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Is My Landlord Liable for Asbestos Exposure?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on May 31, 2022

Today, asbestos is recognized as a known carcinogen that is dangerous for the public in any amount. However, this was not the case until around the 1980s, when researchers discovered the link between asbestos and deadly illnesses, including mesothelioma. Up until this point, asbestos was widely used as a building and construction material because of its desirable properties. Unfortunately, this means that thousands of homes and apartment buildings in New York today still contain asbestos.

Harmful Asbestos Exposure in Rental Properties in New York

Being exposed to asbestos can result in these fibers being inhaled or ingested and lodged within the body’s tissues. This can lead to harmful scarring, the growth of cancerous tumors and other health issues. Most illnesses connected to asbestos are chronic or incurable. Unfortunately, many tenants living in rental units throughout New York are at risk of asbestos exposure. This is because many products used during the construction of new buildings contained asbestos until about 1981, including:

  • Drywall
  • Insulation
  • Soundproofing materials
  • HVAC ductwork
  • Furnace and boiler components
  • Cables 
  • Roofing
  • Siding 
  • Textured paint
  • Sheetrock 
  • Spackling
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Vinyl floor tiles

Asbestos was a popular building material because it is naturally fire and heat resistant, stable, durable, flexible, and an excellent electrical insulator. Today, thousands of homes and buildings that were constructed prior to 1980 in New York still contain asbestos. The asbestos in these products may be released into the air with any amount of disturbance, such as home renovations or a hole being punched in the wall.

What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities Regarding Asbestos?

Landlords have a legal obligation to maintain the safety of the units and buildings that they rent to tenants. This obligation involves regularly inspecting the property, fixing any known defects or hazards, and warning tenants of known health or safety risks. When it comes to asbestos in a house or apartment, a landlord in New York has a legal responsibility to obey federal and state regulations. These regulations generally require landlords to:

  • Test for asbestos in the walls or other components of a rental building.
  • Warn tenants and potential applicants about the presence of asbestos on the property.
  • Safely remove asbestos from a rental property.

The rules and regulations that apply to landlords and asbestos include the implied warranty of habitability (tenant’s rights), OSHA regulations designed to protect workers and the New York City Housing Maintenance Code. If a landlord violates any of the laws pertaining to the maintenance and safety of a rental unit, he or she may be found liable for related tenant injuries and illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis from asbestos exposure.

What to Do if You Suspect Asbestos in Your Rental

If you believe that your rental home or apartment contains asbestos, notify your landlord right away. Request official testing to be done if your landlord is denying the presence of asbestos without ever having paid for professional testing. Avoid the part of your house where you believe you have found asbestos. If the material has not been compromised, asbestos fibers may not yet have been released into the air. If test samples come back positive for asbestos, your landlord is responsible for repairing the issue or removing the asbestos.

How to File a Lawsuit Against a Landlord for Asbestos Exposure

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness in New York and believe you were exposed at a rental property, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against your landlord – even if you moved out of the property decades ago. There are asbestos trust funds available to compensate victims who were exposed to asbestos by landlords or rental companies that have since declared bankruptcy or been dissolved. 

Contact an attorney who specializes in asbestos cases to request a free consultation about your potential lawsuit. An attorney can help you gather evidence against a landlord, file your lawsuit and negotiate for maximum compensation for your life-changing diagnosis.

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