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Does home insurance cover asbestos removal?

Vidhu Bajaj avatar
Vidhu Bajaj
- 6 min read
Does home insurance cover asbestos removal?

Some aspiring home buyers have a preference for older homes, favouring the charming period style of construction over modern architecture. Buying an old house, however, comes with certain risks, one of which is the use of asbestos in building materials.

What is asbestos, and why is it considered risky

Asbestos was a widely used construction material in the past, but we now know that direct exposure to asbestos can be quite dangerous. Several types of cancers are associated with asbestos exposure and some other diseases, too. Thankfully, the Australian government completely banned the sale and use or reuse of asbestos-based building materials in 2003. Still, it is possible that any home built before that may contain asbestos as a fireproofing or insulating material, particularly in ceilings and wall claddings.

How to identify asbestos in your home

A survey by a licensed assessor can help you identify any area where asbestos is present and the potential risks. Typically, asbestos doesn't pose a threat unless it's damaged or exposed to air. Yet, if you're planning renovations or notice damage in your building, the assessor might advise removing and properly disposing of the asbestos, which can be costly.

Unfortunately, most standard home insurance policies may not cover asbestos removal. However, some policies could include coverage for the safe removal of asbestos if it's damaged or disturbed due to an event covered by the policy, such as a fire, storm, or flood. But each insurance policy is different, and it's worth comparing various home insurance policies to find one that provides a suitable cover for your needs.

Why is asbestos removal not included in home insurance policies?

Australian insurance companies typically exclude asbestos removal from their policies due to the potential flood of high-value claims this could trigger. Asbestos has been used in Australian homes for about a century, and it's estimated that around one-third of these homes still contain some amount of asbestos. 

This history means that covering the cost of asbestos removal in all these homes would not only be a significant expense, but it would also likely drive up home insurance costs as the insurers might struggle to manage all the claims. 

Simply put, if insurance companies committed to paying for asbestos removal in all of these homes, they might have to increase premiums significantly to handle the possible costs. However, increased prices could make home insurance unaffordable for many homeowners. Consequently, insurance companies generally opt to exclude any expenses related to asbestos to keep the insurance premiums affordable.

If you're considering buying a house that could potentially have asbestos, it's worth speaking to your insurer about it. While your home insurance policy usually won't cover the costs of asbestos removal, there are scenarios where you might be able to claim assistance. 

For instance, if asbestos removal is necessary due to repairing your home after a disaster like hail damage, your insurance policy might cover the cost. Hail damage can cause asbestos in roofing insulation to crumble easily and release fibres that pose health risks if breathed in. If your policy covers roof hail damage, you could potentially get your insurance provider to assist with the cost of asbestos removal in your home.

What's the risk of having asbestos in your house?

Asbestos fibres can become airborne when the material is damaged or exposed. These fibres can lead to serious health problems when inhaled, including lung damage and cancer. While modern homes built after 2003 don't use asbestos in construction, potential exposure to this material could be a cause of concern if you're considering buying an older home, especially one that hasn't been well maintained.

Besides the risk of asbestos exposure, there could be several other issues with older homes. It's wise to invest in a professional inspection to uncover any hidden problems that could result in costly repairs down the line. 

A professional assessor can provide insights into areas of your house containing asbestos. They may recommend leaving these areas untouched if they're in good condition or adequately sealed. However, it's beneficial to be aware of these locations, if only to ensure your family doesn't come into contact with them. 

An assessor will also guide you on whether asbestos removal is necessary and offer insights into potential activities or incidents that could release asbestos fibres, along with appropriate responses. It's worth noting that if asbestos removal is required, your home insurance might not cover it. Nevertheless, reaching out to your insurer and inquiring about circumstances under which asbestos removal could be covered is advisable. Reviewing their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) can provide a comprehensive understanding of these situations.

Remember that even if asbestos-containing materials may not be an immediate risk if they're in good condition or properly sealed, it's essential to acknowledge that asbestos exposure isn't easy to detect, as it might not show symptoms for a long time. 

Additionally, although your home insurance might cover asbestos removal as part of a claim settlement for a covered incident, it might not extend to related health concerns. To mitigate health risks, consider a professional inspection of the building and take precautions to prevent accidental damage to asbestos-containing materials during renovations or remodelling projects.

Getting the right insurance coverage when buying an older home

Securing adequate home insurance coverage is crucial for homeowners as it provides protection against property damage. However, older properties can pose unique challenges in terms of maintenance and repairs. 

Many older homes were built with materials such as asbestos that are potentially dangerous, often requiring thought assessments and repairs by skilled personnel. This could make finding suitable insurance for older properties somewhat complicated, and you might see your premium increase due to the increased risks associated with aging structures. 

Insurers generally view older homes as more susceptible to damage than newer ones, making them more cautious when offering coverage. Some insurers might even be hesitant to provide coverage for older properties. Even the ones that do will not all provide the same level of coverage for your house. 

That's why it's important to compare home insurance policies and buy one that's affordable and provides protection against issues like wiring and plumbing faults that are more likely to occur in older properties than new ones. 

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Product database updated 04 Mar, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Peter Terlato before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Product data updated on 4 Mar 2024