Merrill, WI asked in Real Estate Law for Wisconsin

Q: I purchased a house about 6 months ago. The sellers listed on condition report, no asbestos.

It was determined after closing there is a significant* amount of vermiculite which is generally considered asbestos under Wis. Admin. Code Chapter DHS 159.04(41) . [Until it is tested per EPA guidelines.] Some of the vermiculite is visible in some of the upstairs crawlspaces, even without checking the upper attic.

*Was determined to be in exterior walls, as well in the second story floor (literal), and an upper attic that is not generally accessible except it was discovered when I was trying to check on the insulation due to the upstairs being cold.

Do I have a case against former owners for removal / repair costs?

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: While the law requires the seller to disclose the presence of asbestos on the property to prospective buyers, taking legal action will most likely be a futile endeavor, since you will have to prove that they were aware of the existence of the carcinogen in the house. They might have not known vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. Accordingly, home sellers have to inform potential buyers in this respect only if they are aware there is asbestos in the building. Otherwise, they cannot be held liable if they fail to disclose it.

Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the former homeowner will not benefit you either. If the asbestos in your house has not caused you any injury yet, recovering financial compensation in a personal injury case is impossible. Nevertheless, a personal injury case is out of the question at the moment, since asbestos exposure results in a disease only within 10 to 50 years from the first contact with airborne mineral fibers.

Therefore, I advise you to have a professional asbestos removal company take care of the vermiculite as soon as possible, as it is a friable product which poses a great threat to your health. They will safely dispose of it and ensure your house is asbestos-free. In the meantime, try to avoid the area where the vermiculite is and if you need to be there, wear a dust mask to prevent toxic fibers from entering your lungs.

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