Can I Sue My Landlord For Asbestos Exposure? (Find Out Now!)

Jennifer Eggerton
by Jennifer Eggerton

During the 1970s, asbestos was banned due to the serious health risks of inhaling the fibers. Older homes and buildings may still have asbestos, and the material needs to be removed. If you find out that your rental unit has asbestos, you may be wondering if you can sue your landlord for asbestos exposure.

You can sue your landlord for asbestos exposure if you were not notified of the presence of asbestos when you signed the lease. You cannot sue your landlord for asbestos exposure if the lease discloses the presence of materials that contain asbestos. You could have avoided exposure by not moving in. Therefore, your landlord is not responsible.

Let’s take a closer look at asbestos and liability for landlords.

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What is Asbestos?

Asbestos was introduced as a heat insulation product in 1866, and, the first product was developed four years later. By 1874, the material was used in numerous residential and commercial applications. Over time, the medical community discovered that breathing fibers from asbestos-caused serious health issues, including death.

In 1978, the federal government banned asbestos, and builders were allowed to use their existing inventory until 1986. Homes that were built in 1986 or earlier are likely to have asbestos unless it has been removed.

Under the laws, homeowners are required to disclose the presence of asbestos to prospective buyers. It is not illegal to sell a home with asbestos. For landlords, they are required to test for the presence of asbestos. They may also be required to remove the material. If they do not have the asbestos removed, they are required, by law, to disclose to every tenant and prospective renter that a unit or building has asbestos.

Types of Asbestos

There are two categories of asbestos – amphibole asbestos and serpentine asbestos. The categories describe the type of rock from which the asbestos is mined. Amphibole asbestos comes in five types – crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, anthophyllite, and amosite. Serpentine asbestos has only one type – chrysotile.

As the names imply, asbestos is a group of minerals that are primarily mined in China, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Some asbestos is mined in North America.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

When asbestos is disturbed or damaged, it releases small fibers that float through the air. When you inhale the fibers, they settle in your lungs. This irritates the lung tissue, and the inflammation causes scar tissue.

Over time, your lungs get stiff and cannot expand. As you continue to breathe in more asbestos fibers, the damage to your lungs becomes more severe and widespread.

Unfortunately, you may not notice the damage to your lungs until years later, even after you have stopped inhaling the fibers.

Asbestos Exposure Symptoms

Asbestosis is a clinical condition that is caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms may not develop for 20 years or longer after the initial exposure. Common symptoms of asbestos exposure include:

  • Fatigue
  • Chronic cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Pain in the shoulder or chest
  • Shortness of breath

Asbestos Exposure Diseases

In addition to asbestosis, people who are exposed to asbestos may develop other diseases, such as:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pleuritis
  • Pleural effusions
  • Diffuse pleural thickening
  • Pleural plaques
  • Cancer

Is Short-term Exposure to Asbestos Dangerous?

Ideally, you want to know ahead of time if you are moving into a rental unit that has asbestos. Life does not always go the way it should, though. The good news is that, generally, speaking, short-term, light exposure to asbestos rarely causes diseases. Asbestos exposure is cumulative, meaning that the damage to your lungs increases each time you are exposed, even for short periods of time.

How Do I Know If My Apartment Has Asbestos?

Testing for asbestos is the best way to know if the material is present in your apartment or rental unit. You can ask your landlord to test for asbestos. Other options are to hire a company to do the test or perform the test yourself. Buy an asbestos test kit from a home improvement store.

How to Use an Asbestos Test Kit

If you are testing for asbestos on your own, follow the instructions exactly as they are written. Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure.

