Unique Living
June 7th, 2018 | by Serge Cowan

Reminder: Always Ask About Asbestos

Picture the scene. You’ve found the ideal luxury villa in St Paul de Vence in the French Riveira, only to find out, after you receive your notary’s diagnostic report, that its structure includes asbestos. Is that a deal-breaker or not? Here’s some information about why it’s important to get the low-down about asbestos, and why it might not be as serious a problem as you think.

Asbestos – Do You Need to Know?

In some countries, the attitude to asbestos is fairly relaxed. In fact, the general opinion is that if it’s left untouched, it shouldn’t be regarded as an issue.

Whilst it’s true that asbestos is only dangerous if disturbed, it’s also true to say that it’s better to know about an issue than to live in ignorance. That’s why it’s important to find out, right from the start, if the property you’re considering buying contains any asbestos.

How Do You Find Out?

Property sale procedures differ from country to country. However, regardless of where you purchase, we’d always recommend getting a full structural survey. Asbestos will come up in your notary’s diagnostic report, but it won’t offer the detail of a structural survey, which will help you to make a fully informed buying decision .

What to Do if You Find Asbestos

Let’s say that the survey or diagnostic check  reveals some asbestos in the roof. Does that mean that you should walk away from the sale post-haste? Well, not necessarily…

We’d recommend going back to the seller and requesting that they cover costs to get it removed. If the seller agrees, then the problem is resolved before you even move into the property. However, let’s say for the sake of argument that the seller refuses. The next step is to take a view on whether you want to remove the asbestos yourself, leave it in place, or find another property instead .

Is it a Deal-Breaker?

Remember, asbestos won’t affect your standard of living unless it’s disturbed. There are many other problems that are far harder to address (such as severe subsidence or being in a fire zone); and in the grand scheme of things, an asbestos issue is relatively easy to sort out. For example, if it’s just the outhouse that has asbestos, it shouldn’t cost more than £10K to put right.

If it’s somewhere unobtrusive, you may decide that you can live with it; though of course, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on it and are always aware that it’s there. If you’d like it removed entirely, it’s not usually a difficult process. However, it’s vital to hire a specialist firm to do the job; the local builders are unlikely to have the expertise required to remove it safely .

What About Selling the Property On?

Asbestos doesn’t carry the same stigma in other countries (such as France) as it does in the UK. Therefore, if you decide to live with it, it’s unlikely to put a dampener on its resale appeal in the future. In fact, many French homebuyers wouldn’t even consider asbestos as a bargaining tool to get the price of the property down!

Legal Advice

Whether you’re working with a notary, a local lawyer or a UK-based  international lawyer, they’re likely to adopt a stance about asbestos. While it’s a wise idea to listen to their opinions, we’d also recommend against any ‘knee-jerk reactions’. Asbestos is undoubtedly an inconvenience, but it can be resolved with relative ease.

Bear in mind that opinions on asbestos differ from country to country. It’s not such an issue in France, so if your lawyer goes in all guns blazing, this could aggravate the situation. For the sake of all involved, it’s best to handle the situation calmly and with respect to cultural differences.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan
Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Have you had any experience with asbestos in your property abroad? If so, what steps did you take to address the problem, if any? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Serge Cowan

Serge Cowan

Managing Director and Founder

Serge has an extensive marketing background, after a broadcasting career, Serge moved into marketing where he worked for BSkyB & a number of leading Public Relations agencies.
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