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Rehabbers Beware: How to Avoid Asbestos-Related Health Concerns (& Lawsuits!)

Brett Lee
2 min read
Rehabbers Beware: How to Avoid Asbestos-Related Health Concerns (& Lawsuits!)

Just last week in Portland, a real estate investor hired six people from a local work agency to gut a 106-year-old house so he could remodel and sell it. All of the materials inside the were put into dumpsters in the front yard. It was later found that some of those materials contained asbestos. Asbestos is very common in older homes.

Asbestos is also a carcinogen when inhaled. By not giving the workers the correct training and not providing them with the proper protection (suits, respirators and asbestos containment), prosecutors said he caused “substantial risk of serious physical injury” to the workers and to the neighbors nearby. There is no safe concentration of asbestos when inhaled.

The investor was charged with reckless endangerment and second degree unlawful air pollution. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, two years of probation and $20,200 in fines. He did know there was likely asbestos in the house. 

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is one of six naturally occurring minerals. It’s very durable, heat resistant and doesn’t readily break down. These properties made it ideal for use in building materials.

Related: The Investor’s Guide to Vetting a Rental: What to Look For on the Exterior

Where is asbestos?

Asbestos was made into shingles, cement, siding, flooring tiles, some popcorn ceilings and insulation for pipes, ducts, walls and ceilings. For a more complete list, click here.

When was it used the most?

From the 1940s to the 1970s asbestos was used extensively. If the home was built after 1980, the chances of having asbestos are small because the federal government banned most asbestos containing materials by 1978.

What’s the problem?

Asbestos-related cancer is a form of lung cancer, which “is the most common cause of cancer death in the United States.” If asbestos is made into fibers from sanding, drilling, cutting or moving fragile asbestos-containing materials, it will become airborne and easily inhaled. If asbestos is not broken into smaller fibers and inhaled, it doesn’t pose a problem.

Related: The Ultimate Due Diligence Guide for Buy & Hold Properties

What can you do about it?

Get any materials you think are asbestos tested. Asbestos testing requires specialized equipment so you’ll have to send it to a lab. The average cost is somewhere between $50-$100 a sample.

If there is asbestos in the house, it’s best to hire a contractor licensed to remove asbestos. They have all of the correct equipment and can keep everyone protected. Lung cancer isn’t worth making a few extra bucks.

For more information, be sure to check out:

Have you had to deal with asbestos while rehabbing or flipping a house?

Let us know about your experience with a comment!

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.