  • Wear disposable gloves, shoe covers, and overalls, as well as safety glasses
  • Use a respirator with a HEPA filter
  • Cover all doors, windows, and openings in the room where you collect the sample
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap with water in a spray bottle
  • Liberally spray the area where you are collecting the sample
  • Cut a small sample from the area where you are testing
  • Place the sample in the plastic bag from your test kit
  • Seal the bag, and send it to the address in the kit

Where to Collect Samples for an Asbestos Test

Asbestos may be found in almost any part of your rental unit. Consider collecting samples from:

  • Cement used for pipes
  • Flashing and tiles on the roof
  • Insulation in ceiling cavities
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Insulation wraps around heating pipes
  • Wallboards and wallboard joint compound
  • Floor tiles
  • Popcorn ceiling tiles
  • Mastic

Keep the Results of the Asbestos Test

Expect the results from your asbestos test to take about one to two weeks. Keep a copy of the results for your records. If the test comes back positive for asbestos, show the report to your landlord. Describe where you took the sample. You want to give your landlord the opportunity to remove the asbestos.

Remedies for Finding Asbestos in Your Rental Unit

If the landlord decides to have the asbestos removed, make sure that accommodations are made for you to have a place to stay. Asbestos removal can take days or weeks, depending on the amount of material and location.

In some cases, the landlord may opt to have the asbestos encapsulated or enclosed. The work should be done by a licensed asbestos removal company, and the method of managing the situation should rest in their expert hands, not the landlords.

If your landlord refuses to address the asbestos or makes choices that you are uncomfortable with, find a new place to live. Document everything. A landlord who refuses to correct an asbestos problem is violating the lease.

Is It Illegal to Rent a Property with Asbestos?

It is not illegal to rent a property with asbestos. What is illegal is not disclosing the presence of asbestos to potential and current tenants. Your landlord is responsible for providing all tenants with a safe and habitable home.

Is Your Landlord Liable for Your Safety?

Your landlord is responsible for your safety in some respects. Landlords are required to protect their tenants. This may include proper lighting, deadbolt locks, and locks on the windows. The property must also meet certain health and safety standards. Asbestos falls under the health standards for rental properties.

Can I Sue My Landlord for Asbestos Exposure?

This is where your documentation comes into play. If you confirm the presence of asbestos in your apartment, you may be able to sue your landlord for damages. The best option is to discuss the matter with an attorney.

Can You Get Compensation for Asbestos Exposure?

You may be eligible to receive compensation from your landlord for asbestos exposure. This may include the cost of removing the asbestos, moving, and temporary housing while the asbestos is removed. You may also qualify for compensation to cover any health issues that arise now or in the future that are related to asbestos exposure.

How Can I File a Lawsuit Against My Landlord for Asbestos Exposure?

Keep very good records, including a copy of your lease and any type of communication with your landlord. Have everything in writing. Take your documentation to an attorney and discuss the case. Make sure to take the results of the asbestos test and a diagram or photos of where you took the samples.

If you have been diagnosed with health issues that may be linked to asbestos exposure, take a copy of your medical records.

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Related Questions

How do I test for lead paint?

Lead test kits are available at your local hardware and home improvement stores. The kit includes a swab for taking a sample. Rub the swab on all exposed layers of paint for 30 seconds while squeezing the swab. The swab turns red or pink if it detects lead in the paint.

Can you safely remove a popcorn ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings can be removed, but you should test for asbestos first if the home was built in 1986 or earlier. Wear a respirator. Gently scrape off the popcorn finish. Apply primer, and paint the ceiling.

How do you seal asbestos?

Sealing asbestos involves coating the material with a substance that binds the fibers. It is the loose fibers of the asbestos that damage your lungs.


Like lead paint, asbestos is a material that you don’t want in your home. If you discover asbestos in your rental unit, take steps to protect yourself. Speak with your landlord, and, if necessary, discuss the matter with an attorney. You may be able to sue your landlord for asbestos exposure if the presence of asbestos was not disclosed.

Jennifer Eggerton
Jennifer Eggerton

Jennifer L. Eggerton loves being hands-on, whether it's with a home DIY project, making repairs, re-decorating a room, or keeping life organized. She enjoys helping people by sharing her knowledge, insights, and experiences, as well as her lessons learned. In addition to her work as a writer, Jennifer is a Jeep® overlander, self-published author, and nature photographer who loves being outdoors.

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