Though it’s well-known that continued exposure to asbestos fibers can pose health risks, home insurance generally excludes asbestos removal from coverage.
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A common building material for houses due to its fire-resistant properties, the dangers of asbestos exposure did not become common knowledge until the 1970s and 1980s. Used throughout many structural elements of the home — like floor tiles, ceiling materials, and insulation — long term exposure to asbestos can cause life-threatening cancers and other respiratory conditions.
Older homes and properties built pre-1980 are likely to incorporate asbestos in some form. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it must always be removed; asbestos is only dangerous if it’s degraded to the point of inhalable particles, breathed in over a long period of time.
Despite the potential hazards of asbestos, its removal is not typically covered by home insurance, except under rare circumstances. Let’s explore the reasons why.
Asbestos is classified as a pollutant by insurance companies, and homeowners policies specifically exclude pollution from coverage. Even robust open peril policies, like an HO-3 or HO-5, do not cover asbestos removal. Learn more about what a home policy covers.
The process of identifying and removing asbestos tends to be very expensive — and compounded by its prevalence in many homes already, there is generally no recourse in getting your homeowners insurance company to cover its removal. The only situation in which your homeowners insurance policy may pay for asbestos removal is if your home suffers a covered loss that exposes the presence of asbestos. For instance, a gusty windstorm causes a tree to collapse onto part of your house, causing property damage that reveals asbestos in the shingles of your roofing. On top of paying to help repair your roof, your insurance company could also help strip the remaining asbestos materials, along with clean-up of dust or particles that could have been released when the roof was damaged.
Outside of this very specific situation of a covered peril unveiling or causing asbestos to be released into your home’s atmosphere, a standard policy will never cover asbestos removal or abatement, even with additional coverage and high coverage limits.
As a hardy, fibrous mineral mainly used for commercial and industrial purposes, asbestos and asbestos-containing materials remained a mainstay for decades in the United States. It wasn’t until the 1960s that research into its long term effects furnished evidence of the link between asbestos and diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Once asbestos particles are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs and remain there for years. Continued exposure as more fibers accumulate and get trapped can cause lung inflammation, scarring, breathing problems, and even cancer.
Asbestos is dangerous if it has crumbled to dust or particles that can potentially be breathed in over a long period of time. As long as the source of asbestos is sealed and unbroken, like within the insulation or in your floor tiles, it does not need to be removed immediately.
Despite past attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is no federal ban on asbestos, but it is tightly regulated, with limits on asbestos levels in consumer products.
Detecting asbestos requires much more than just a visual inspection. You’ll need the specialized equipment and knowledge of a professional, who will scope out your property for harmful sources of asbestos. Samples of suspected particles are sent to a lab for testing, and if its presence is confirmed, an expert can help devise the best plan for asbestos abatement or its removal from your home.
Common locations in your home in which asbestos could be found:
When it comes to serious home improvement issues like asbestos, termites or other pests, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Even if you’re an expert DIY-er, asbestos must be properly removed or mitigated to ensure there are no trace amounts left in the atmosphere.
Even if you can’t expect help from your home insurance company for asbestos removal, it’s still a worthy safeguard in protecting your property and liability. Enter your ZIP code below to compare homeowners insurance quotes side-by-side and find the best deal on your next home policy.
The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.