Last Updated on October 11, 2022 by Andrew Lee
Few things are more stressful than the idea of being exposed to asbestos. Just the name alone can send shivers down your spine, flooding your brain with images and sounds of mesothelioma commercials. For good reason, too: your homeowners insurance is unlikely to cover asbestos removal. The good news is that there are exceptions to the lack of coverage if it can be shown to be caused by a covered peril. However, you shouldn’t expect it to be covered.
Most Policies Will Consider Asbestos Removal to Be Maintenance
Your insurance reasons in terms of perils that are covered and perils that are uncovered. A peril is any event that can cause damage to your property, such as a wind storm or fire. Your policy will dictate what perils will be covered, and what perils will not be covered. Most modern policies will cover all perils, except for a named list of exceptions, the uncovered perils. These include things like floods, earthquakes, or asbestos removal.
The reason asbestos removal isn’t covered is because it falls under the purview of maintenance. Your insurance exists to protect you from events that are largely outside of your control, however, things that are within your control are expected to be covered by you. This includes things like replacing old pipes, keeping your house clean to avoid infestations (or hiring an exterminator if an infestation takes root), and unfortunately, asbestos removal falls under the category of home maintenance and is thus out of the scope of your insurance.
Despite the Lack of Coverage, There Are Still Scenarios That Can Make Asbestos Removal Covered
While the categories of covered and uncovered might make coverage seem straightforward, there can actually be quite a bit of nuance. Proximate cause is an insurance term that refers to the idea that some perils can cause other perils. For example, infestations are typically an uncovered peril, but a tree uprooting during a windstorm and breaking your house is a covered peril. If a tree breaks through a wall, and in the process of having the damage investigated, termites manage to infest the room the tree broke into, it is possible for the insurance to cover the cost of extermination, because the proximate cause of the extermination was the covered event of the tree breaking the wall.
While this might sound like a complicated example, the point remains that the circumstances of having the asbestos removed can change the coverage. It is certainly possible that should a tree break your wall, and the act of replacing the wall requires that asbestos be removed, that removal can then get covered under the home insurance since the proximate cause of the asbestos exposure was the damage from the tree.
Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Asbestos
By itself and undisturbed, asbestos isn’t too harmful. The problem, however, is that any damage or disturbance to material that contains asbestos can release it into the air. If your house was built before 1975, you’ll want to be very cautious about damaged parts of your home. While asbestos is mostly used as insulation, it can also be found in things like paint, vinyl floor tiles, glue for floor tiles, roofing materials, attic insulation, and more. The best plan would be to hire an inspector to determine where there is asbestos and to hire professionals to have it removed as soon as possible. It might be tempting to wait until it becomes an issue, but asbestos is extremely dangerous to your health, and removing it should be done as proactively as possible. Disease due to chronic asbestos exposure is called asbestosis, and symptoms can include shortness of breath, consistent dry cough, crackling sounds in the lungs when inhaling, and a rounding of the tips of fingers and toes, known as clubbing.
Asbestos Removal May Add Value to Your Property
Although it may be a roundabout way of covering costs, asbestos removal can be considered a raise to the value of your house, meaning that you might be able to recoup the costs if you sell your home in the future, by adding the cost to the basis of the property. It’s not quite as good as having your insurance pay for it, but it’s better than nothing.