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Can you sell a house with asbestos in the UK?

Across the country, there are a number of older properties that still contain the toxic material, and its presence can often deter potential buyers for good reason. So how do you sell a house that contains asbestos?

Asbestos is a silicate mineral has been mined for over four thousand years around the world. With a wide range of uses, it was often hailed as a ‘wonder material’ by many prominent historical figures throughout the Roman Empire and Persia.

Why is asbestos dangerous and is it illegal to sell a house with asbestos?

Categorised into six separate classifications, it’s easy to see why asbestos was heavily used in UK property construction during the 20th century – it was resistant to fire, did not conduct electricity, and was an excellent heat insulator – but most importantly, it was mined locally and therefore extremely cost effective.

While the different available forms of asbestos vary in their potential to harm those who come into contact with it, they are all linked to a condition known as asbestosis. During its manufacturing process and implementation in many types of construction, the dust that was produced contained sharp asbestos particles that often found their way into the lungs of workers, cutting and scarring the delicate tissue inside and frequently causing tuberculosis and fibrosis. In the US alone, the handling of asbestos has led to the deaths of approximately 100,000 people since records began.

In the modern era, large-scale mining in the UK started in the late 19th century, but despite the first asbestos-related death occurring in 1906, it took until 1985 for the first partial ban to be passed through parliament.

While it isn’t illegal to sell a house with asbestos, for homeowners in the process of selling a house containing the material, the number of steps required to find a buyer can be a nightmare. But what measures need to be undertaken in order to sell a house fast?

Asbestos disclosure when selling a house in the UK

Since the repeal of the Property Misdescriptions Act in 2013, all sellers are obliged to disclose the presence of asbestos during a sale. Of course, owners are not expected to detect the presence of asbestos in their home by themselves, but more than likely this information will have been uncovered by a chartered surveyor before they moved in.

In a large majority of cases, a seller will also be using a surveyor to determine the value of their home prior to placing it on the market, and their estate agent of choice will likely query the presence of asbestos based on the age and construction type of the property. Generally, any home built before 1978 could contain the toxic material, and a failure to detect the presence of asbestos in these instances could open up both the surveyor and agent to prosecution.

However, in many cases a surveyor would only be liable if asbestos was detectable by reasonable means – i.e. a surveyor cannot be expected to detect its presence through a solid wall or other unreachable areas.

How can I sell a house with asbestos?

If a surveyor’s valuation or agent’s report have determined that there is asbestos in your house, then further inspection is needed by a qualified professional who will be able to establish whether or not it could endanger the lives of those living within the property. It is important to note that asbestos does not pose a threat if it is in good condition – it is only when the material has been damaged or disturbed that its removal may be warranted.

If the material is in good condition then the law merely requires the seller to disclose the information to potential buyers and it is up to the latter to decide whether or not it is worth pursuing a purchase. If the asbestos, however, is found to pose a hazard to health then the situation can become a little more complicated.

Asbestos removal can be expensive, with average prices reaching £75 + VAT per sq. m – so even a small 6m x 5m ceiling can reach £2200 + VAT. For a seller, it comes down to a choice between having the material removed themselves at great cost, or placing the house on the market at a reduced rate to encourage a sale – although the number of potential buyers is likely to be limited due to health concerns.

House buying companies, however, are always happy to offer competitive prices to owners regardless of the presence of asbestos. Those looking to move house in a short time-frame often find this to be a preferable method, with sales completed in as little as two weeks.

Finding it hard to sell? Why not ask National Homebuyers for advice, as we buy any house. Call 08000 443 911 or request a call back to find out how much you could get for your property.

© Michael Coghlan (CC-BY-SA 2.0)
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