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What If I Buy a House Containing Asbestos?

Date: June 24, 2024

Reviewed and edited by Dave Halpern

Key takeaways: Asbestos was used in millions of American homes from the 1930s until the 1980s. House buyers are protected by the Residential Real Estate Transfer Law, which requires sellers to disclose “material defects.” Importantly, if you know or even suspect that your new home contains asbestos, you should contact an asbestos abatement specialist. An abatement specialist can take samples to check for the presence of asbestos and can help you assess your options for safely proceeding.


How will I know if there’s asbestos in my house?

Asbestos was used in homes—as vinyl ceiling and flooring tiles, as a supplement to vermiculite insulation, in textured paints, and more—for the better half of the twentieth century. Asbestos was frequently used for a multitude of reasons, but largely as a supplement to fireproof or make other products more durable. Asbestos was used in homes from the 1930s until the 1980s, when its private use was regulated and eventually banned.


In Pennsylvania, sellers of homes are required by law to disclose any known “material defects” in the home, including the presence of asbestos. This law is called the Residential Real Estate Transfer Law, and its applications extend beyond asbestos (lead, carcinogens, or other dangerous materials must legally be disclosed). Importantly though, this means that all home sellers and buyers should be made aware of the presence of asbestos in homes. This is to ensure a.) seller transparency; b.) buyer education and precaution; and c.) that the correct proactive steps are taken before renovation/demolition/physical handling.


A barrier to identifying asbestos is that it’s microscopic—its presence can’t be guaranteed by the naked eye. There are proxies that you can use to gauge the probability of asbestos exposure, like the age of a home or the appearance of paint, vinyl, or pipes. Despite these proxies, though, there isn’t a way to ensure asbestos contamination. If you suspect that your home might contain asbestos, it’s imperative to contact an asbestos abatement specialist. Do not handle the suspected area.


Next steps

After you contact an abatement specialist, they will take samples to be analyzed by a lab; this process will qualify the presence of asbestos. From there—and based on your plans to renovate, reconstruct, move, or redesign—the specialist will help you assess your options. Asbestos is only dangerous when it’s moved or physically handled, as this allows for the splintering off of fibers into the air. Once airborne, humans can ingest those fibers: they can settle in the areas around the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testes. Asbestos doesn’t pose immediate dangers if left undisturbed. If you plan on renovating, tell the specialist! They’ll help you scale the size of your project, conceptualize how it might intersect with the asbestos, and how to proceed. Specialists might recommend sealing the asbestos (so it can’t become airborne), or completely removing and replacing it. Again, these courses of action are to be prescribed and executed by professionals only.


Always err on the side of caution. If you suspect asbestos in your home, call in an abatement specialist. It’s critical to never handle asbestos, as you run the risk of developing asbestosis or mesothelioma if you ingest it.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the experienced team at The Halpern Law Firm can help you file a claim and receive compensation. The dedicated attorneys will ensure your claim is handled properly and quickly. Call 1-(800)-505-6000 or visit our website to get in contact with us.




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