Who is responsible for the removal of asbestos in an older condo?

A.A. writes:

Dear Paul:

Our condo Corp reserve study done in 2016 doesn’t mention the insulation and asbestos replacement. The condos are 40 years old and I’m told they will contain asbestos. What’s the current policy and law with regards to asbestos in older buildings?

I know one of the owners is wanting to replace some of his insulation and wants to know if that would be a common cost. Our old plan drawings actually show the unit boundaries as the inner walls, but we have always treated windows and doors as private.

Paul replies:

Dear A.A.:

A specialist in conducting reserve fund studies (RFS) indicated that there would be no mention of insulation and asbestos replacement in an RFS as that is not part of the scope of the assessment. He added that until an Asbestos Survey is done by a qualified individual it is impossible to know if it contains asbestos, or if it needs to be replaced. You should consult with an Occupational Hygienist, or a company who specializes in insulation installation and removal for detailed information. Due to the health risks involved in working with asbestos, it is not a do it yourself project.

A simple asbestos survey will tell you the asbestos type and the concentration for the location analyzed. A more comprehensive survey can include an inventory of every location  of the property where asbestos is found.

If asbestos containing material (ex: insulation) is not damaged or disturbed it is not likely to be a health risk. Usually the best thing is to leave asbestos-containing material alone if it is in good condition.

If your governing documents state that the unit boundaries are the inner walls, it could be a logical conclusion that insulation in the attic could be a common element. You would have to consult a lawyer to examine your governing documents, and past practice for an opinion on who is responsible for the costs.

It is important to determine if the area is deemed a common element before any study or replacement is done. Replacing some damaged insulation for one unit may be affordable. Replacing insulation for all units may be cost prohibitive and need to be done gradually. Best Regards!

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