Q. My lover and I are in the process of selling our house. When we bought the house we discovered after the closing that the house had asbestos around the basement heating pipes. We had the pipes wrapped by a heating contractor to prevent any flaking or peeling of the asbestos. What is our legal obligation to inform the buyer of our house of the asbestos?
A. Most experts agree that residential asbestos in good condition is usually not a health risk. For one thing asbestos in homes is usually in minimal amounts and is unlikely to become airborne. However, asbestos can impair the resale value of your home as some mortgage lenders are requiring that the asbestos be removed from a home. With older homes the four things that a buyer is concerned about is mold, the roof, the furnace and the presence of asbestos.
The residential asbestos problem is also a bigger issue for sellers because of the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act. Under the law all home sellers are required to complete a disclosure sheet advising any potential buyers of problems or known defects with the house. Question number 15 on the sheet asks if the seller knows there to be any "unsafe concentrations of or unsafe conditions relating to asbestos" in the home. All home sellers will have to answer this question yes, no or not applicable.
My advice for the couple in the question is to make a complete disclosure of everything known about your house. Such lawsuits can be avoided by using the following safeguards:
* Sellers should insist that the buyer have the house inspected. If the buyer knows about a defect and there is written evidence such as an inspection report, the chances of a lawsuit decrease.
* At the time the seller signs a listing agreement with a realtor the seller should provide the realtor with a list of all known defects in the house. The list should be shown to prospective buyers so they will be aware of any known defects. The realtor will present the defects to the prospective buyer in a neutral way and at the same time stress the positive aspects of the house. It's the realtor's job to sell the house and put it in the best light possible.
This text is from the weekly ad of Roger V. McCaffrey-Boss & Associates. Contact info: 312-263-8800, 19 S. LaSalle, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60603; or rvmLawyer@aol.com .