Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Asbestos Removal? Facts & FAQ
Asbestos became a very popular building material around 1940. However, many builders today refrain from using it due to its potential to cause hazardous living conditions. But in older homes (those built in the 1900s) it’s still found in roofs, exterior siding, vinyl floor tiles, insulation, and walls in older homes. Studies have shown that asbestos materials can cause serious health problems if they are damaged or broken.
The presence of the material itself isn’t hazardous. However, when asbestos materials degrade or become damaged, it may release dangerous fibers that can cause respiratory issues. This has led federal and state governments, insurance companies, and building contractors to include provisions for the material relating to its use and coverage under insurance policies. But does homeowners’ insurance cover asbestos removal? The answer is it depends. Only in scenarios where asbestos materials are directly damaged by a covered risk will homeowners’ insurance cover its removal.
So, Does Homeowners’ Insurance Cover Asbestos Removal?
If asbestos fibers are released from building construction after it has been damaged by harsh winds, a tornado, fallen trees, or fire, then the homeowner’s insurance will likely cover the removal and remediation.
The insurance company will usually pay for any cleanup or restoration costs associated with these occurrences. But if the asbestos removal isn’t tied directly to a covered loss, then your insurance policy will not pay anything for it. So, it’s best to take a look at your policy to go over the details of asbestos removal and the situations in which it’ll be covered.
More on Asbestos Coverage in Insurance Policies
Asbestos falls under the “pollutant” umbrella in insurance policies, and most home insurance policies don’t cover pollutants. For example, you might find your policy stating that “discharge, release of pollutants, dispersal, seepage of pollutants” isn’t covered unless the “release” is covered by the policy. Insurance companies often define pollutants as any liquid, solid, or gaseous contamination. This includes chemicals, smoke, soot, asbestos dust, and acids.
When Asbestos Removal Wouldn’t Be Covered
If a home inspection by your insurer or another party is required for any reason, you might be required to remove asbestos-related materials from your home. This is needed to conform to the state and local safety and building codes. In this case, insurance companies will not cover asbestos removal in such a scenario.
Many policies will exclude losses that are reportedly due to “enforcement or violation of any law or ordinance regulating construction, demolition, repair of buildings or structures”, except as otherwise provided by the policy.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Not Cover
The point of exclusions in homeowners’ insurance policies is to specifically list the scenarios and parts of the dwelling that aren’t covered. Specific types of damage simply won’t be covered by even the most comprehensive policy.
Can You Get Home Insurance with Asbestos Home Siding?
Yes, you can. You can still get home insurance with asbestos siding, despite some required exclusions. Some insurance companies simply won’t cover asbestos siding on older houses. Being that older homes (such as those over 20 years old or more) are riskier overall, so many providers will require a home inspection before writing or renewing policies.
Each state may have a different definition of an “old house”. Some states may list this as homes older than 25 years while others may list this as 40-50 years. An independent agency might be able to help you if you have difficulty finding asbestos insurance coverage. Independent insurance agents work with many providers and can help you locate an asbestos-specific policy–though it may cost more.
Tips to Deal with Asbestos Insurance Claims
It’s highly recommended by real estate experts that you hire a professional to remove asbestos. You can avoid unpaid asbestos insurance claims by not trying to remove or modify it yourself. So, although the cost is high, it’s worth it so that the work can be done safely. It’s also worth noting that local governments may also regulate DIY asbestos removal and may require certain permits and specific disposal methods.
It is difficult to determine if something has been made with asbestos by simply looking at it. It’s best to get in touch with an asbestos professional if you suspect areas of your home were constructed with asbestos. They can perform testing and may be able to provide recommendations for remediation.
Where Does Asbestos Come from Originally?
You can find asbestos in many places around the globe. It’s mined from the earth and is also found in soil, rocks, and water. Asbestos, in its raw form, looks like a soft, white chalk-like material. It is actually one of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are collectively known worldwide as “asbestos”.
These minerals are mostly composed of oxygen and silicon as well as other natural elements. Although the fibers builders associate with asbestos can still be found in these raw minerals, they are so small that it’s fairly difficult to see them under a microscope.
When disturbed (such as with construction or damage), the fibers become airborne and can be dangerous. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers has been known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, toxic poisoning, and other health problems.
It’s for this reason that real estate and home building laws were enacted to protect against its potential dangers. Though asbestos isn’t completely banned in the United States, most newer homes aren’t built with asbestos-containing materials.
Should I Purchase a Home That Has Asbestos?
It depends on the home. Yes, there are certain risks associated with purchasing a property built before 1979. To protect yourself from unwanted asbestos contamination, it’s always best to first assess the extent and condition of the asbestos and create an effective plan to either remove or manage it.
Also, it’s imperative to first verify your state’s laws regarding asbestos contamination, removal, and management. Even though construction materials can contain as little as 1-2% asbestos, it’s crucial to ensure that they are properly installed and left undisturbed before you buy a new house.
Should I Hire a Home Inspector or an Asbestos Inspector?
A typical home inspection before its purchase will include an evaluation of the structure and conditions of its HVAC systems, plumbing, roofing, and other important structural components. In some cases, a home inspector might be able to spot asbestos-containing materials based on their experience. But the vast majority of home inspectors simply aren’t licensed and trained as asbestos inspectors.
In fact, many home inspection contracts will state explicitly that they won’t perform an asbestos check or report the presence/absence of asbestos. This could lead to you purchasing a home with asbestos materials if there isn’t an affidavit stating that the home is free of them – something the selling real estate agent should point out.
An inspector that works specifically with asbestos can perform testing to see if the home contains any level of asbestos in the interior or exterior and provide a report of its extent. This could also be helpful when it comes to negotiating the price of the home – with the potential seller using it as leverage to lower the price.
So, to wrap things up, homeowners’ insurance policies will not cover the removal of asbestos unless it is related to a scenario in which the policy covers so if the asbestos becomes hazardous due to home damage caused by a flood, and this is covered by your flood insurance, the provider will pay for it. But if during an inspection, for example, if asbestos is uncovered and remediated, the policy typically won’t cover it.
Featured Image Credit: KPG-Payless, Shutterstock