What is asbestos and what should you do about it?
A building material that is resistant to heat, erosion and decay, asbestos was commonly used in residential properties in Australia until the 1990’s
A building material that is resistant to heat, erosion and decay, asbestos was commonly used in residential properties in Australia until the 1990’s. A naturally occurring mineral substance, asbestos fibres are soft and flexible, resembling fabric or wool, and if inhaled can cause serious health problems. Since 2004 asbestos has been banned Australia wide.
There are two types of asbestos; bonded and friable. Bonded or non friable asbestos products are made from a bonding compound, such as cement, mixed with a small proportion of asbestos. Bonded asbestos products contain tightly bound asbestos fibres and cannot be crumbled by hand pressure. This type of asbestos is considered low risk to people, as long as they are in good condition and remain undisturbed.
Friable asbestos products are generally not solid and can be crumbled into a powdery texture with hand pressure. Friable asbestos products usually contain high levels of asbestos and pose a health risk to people living and working in the area.
The new rental law reforms passed in the government last year to come into effect in July 2020, stipulate that landlords and property owners must disclose if the property has asbestos. As it’s not always possible to tell if a building contains asbestos materials, Jade Stock, a member of the investment team at Marshall White Property Management, recommends obtaining a thorough building report.
‘It would be in the owner’s best interest to complete a report on their property for peace of mind. It would also be in your property manager’s best interest to ensure the report is readily available for prospective tenants, should they make an enquiry,’ says Jade.
In Australia, many homes built prior to 1990 comprise building materials containing bonded asbestos. These materials were commonly used in the bathroom, laundry, kitchen, gutters and garage of the home.
If asbestos is found on your rental property, you may be required to organise the safe removal of the material, however Jade points out that undisrupted asbestos is usually fine and in most cases should be left as is.
‘If there is any suspicion surrounding the existence of asbestos in a property, my professional opinion would be to ensure an inspection is undertaken, providing a full comprehensive report to determine the best course of action,’
‘I still recommend getting a qualified asbestos tradesperson to attend and produce a report confirming the asbestos is undisturbed and it is safe to remain,’ says Jade.
On the other hand, the presence of disturbed friable asbestos poses a significant health risk to people in and around the area.
‘If asbestos is broken, this needs to be treated as urgent maintenance and should be removed as soon as possible, ensuring the tenant is not exposed to the particles during the removal. This could be agreeing on a time for work to take place, assisting the tenant with temporary accommodation while works are undertaken or allowing the tenant to vacate with minimal or no penalties,’ says Jade.
Asbestos contamination on a property may mean the property can no longer be rented out or the tenant may need to vacate for a period of time. In this instance, as the landlord of the affected property, you may be eligible for certain tax deductions, including interest on loans against the rental property and council rates. For more information, we recommend visiting the ATO website.
If you need any further assistance or have any questions, please contact our Marshall White Property Management Team (03) 9822 8711.
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