Honolulu, HI asked in Real Estate Law for Hawaii

Q: I purchased a condo 4years ago, but did not receive a disclosure form. I now discover that my ceiling is covered with

asbestos "popcorn" on the ceiling. What is the seller's obligation under hawaii law?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Gregory Andrews Cade
Gregory Andrews Cade

A: Since the vast majority of houses built before the mid 1980s have asbestos somewhere in their structure, the seller is not required by law to priorly disclose the presence of this toxic agent. Another reason why asbestos disclosure was not deemed necessary by the State of Hawaii pertains to the relatively low risk of domestic exposure. Asbestos represents a health hazard only when fibers become airborne. Within most building materials, asbestos fibers are tightly bound and therefore cannot come off as long as the product is in good condition. This includes asbestos spray-on ceiling treatment, also known as popcorn ceiling.

If this product was applied on the ceiling of your condo, you should avoid disturbing it to prevent exposure. Thereby, remodeling projects involving the ceiling are ill-advised unless the product is professionally removed beforehand and so is impacting the surface with furniture or other objects. As a rule of thumb, all furniture in the problematic room(s) should be at least one foot below ceiling level to make sure it will not be accidentally damaged. The removal of asbestos popcorn ceiling is rarely necessary, as this product does not typically pose a health threat. In fact, removing it is likely to increase the risk of exposure by releasing toxic fibers in the air.

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