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 in apartments and rental units?
Is There Asbestos in My Rental Property?
Before the 1980s, asbestos was extremely prevalent in the construction industry, and now, countless older buildings still contain the lethal substance. Unfortunately, it’s usually challenging to know just how much was used and where.
Asbestos in rental properties may be found in:
- Casings for electrical wires
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Insulation materials
- Roofing materials
Asbestos is generally safe until it becomes disturbed, but during renovations or due to wear-and-tear, it can break up and become friable. Once asbestos fibers are airborne, they are easily inhaled and can cause mesothelioma.
What to Do if You Suspect Asbestos
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. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has regulations to protect the right of tenants by placing duties on landlords themselves.
OSHA ensures that owners of buildings constructed before 1981 are responsible for locating any existing asbestos.
If you suspect there’s undisclosed or unstable asbestos in your apartment or rental home, the first action is to talk to your landlord.
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, landlords 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. Your landlord will need to perform the necessary checks with an asbestos professional, send samples off to a lab, and repair or remove the product if it’s unstable.
OSHA protects tenants when this kind of work is taking place, 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.
Asbestos Abatement in Rental Properties
Because of the asbestos in apartments and rentals, 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 harm.
It’s good practice for landlords to schedule asbestos abatement as needed. Once the asbestos is removed, they can provide tenants with documentation signed off by an accredited professional.
Additionally, 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.
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 may want to consider seeking legal help.
If you believe you’ve come into contact with asbestos in your rented living accommodation, and you believe this exposure may have caused an asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible for financial compensation.
Contact the Mesothelioma Cancer Network today to get connected with a qualified asbestos lawyer in your state.