap. Once your landlord is aware of the situation, they should then take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, and if they don’t? Renters have a right to safety in their homes and a landlord who ignores this could be guilty of negligence.

But as far as suing them goes, you would need to suffer adverse health effects from the asbestos to bring a personal injury claim against your landlord. Given it usually takes around ten years for any conditions or symptoms to develop from asbestos exposure, you’d need to wait as long to raise your claim.

A few final tips…

If your landlord is refusing to make repairs to your home or organise an asbestos inspection, get help from Citizens Advice. You can also find more information about what to do if you’re exposed to asbestos on GOV.UK.

You might also find it useful to read: ‘How to deal with a landlord who is unreasonable’.

Or why not: ‘Ask for a rent deduction due to disrepair’.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.