According to the Australian Government, approximately one-third of all Australian homes contain asbestos in some form or another. Between the 1930s and the 1990s, Australia had the highest consumption rate of asbestos products, per capita. Asbestos was frequently used as an additive to construction materials and was a favourite in the manufacturing sector because of its heat resistance and durability.
However, asbestos was soon found to be incredibly harmful. Those exposed to asbestos started developing chronic illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. The tiny fibres released by asbestos materials become trapped in a person’s lungs, where they never break down and cause permanent scarring and illness.
Eventually, asbestos was officially banned nation-wide in Australia in 2003. This ban includes the production, mining, selling, buying, and importation of all asbestos-containing materials and products. The problem we now face is that while the use and import of asbestos are illegal, many homes are left contaminated with asbestos-containing products and materials that were installed 30+ years ago.
Asbestos in The Home
If your house was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos in some form. Asbestos was frequently used in cement “fibro” sheeting, insulation, backing, and lagging on pipework. Many household products manufactured during the 1950s and 1960s will also contain asbestos fibres. If asbestos-containing materials are non-friable, in good condition, and do not pose a threat of deteriorating or wearing, they are relatively harmless. However, if there are asbestos-containing materials on your property that are friable, wearing, or damaged, they need to be safely removed to avoid harmful asbestos exposure.
So, the big question: Is asbestos removal covered by home insurance?
Whether home insurance covers asbestos removal depends on the nature of the claim, the policy, and the insurance provider. Many, (if not most), standard home and contents insurance policies exclude anything to do with working with, or handling, asbestos.
Home insurance policies typically have an exclusion for pollution, which prevents homeowners from being reimbursed for cleaning up pollutants in the home. Asbestos falls under pollutants, as well as fuel and chemical spills.
In saying that, your home insurance policy may cover asbestos in some instances. For example, if your wall gets damaged and its material contains asbestos, your insurer will replace the wall with another material. However, if someone in your house becomes ill from the asbestos in the wall, any claims for this are generally not covered by home insurance.
Depending on your insurer and policy, if the cause of your home insurance claim is solely due to the presence of asbestos in your home, this may be considered a pollutant exclusion. If you’re reading this and are looking for a definitive answer for “Is Asbestos Removal Covered by Home Insurance?” you will need to refer to your individual policy disclosure statement for more information regarding asbestos cover.
In some cases, if an insurance company accepts a house damage claim, and in the course of repairing the home, asbestos is discovered, they will pay to have it safely removed. They may not cover any loss, damage, or legal liability you incur due to asbestos at the insured address.
Some insurance companies will cover home insurance for property owners and/ or occupiers of properties containing asbestos. However, this is not a typical practice. If you want to have additional asbestos cover, you will have to seek out a company that explicitly includes asbestos in their policy.
Asbestos Liability Insurance
Individuals and companies licensed to work with asbestos can readily obtain insurance to cover working with or handling asbestos. Anyone who comes across asbestos in an occupational capacity should be covered by asbestos liability insurance as they are at risk of exposure.
Aside from accredited asbestos removal professionals who deal with asbestos as their core business, there are several other occupations who directly or indirectly may come into contact with asbestos while working.
Tradesmen such as building contractors, carpenters, plumbers and electricians may come across asbestos while carrying out their working. Often they can encounter asbestos without any warning and unknowingly, and in this case, should know how to handle the materials safely. This means that tradespeople that are likely to come into contact with asbestos should be fully accredited, qualified, and insured in the safe handling and management of asbestos materials.
Asbestos liability insurance will typically cover:
- Demolition activities
- Testing and/ or sampling including transport and disposal
- Working with asbestos and/ or making asbestos safe
- Property owners and/ or tenants
It is crucial for contractors to have general asbestos liability insurance, accredited licensing, and workers compensation if they are to manage, handle, or work with asbestos.
Why is Asbestos Removal & Insurance So Complicated?
As more Australian homes begin to age, more homeowners have to deal with new-found asbestos. The question “Is Asbestos Removal Covered by Home Insurance?” has become more frequent as materials begin to wear, and people undergo home renovations. However, it seems that the relationship between the history of asbestos and who should have to pay for asbestos removal is only becoming more complicated. Reasons why asbestos removal and home insurance is complex:
- Asbestos risks are an on-going and long-term problem for older houses.
- Insurance companies tend to avoid pollutants such as asbestos as claims can take years to manifest and can be complicated to deal with.
- Asbestos-related illnesses take years to develop, and so, asbestos materials may not be positively identified for years.
- Some asbestos materials do not pose an immediate threat, and thus, insurance companies will not cover claims that conduct purely precautionary removal.
- Finally, asbestos removal can be a very costly and is a highly specialised process – these costs are not lost on insurance companies.
When Insurance May Cover Asbestos Removal
Generally, home insurance companies will not cover asbestos removal claims. However, there are a few cases in which insurance companies may assist with covering for asbestos removal. If your home experienced damage from a covered peril that uncovers asbestos, the repair process may require asbestos removal, in which case, the insurance company will accommodate pay for.
For example, if a huge windstorm damages your house to the point of uncovering asbestos materials, an insurance claim may be submitted. If windstorms are a peril covered in your policy, the insurance company will provide safe repairs for the damage, which will include asbestos removal.
In saying that, this will only be the case in some insurance policies. Homeowners should refer to their policy statements for information on whether damages from a covered peril are included.
While there are many discrepancies over whether home insurance policies should cover asbestos removal, the critical thing to recognise is that if your house contains dangerous asbestos, it needs to be removed. Professional asbestos removal and disposal are crucial to maintaining the safety of your home – whether the bill is covered by home insurance or not.
Professionals who manage and handle asbestos removal for a living are trained to minimise contamination and prevent spreading asbestos fibres in your home. While the costs of asbestos removal may be daunting, consider the potential risk leaving the asbestos is to you and your family. Don’t run the risk of exposing your loved ones to asbestos – call the asbestos abatement professionals.
GBAR Group are the leading experts in safe asbestos removal and disposal. Licensed in all states of Australia, here at GBAR, we are committed to providing peace of mind to property owners. Our reputation among our diverse client base is built on our absolute commitment to safety, compliance, and quality, regardless of the size of the project. If you’d like to learn more about what GBAR can do for you, get in touch with one of our technicians today.