Q. I am buying a period conversion and it is in definite need of major refurbishment. However I have just had my home buyer’s survey back and the surveyor has noted that there could be asbestos in the ceiling panels and possibly in the textured wall covering too. There are plenty of other issues which I know my builder can comfortably attend to but the surveyor has marked this with a red alert, and recommended that we get a specialist in to determine whether there is or not. Do you think we should pull out of the sale altogether over this or get someone in to have a look as suggested?
A. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was popular among manufacturers and builders because of its sound absorption, tensile strength, and its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage. When undamaged, materials containing asbestos are largely harmless but when damaged, asbestos fibres can be released into the air in high concentrations which can cause cancer and thickening of the lungs. The greatest risk is when asbestos is damaged or drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded so if you are planning on having major refurbishment work done then this is definitely something that needs addressing. I would urge you to have an asbestos survey carried out, to find out for sure if the property does in fact contain asbestos, your solicitor may be able to get the seller to pay for this given he will have the same issue with any buyer going forward if you decide not to proceed. The Health and Safety Executive and Asbestos Removal Contractors Association have a full list of licensed contractors on their website – simply search asbestos licensing. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires that work with the most hazardous asbestos-containing materials can only be carried out by companies licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. The purpose of the licensing regime is to ensure the highest standards of asbestos control and protection for workers and the public. Safe removal can be carried out so no need to pull out of the sale, have a chat with your solicitor if this does need to be done as they can request that the seller share the cost of this or pay for the works in full.