At Crucial Environmental, we’re often asked about how important (or otherwise) it is to have an asbestos survey carried out when buying a new home, so we thought we’d dedicate a blog to the subject.

Perhaps the first thing to say is that, while of course there are many clear benefits to commissioning a home asbestos survey when purchasing a property, it’s not actually compulsory. And, in fact, many people do buy their homes without having one.

That said, there are often good reasons for proceeding with an asbestos survey on your new home, and getting one could save you some significant headaches in the long run – plus even some short-term money into the bargain.

In this article, we look at all the reasons and situations where an asbestos survey is important when it comes to purchasing a new property.

How Many Homes In The UK Contain Asbestos?

There’s no definite figure on exactly how many homes in the UK contain asbestos. However, any property built pre-November 1999, when use of the substance was banned in the United Kingdom, could very well still contain the material. That’s especially true of places constructed before 1985, when asbestos was used extensively in house-building.

In fact, asbestos was hugely popular and widespread in house construction for much of the twentieth century, and so you’ll frequently find it in older properties, especially those which have been renovated or otherwise modified since they were completed. So even period properties built before asbestos was popular, may still contain it.

There’s no denying the lethal nature of asbestos. If it is disturbed or damaged, this releases microscopic fibres into the air. Should these be inhaled, they can seriously damage the lungs, leading to life-threatening and life-changing diseases such as mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer.

So, it’s always best to be aware of the seriousness of the situation if your home contains asbestos and take appropriate action, including having an adequate asbestos management or removal plan in place depending on the situation and whether demolition or refurbishment work is will be carried out.

Reasons & Situations When An Asbestos Survey is Needed Prior to a House Purchase

Below, we mention why or when it’s important, or at least strongly recommended, to have an asbestos survey when you’re buying a new home:

#1 It could save your life

Clearly, the first and most obvious reason for commissioning an asbestos survey is that it just might save your life. As mentioned, asbestos is a highly hazardous substance. Despite the 1999 ban, it remains in many houses UK-wide. Being aware of its presence and avoiding exposure to its fibres if they’ve been damaged or disturbed could prove life-saving – at the very least could well safeguard your health.

#2 Planning on renovating extending or otherwise modifying your property?

If you’re proposing to modify your new home in any way, whether you’re removing an Artex ceiling, updating old heating systems, adding an extension or planning a garage or loft conversion, it’s always a good idea to have an asbestos survey carried out before you complete the purchase.

The cost of surveys at a later stage, as well as asbestos removal if you’re renovating and likely to disturb any Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs) the survey detects, can all add up. So make sure you know before your purchase, not least because this may also mean you can negotiate to have some money taken off the asking price to cover the cost of the works.

#3 You’re purchasing a buy-to-let property

If you’re buying a place you intend to let out to tenants, you’re legally obliged to shield those who rent from you from asbestos exposure. So, in these circumstances, an asbestos survey is essential to ensure compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

#4 The property has an Artex ceiling

If the property you’re buying has an Artex ceiling, it’s always recommended that you have an asbestos survey carried out before you commit to the sale. Artex ceilings have textured patterns and were popular back in the 1970s and 1980s. They often contain white asbestos, used to strengthen it.

#5 If the property has an outdated central heating system

If the property you’re buying has an old central heating system which needs updating, there’s a chance that asbestos may have been used for insulating pipes and boilers. So it’s always wise to have an asbestos survey carried out before completing. This will naturally affect the cost of the works, meaning you can potentially renegotiate the price to account for the extra expense.

#6 If you’re planning a loft extension

Many older homes, especially those built in the 1960s and 1970s had loft insulation which sometimes contained asbestos (insulation was one of the key properties of asbestos, and one of the reasons it was so very popular).

If you’ve got your eye on a loft conversion in the property you’re buying, especially if the place was built pre-1999, it’s important to have an asbestos survey carried out before the property becomes legally yours.

#7 It can affect the value of the property

If a property contains asbestos, that can certainly affect the value of the place in certain situations if the ACMs have not been encapsulated or are at risk of being damaged or disturbed. Encapsulation is the process of adding a protective layer on to the ACMs, which will contain the fibres behind it while also protecting the ACMs from damage. The encapsulating material could comprise a rigid board or sheet, a sprayed or painted coating or a wrap made from fabric. This is a very good reason to have a survey carried out, and if any ACMs are found, you can negotiate a fair price which takes into account the cost of the asbestos removal or encapsulation work.

Buying a home and looking to have an asbestos survey carried out?

Crucial Environmental works with many new home buyers to determine whether there are ACMs in the property they’re planning on purchasing. With offices in Sussex, the Midlands and the North-West, we’re ideally located to cover most of the UK, whether you’re in Manchester, Eastbourne, Southampton and elsewhere. We also offer asbestos testing and asbestos removal services, to dispose safely of any suspected ACMs an inspection finds. Contact us today!