Nasty things hiding behind your walls, like selling a home with asbestos, could cause you legal grief.
Knowingly selling a home with asbestos exposes buyers to expensive repairs and possible harm. It can make your home uninhabitable, and inhospitable.
Whatever happened to buyer beware?
You’re out of luck there. As long as you’re selling a home with asbestos, you could be sued.
Why Asbestos is Harmful
You’re selling a 1950’s bungalow. Everywhere you look, asbestos could be lurking — in the floor tiles, textured ceilings, wallboard, shingles, siding, and even the insulation.
Even if your home is more modern, it may have been built with products on the shelf after amphibole asbestos was banned in 1979, or upgraded with recycled materials like vintage tiles that contain the hazardous substance. Asbestos ceiling sprays were legal until 1992, and chrysotile asbestos was mined in Canada up to 2012. Some imported building products still contain asbestos.
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As long as that asbestos isn’t disturbed, you can leave it in place. But once it deteriorates, or is disrupted by renovations or a tear down, the fibres become airborne. No exposure to asbestos is safe, but not everyone develops the lung diseases, cancers, or death commonly associated with it.
Do You Have to Declare Asbestos When Selling a House?
So where does that leave you as seller? Asbestos reduces your property’s value, turns off buyers, and because it’s a latent defect, has to be disclosed when you sell.
It’s true the seller property information sheet (SPIS) is voluntary in Ontario, with exceptions like Thunder Bay. So you could sidestep declaring defects like asbestos by not submitting your form. The SPIS can also be voided by putting a line across the pages, writing “as is”, and signing.
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Those might not be your best options though, because selling a home with asbestos makes you legally liable. Get a legal opinion before you do anything.
Asbestos Disclosure Requirements (Ontario)
Here’s what to know about asbestos disclosure requirements in Ontario.
- Buyers can’t sue you over visible flaws, or patent defects. That includes defects affecting your home’s quality.
- You could be sued if you know your home may have asbestos, but neglect or forget to mention it. Acting recklessly is grounds to take you to court. Disclose hazards that make your home unfit or unsafe to live in.
- Your home’s age and condition are clues you may be selling a home with asbestos. Tell your realtor what year updates were made.
- You aren’t necessarily liable for asbestos you don’t know about. For example, whether you can sell a house with a garage with asbestos roof shingles could depend on if you could reasonably see or know about the potential risk.
- If you definitely know you are selling a home with asbestos, and hide or lie about it, you may have to reimburse the buyer for remediation expenses and damages.
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Buyer Obligations for Latent Defects
The SPIS puts the onus on home buyers to make their own investigations. However, buyers can only arrange a professional home inspection if the agreement of purchase and sale specifically says so, or you agree to include it after.
Asbestos found after the closing date compels the buyer to prove what a seller knew and when. Courts are unsympathetic if you turn a blind eye to latent defects like asbestos. Even when a buyer makes a firm offer without a home inspection clause, you could be liable for the cost of abating or removing asbestos.
Last-Minute Fixes If Your Home Has Asbestos
You discover asbestos after the buyer makes their offer. Sellers have three options:
- Cancel the sale by mutual consent.
- Reduce the price so the buyer can fix it.
- Pay a professional to remove the offending materials.
Of course, it would have been easier if you had checked it out before you sold. Hiring a professional home inspector is a small cost for the peace of mind it might bring you.
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Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer
Before you put an offer on another home, bring the agreement of purchase and sale for your own home to Axess Law. Our licensed real estate lawyers review buyers’ offers to purchase before or after you sign. We go through the agreement for terms and conditions that could complicate your sale.
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When buyers have delays finding mortgage financing, we revise the agreement to extend the completion date, or cancel the sale at your request. No need to worry if your work takes you out of town during an important real estate transaction. Axess Law’s virtual real estate lawyers can network with you via remote video conferencing anywhere you are in Ontario.
We locate construction liens or financial claims that could cause last-minute delays to transferring title to your property to a buyer. Our skilled legal team advises if you need to take steps to clear the title before a sale.
How to transfer property title to family members in Ontario.
Divorcing or separating? You need a legally married spouse’s permission before you sell. Find out how a pending property sale affects your matrimonial home.
Affordable Real Estate Lawyers, Anywhere You Are
Access lawyers for less in Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or anywhere in Ontario when you buy, sell, or transfer property. Axess Law’s flat fee real estate lawyers are affordable, and our rates are all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. Your final invoice includes no surprises or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it.
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Make Online or Phone Appointments
Book appointments online with our easy-to-use web form, or phone our 647-479-0118 lawyer line (toll free to 1-877-522-9377) for assistance. Axess Law has Ottawa and Greater Toronto Area law offices near you, with onsite parking and easy transit access.