You’ve found the perfect rental property at the right price—but what’s next? Many people jump into a lease before reading the small print, but as we become more and more aware of the potential asbestos-related risks in older buildings, what are our rights when it comes to asbestos-exposure in rental units?
What Is My Landlord’s Responsibility?
Unlike federal laws around paint hazards or mold, there are no landlord-specific disclosures regarding asbestos exposure in rental properties. However, the landlord must provide habitable premises, so if you fear that there is asbestos in your building such as from a cracked ceiling or floor tile, then your landlord is responsible for fixing the conditions to avoid significant injury to the tenant.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) ensures that owners of buildings constructed before 1981 are responsible for locating any existing asbestos. As asbestos was used so prevalently in the construction industry, it’s impossible to know just how much was used and where. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to inform you of any presence of asbestos, carry out the necessary checks and, if required, remove harmful asbestos.
If your landlord is looking to renovate the property you live in, you are within your right to ask whether they are contracting an asbestos removal company, and to seek a copy of that documentation.
Abatement of Asbestos in Rental Properties
Because of the asbestos in rental properties, many older buildings are now undergoing ‘asbestos abatement,’ which is the removal of known, unstable asbestos to prevent dangers down the line. This work is generally carried out in a controlled way to ensure the least amount of disruption and the least about of harm. It’s good practice for landlords to get on board with asbestos abatement as once the asbestos is removed they can provide tenants with documentation signed off by an accredited professional.
In an older rental property, asbestos could be found in just about every aspect, including:
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Roofing materials
- Plaster and joint compounds
- Insulation materials (around boilers or in attic insulation)
- Plastics, paints and adhesives
- Casings for electrical wires
Asbestos is generally safe until it becomes disturbed, but during renovations or due to wear and tear, it can sometimes break-up and become friable. Once the fibers are airborne, they are easily inhaled and can cause mesothelioma.
What to Do if You Suspect There’s Asbestos in Your Rental Property
As a tenant, you have a right to a livable home. As asbestos is a hazardous substance, exposed asbestos must be dealt with by your landlord. OSHA’s regulations protect the right of tenants by placing duties on landlords themselves.
If you suspect there’s undisclosed or unstable asbestos in your rental unit or home, the first action is to talk to your landlord. Whether you only suspect that asbestos is present in your property or you know for sure, it’s the responsibility of your landlord to perform the necessary checks with an asbestos professional, send samples off to a lab and either repair or remove the product if it’s considered unstable.
The OSHA protects tenants for this kind of work as landlords must provide a habitable space for their tenants. If you need to move out of the property during this time, you may be able to negotiate a temporary place to live. Ask if your landlord will reimburse you for alternative accommodation until the asbestos-related work is complete.
What Should I Do if My Landlord Doesn’t Comply?
If your landlord fails to inform you about the presence of asbestos or does not provide a habitable home, you must put your safety first. Call your local environmental or housing agency to arrange temporary accommodation until the necessary work can be carried out. If your landlord does not agree to your terms and you are unable to move out of the property due to lease-agreements, you should seek legal advice.
If you believe you’ve come into contact with asbestos through your rented living accommodation, and you believe this exposure may have caused an asbestos-related illness, you maybe be able to file a claim. Contact a qualified asbestos lawyer in your state for more information or call the Mesothelioma Justice Network today at (888) 360-4215 for answers to your legal questions.