Heaps of older Aussie buildings have asbestos in them, which can be an expensive problem when it comes to making repairs or renovations. Unfortunately, most home insurance policies won't cover any damages or liability related to asbestos.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a material which was used widely in building and manufacturing before the 1980s. While asbestos was considered affordable and durable decades ago, we now know that direct exposure to asbestos is very dangerous.
Several types of cancer have been linked to asbestos exposure, as well as other diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Thankfully, asbestos was banned in Australia in 2003.
Asbestos can sound scary but the good news is that, as long as it's left undisturbed, asbestos is relatively harmless.
However, if you have a home which was built before 1990 or are thinking about buying a home from that period, it's recommended that you get an asbestos survey from a licensed assessor. In some cases, it may even be a government requirement to undertake a pre-renovation or pre-demolition survey.
The survey will help you identify if asbestos is present and the condition it's in, as well as offering guidance on how to manage the risk.
If you're uncertain whether certain products in your home contain asbestos, you should always treat them as if they do.
Remember, safely removing asbestos can be a complicated process, so you should always take appropriate precautions, particularly during renovations and repairs.
According to the Australian Asbestos Network, if your home was built before 1990, it's likely there is asbestos in some form within your home.
Asbestos or asbestos-containing materials can be found in the following areas:
- Backing panels in meter boxes – cement fencing
- Concrete framework – expansion joints
- Gables and eaves – imitation brick cladding
- Lining behind wall tiles – packing under beams
- Roofing and gutters – sheds
- Splashbacks – textured paints
- Thermal insulation around fireplaces – wall sheeting
- Window putty – vinyl, carpet and tile underlay
Asbestos is present in approximately one third of Australian homes. If insurance companies promised to pay for the cost of asbestos removal in every one of them, they'd have to charge much higher premiums in order to cover the potential costs.
If they did this, very few homeowners would be able to afford the more expensive premiums. So instead, insurance companies generally rule out any asbestos-related costs.