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  • Landlords in Distress

    Asbestos found - lots! Who is liable?

    Hi,

    I don't probably have a leg to stand on - but thought I might see if I have any course of action. I bought a property through a company that specialises in sourcing run-down properties (and normal properties) and then re-furbishing it. The property is about 100+miles from my place. It was unlivable and was being sold via an estate (deceased person?)

    As part of the initial purchase, there was a survey done and it obviously had a disclaimer that they are not responsible for any harmful substances found in the future (or to that effect).

    Fast forward a few months into the renovation and the development company re-furbishing the property found what they say was an unprecedented amount of asbestos - ceilings, wall, etc. Leaving it alone was a possibility (as long as it is not being drilled into and/or disturbed it is legally ok) - but the development company advised against it and I also worried I would be narrowing my options if I did not fix the issue. Not wanting to hold up the building works and also stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had no option but to finance the asbestos removal (another specific asbestos survey was done and I was sent that as well). It cost me, I would say, about 15% of the entire property purchase just to remove the asbestos. It was about 30% of the original refurb budget. It also severely delayed the project and led to lost rental.

    Do I have any options here? I believe that the survey company, being local to the area, should have either asked me to do an asbestos survey or included one in their survey. Had I known the extent or even the possibility of asbestos I would have not bought the property. Sure enough if I sold it at the end of the refurb then I would have made all my money back and then some, but that is not the point.

    I have emailed the survey company about it but they are ofcourse not in a hurry to respond. Hoping that there would be something that can be done via their insurance.

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    I doubt there is anything that you can do, being honest. The Surveyors disclaimer is very clear as they have not engaged to carry out an asbestos survey.

    Asbestos surveys are very cheap in comparison with the cost of removal. The Surveyor doesn't have an obligation to ask you to obtain an asbestos survey nor do they have to advise; it all depends what level of survey they were engaged to do.

    I would write it off as a bad experience and remember to obtain your own asbestos survey for peace of mind if you have any doubts on your next project.

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    Did you get a full structural survey done?.

    However these do not cover investigation into enclosed or concealed parts of a building such as you describe. walls, ceilings.

    The disclaimer is what it says and you have no comeback. What you should have done is ask for them to check on any harmful substances at the start.

    I must say that buying old run down buildings extra due diligence is needed.  Afraid an expensive lesson learnt but one you won't repeat again.

    We all learn by experience.

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    I would not expect a regular surveyor (even with a full structural survey) to identify asbestos.  This is a specialist thing. 

    A specialist asbestos surveyor will remove a small part of the material and take it away for analysis before confirming it is asbestos, so if you're concerned about asbestos in a property you should get one of these surveys in addition to your regular survey. 

    You did the right thing in getting the asbestos removed by a reputable professional as you shouldn't mess about with this stuff. 

    However, regarding the survey I would put it down to experience and wouldn't expect the surveyor to be liable.

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    Issue is that a general building surveyors don't have professional indemnity cover for asbestos surveying.  So they will make general comments based on the age of the building, but then refer you to a specialist surveyor.

    If you purchased the property as a company you may be able to claim tax relief for asbestos removal costs at 150%. 


    See: https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/services/tax/capital-allowances/land-remediation-relief



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    I would have to agree with the comments already made, insofar as a surveyor carrying out a Homebuyer report or Building Survey (what used to be known as a structural survey) would not open up parts of the building or take samples of any materials, as doing so would cause some damage.
    An asbestos survey is an entirely different type of inspection and can be one of two types, a Management survey which is, again, a non-invasive survey to establish the presence, or likely presence, of asbestos in parts of the building, but which would include sampling of materials believed to contain asbestos, or a Demolition/Refurbishment survey which would be a destructive inspection designed to identify asbestos in non-visible areas. Neither of these surveys would ordinarily be undertaken by a general surveyor as, as has already been highlighted, it requires special professional indemnity insurance cover.

    Most general surveys such as a Home buyer Report or Building Survey would usually mention materials that typically contain asbestos such as textured ceiling finishes, soffits, corrugated garage and shed roofs etc. but will only really cover them in a very general sense.

    As others have already suggested, pursuing a claim of any description against the original surveyor would be a fruitless task and, somewhat unfair, as they never contracted to do an asbestos survey in the 1st place.
    I do agree, though, that for an average buyer, the lack of the recommendation to get an asbestos survey might be a bit confusing, but as a surveyor, I am often loathe to recommend further inspections as, invariably, I then get accused of passing the buck to someone else!

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    ^ 10/10 for that answer, and I should know as I'm up to date on my CPD having recently completed my 3rd or 4th asbestos awareness module at work.

    Thank you, Alan. Take note all! Smile

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    Rachel 

    "Change is a prerequisite to longterm survival".

    The establishment is rigged so that the rich stay very rich, and the poor get poorer.