As the dangers of exposure to asbestos become ever more widely known and appreciated, lenders are increasingly insistent on including asbestos surveys when considering whether to grant mortgages to buyers. Basic surveys may discover the presence of asbestos within the building’s structure, but a more detailed report would be needed (by approved asbestos surveyors, such as Contrast Surveys) to tell a lender, and buyer, more about the potential risks involved.

An asbestos survey would tell you and your lender that the asbestos noted on your basic survey was within a concrete shed roof that was structurally sound and not leaking, for instance; in that case, the intrinsic value of the house would remain intact and there would be no real need for you to negotiate a lower price to take into account the need to remove it (though you might decide to do so anyway, for complete peace of mind). On the other hand, if the asbestos survey revealed that the hot water tank was lagged with asbestos that was fibrous, old and damaged, you would naturally want to get rid of it before you took possession.

If you didn’t need a mortgage, you could choose whether to ask the seller to remove the asbestos before exchanging contracts or to agree on a lower purchase price and arrange for the asbestos to be removed by specialist contractors of your choice. However, a mortgage lender would probably want to make sure that potentially harmful asbestos was removed as a condition of the sale and would not agree to lend without its safe removal.

Your mortgage lender would not only be thinking of the present but also the future: as a buyer, you would naturally want the sellers to be responsible for this cost (so that you could buy a house safe to live in) and as a lender, the mortgage company would want to make sure you were making a sound (and safe) investment. If you did not require the sellers to remove the asbestos, when you come to sell the house you would find its value reduced by the presence of such a dangerous substance. The safe removal and disposal of asbestos can only be carried out by qualified, certified experts and it can be costly.

It is also quite possible that, as a homeowner, you could be held liable for exposure to asbestos by anyone who carries out work on your house. Asbestos exposure is often seen in industrial settings – take, for example, the case of Dennis Baker, an engineer who died recently from an asbestos-related disease having worked with asbestos for decades during his career. But as asbestos exposure is becoming less frequent (thanks to greater recognition of the dangers), it grows easier to identify the source of exposure and seek compensation accordingly.

All of these reasons account for why mortgage lenders want to know whether there is asbestos in a house you want to buy and why asbestos surveys are becoming commonplace for anyone buying and selling houses. Getting an accurate and expert asbestos survey can save you money in the long run – and, of course, could save your life.

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