As the others have noted, we all agree with Bill (below). A seller or homeowner may only disclose those facts of which he/she is aware. The seller may certainly not have known about the asbestos, and the burden will fall to you, as the buyer, to prove that the seller either should have known or did know and purposely withheld that information. As the buyer, you purchased the home "as is" so, if a careful professional inspection of the home did not turn up this problem, it does seem probable that the seller did not know about this issue either.
While I understand how concerned you are about this situation, let me assure you--as someone who has worked with an industrial hygenist--that asbestos is present in many older homes and many environments even now without causing any health problems for those in the immediate vicinity. In fact, most us grew up spending days and days in schools literally built with products coated in asbestos and do not today suffer problems from the exposure. Asbestos becomes hazardous and dangerous when it is made "friable", meaning that it is in some way cracked, scratched or torn. This act releases small particles or "fibers" of asbestos into the air, which is then inhaled into the lungs. This is why people who removed asbestos, ground it, or scratched (such as automotive workers who ground brakes and industrial workers who removed and then replaced asbestos coatings) are often most afflicted by asbestosis--an asbestos related lung disease. In the case of the asbestos tile, the tile is actually coated with a hard surface, which prevents the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Removal of asbestos products should always be handled by professionals, who will ensure that any fibers released into the air are contained and immediately removed with air filtration systems. If you have any questions about the safety of your home, the handling of asbestos, or possible problems resulting from exposure, consult a trained environmental hygenist.
I hope this gives you some comfort. Good luck and happy home redecorating!
Grace Morioka, SRES, e-Pro
Area Pro Realty
Well the question is..did the owner know about the problem?
Years ago, asbestos was in many products, including brakes (in cars). To my knowledge, asbestos is only dangerous, when it is airborne.
If it were me, I would pay to have a specialist remove the tiles.
We see VAT (Vinyl Asbestos Tile) here in the Chicago area all the time. It was the tile of choice in the 50s, and 60s for basement tile. Inspectors in our area can identify them, without lab tests, basically on their design and size, because they've seen them so many times.
When we've discovered them, we've been told by our inspectors and asbestos removal companies, that unless the tiles are deteriorating... (cracked, and peeling)... they are of no significant danger. They recommend the best thing to do is cover them (such as with carpeting... or to put some other floor covering OVER them... such as new tile). My understanding is that the danger is from the dust and air-borne fibers that occur when the tiles begin decomposing. Tiles in good condition, represent no danger.
Of course, you want to make sure you minimize the contact your family might have with these tiles, by putting carpeting over them... but that should be adequate, as far as "my understanding".
You can have the tiles removed... but if you do so, you should hire an appropriate "asbestos remediation company" (you know.. the guys in the space-suits) to come and remove them professionally. But personally, if they're in good condition... I'd just cover them up.
Seller's disclosure information is only as good at the owner's knowlege of the property. The fact that you lived in the home for 2.5 years without knowing the tiles were asbestos is a reminder that the previous owners, even if they installed them, may not have known.
Our advice is if you feel strongly enough about this consult an attorney for their advice.
As far as health issues for your child- I recently had to renew my license for real estate, and there was quite a large section on Asbestors. The issue with Asbestos is primarily when whatever it is used in is broken up and there is the chance of you breathing in the fibers i.e- if you had a popcorn ceiling containing asbestos, and you scraped it down yourselves without draping off the other rooms with plastic, and it was floating throughout the home- or if you broke up the tile to remove it, without protection. They basically RECOMMENDED that the best thing to do with asbestos was to simply cover over it with new materials. So- it seems to me that there is not really a big health concern according to the things I read in our information.
Non-disclosure IF they knew it was there is another story, and I'm sure that it would depend on proving that- AND the exact timing of the purchase- 2 years may be within a timeframe of doing something about it. 5 years may not. You may have to ask a real estate attorney on that.
The first person to talk to would be the realtor you used in the transaction. Their company should have a real estate attorney on retainer who could answer your question regarding timing and if you have any recourse. The recourse then (if any) would probably be that they might have to help you with the cost of removing the asbestos- which could be costly- as you have to use certified technicians and have restrictions as to where and how it can be disposed of.
Go to your realtor, and have them answer some of your questions. That's why you pay us- so that down the road if there is a situation like this you can figure out the best solution!
"Advice You Need, Attention You Deserve"
Prudential CA Realty
Bob is right.
I am not a health expert by any means, but I have read that health experts indicate that it is prolonged exposure and exposure to asbestos dust or fibers that causes health issues.
I am pasting a Q&A from the National Cancer Institute on asbestos which you may find helpful
I have personally used a company for the removal of asbestos tiles in my home. The process was quick and easy. I too discovered asbestos tiles in a bedroom that was covered by carpet. Let me know if I can provide you with a referral so that you may obtain a quote.
Best of luck with the remodel.
Asbestos tiles are common in California, though seeing them in a single family home is a little odd unless it is a mature home.
I would advise you first go to an asbestos professional and seek advice on what sort of situation you have. In my experience a small number of floor tiles can be handled with little human hazard with the proper protrections and provided the tiles were secure before any demolition.