Is your house older than 21 years? Then you must have an asbestos certificate drawn up from today.
As of today, the time has come: for every house built before 2001, the owner must be able to present an asbestos certificate when selling or donating. What exactly is that certificate, when do you need it and how do you request it? Chairman Aart Vandebroek of Fedasbest, the association of accredited laboratories and asbestos experts, explains.
As of today, the asbestos certificate is mandatory for homes built before 2001 that are sold or donated. The obligation applies to every 'transfer inter vivos', ie the transfer of a property right, but also usufruct, ground lease, superficies or real right of use. An inheritance is not included.
An asbestos inventory on the work floor had already existed for some time to guarantee a safe working environment, but the self-employed and private individuals fell outside this system. The asbestos certificate now partly puts an end to this by informing people better about the presence of asbestos in their home. But the main reason why the certificate saw the light of day is the goal of the Flemish government to be asbestos safe by 2040.
“That is not synonymous with asbestos-free,” explains Vandebroek. “That would be unfeasible, because asbestos is unfortunately ubiquitous in our region. As long as the hazardous fibers are not released from building materials, that is not so bad. However, the risk of exposure in daily life increases as asbestos fibers are less strongly embedded in superficial structures.
That does not mean that you automatically have to renovate your entire home if asbestos is detected. “The certificate mainly has an informative function,” said the Fedasbest chairman. Thanks to a professional assessment of the most visible applications of asbestos, you as a potential buyer can better estimate possible renovations and the associated costs. Naturally, this will affect the purchase price of the home, which is only fair to the buyer.”
Suppose you own real estate built in 1999; then the risk of asbestos is already much less than with a house from the 1960s.
It is important to know that this is only a superficial, visual examination. Are you planning major renovations in your (at least) 21-year-old home? Then an additional destructive investigation is required. “The concealed applications of asbestos are also detected, such as sewage pipes or closed constructions,” Vandebroek explains. “If these asbestos fibers are released during construction work, they can seriously damage both your health and that of the construction workers after 30 to 40 years. Mesothelioma is one of the slowest but deadliest cancers for a reason!”
Both the mandatory visual and additional destructive examination come with a price tag. “The price varies greatly depending on the size, the number of building materials used and the age of the house,” explains the Fedasbest chairman. “Suppose you own real estate built in 1999; then the risk of asbestos is already much less than with a house from the 1960s.”
For an older home, you can count on an average cost of between 600 and 700 euros, with different formulas to choose from. “There are all-in models, or options where you have a low entry price but have to pay a surcharge per sample… So compare the different providers carefully and don't wait too long. After all, conducting an asbestos survey takes time and the certificate for sale is still valid for 10 years. In addition, every homeowner will have to have an asbestos certificate by 2032.”
“In contrast to the price, the implementation is very clear and laid down in an inspection protocol in various steps. This guideline starts with an order form, followed by an administrative preliminary investigation: an introduction to the plans, a description of the plot, etc. The expert then conducts a thorough investigation of the home and samples are taken of suspected asbestos materials, whereby outbuildings such as the garden house and the conservatory should not be overlooked. You can count on at least four hours for all this. These samples are then analyzed by an accredited asbestos lab. Finally, there is the processing and entering of all data in the digital tool developed by OVAM.”
There are currently more than 250 asbestos experts, and experts are added every day
If you live in an apartment, the common areas will have to be taken up by the property manager and settled per house. "Although the latter is not mandatory for the time being - the government is currently still focusing on the separate housing units."
Thanks to this policy, many new service providers have entered the market, so that there are currently more than 250 asbestos experts, and experts are added every day. “As a result, the current waiting times of several weeks for the sale of a home are relative and temporary. Some people have also waited too long, but the bottleneck around this deadline will level itself out again. We recommend property sellers Om consult the OVAM list and write to multiple players. The asbestos expert will then prepare a quotation and clarify the agreements via the order form.”
Are they coming to drill into my walls?
This is followed by an investigation at your home, where the asbestos expert does his best to cause as little serious damage as possible. “He or she will actively look for free places to sample suspicious material. Sometimes this happens in a place where there was already a hole or a tear, sometimes we have to push a corner of the wallpaper aside. Occasionally we also use a cork drill to safely inspect the insulation around metal heating pipes, but we do not really drill. In any case, we repair any damage that has been done to a safe situation with filling material or duct tape.”
It is very important that the asbestos inspector has easy access to all rooms in your home, because sometimes several samples of the same material are needed for a reliable analysis. “So clear up possible obstacles as far in advance as possible.” As a final step, the data is uploaded to the OVAM database, after which the expert can transfer your asbestos certificate to you.
The costs of having materials replaced by safer alternatives - despite premiums for the disposal of asbestos waste - can amount to (tens of) thousands of euros.
What if the result is bad?
“OVAM's risk evaluation came about in the context of the Flemish phase-out policy, but as a home owner you mainly want to know whether or not you yourself run health risks. If you received an orange or red color on your certificate, it is also necessary to interpret that score correctly. Is the poor result mainly due to your asbestos roof? Then the direct exposure risk is not necessarily very great, because neither you nor your neighbors live on the roof.
If, on the other hand, the gypsum insulation, plaster or adhesive layer under your vinyl floor contains asbestos, you may have to take action. “As soon as you have added cables, drilled holes or your floor covering shows serious wear or damage, you are already in the danger zone. Heavily damaged pipe insulation around heating pipes is also very risky.”
“Approved companies can safely remove these asbestos-containing materials by completely insulating the place, but then you have to have those materials replaced by safer alternatives. The costs of this can - despite premiums for the removal of asbestos waste - amount to (tens of) thousands of euros. This is also the reason why many people choose to book this non-mandatory destructive investigation together with the mandatory asbestos investigation.” A forewarned homeowner is worth two.