Asbestos abatement/renovation in apartment building, about to sign lease
February 2, 2017 9:34 PM   Subscribe

My question is: What does asbestos abatement mean? And what does that mean for my health? Although it would be nice to just find another apartment I have spend quite a bit of time and energy on this endeavor and wanted this place but now it's just thrown me for another wrench because I don't know how to think about all this. The asbestos project is for the second floor, and the apartment I am interested in leasing is ten floors up.

After doing an extensive search for housing near work - I found an apartment. However, I found out that there was a renovation of asbestos abatement. A sign was posted by law of the asbestos project and a contractor was hired professional to do renovations for the second floor. The apartment I am looking at is ten levels up higher. Upon asking the leasing office about the situation they explained that because the building had been old they are regulated by law to hire consultants and contractors and make residents aware of the removal. Everything slated for the second floor is to be done in the next three days. And my apartment on the higher floor was already screened and reviewed prior to leasing for any asbestos.

I feel like that have been upfront about the situation and even posting signs in the apartment and the parking garage making tenants aware of the situation and potential noise disruptions. When I toured the building, most residents appeared to still be out and about running daily life, and not up in arms about the situation. Perhaps there's not much they can do if they already signed leases but I am now wondering if I should continue to pursue the leasing process on mine. I haven't signed the lease, but I have toured the building twice after spending a lot of time and energy touring four other apartments. Also it is difficult to find a reasonable apartment location in my area that would cut down my commute to work. Which is why it makes it so much harder to just continue on another search for another apartment.

Is there a way to tell if the landlord is telling the truth or facts of the situation? What are the rules of asbestos in older apartment buildings?
posted by proficiency101 to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Contact your local (city or county) health department. There are numerous requirements that govern "abatement," which essentially means removing known asbestos and doing it in a way that the work will not harm the workers removing it or the people in the vicinity - i.e., the building's tenants. If it is being done properly, they will know about it or direct you to the people who do.
posted by megatherium at 10:48 PM on February 2, 2017

It sounds like they have their act together.
You might ask for a brief history for this building.
How was this area discovered to have asbestos?
What areas were checked- and what company checked.

Is he/she expecting to do abatement on the upper floors in the next five years?
what signs should you be alert for that might indicate disturbed asbestos?
posted by calgirl at 11:14 PM on February 2, 2017

I've been through this in LA. There are lots of professional seeming people who are con artists. Talk to the state to see what the procedure is. In CA at least there is an independent air monitor to test the entire process as well as state monitoring throughout. It's a giant production with massive safeguards put in place. Make sure all this is being done. Space suits aren't enough.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:58 AM on February 3, 2017

Building professional here. I've been involved with many abatement projects.
Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it.
The "rules for asbestos abatement" is a pretty lengthy document. The area in question is sealed off from the rest of the building, usually with heavy plastic sheeting taped to surfaces. Fans with HEPA filters are used to maintain a negative air pressure in that area so the fibers don't migrate. Workers go through cleaning procedures to make sure they don't track fibers outside of the work area. Air monitoring is required in any state. All the workers, and the firm have to be licensed.
Just guessing, it is probably old vinyl floor tile, which used to be made with asbestos. So the folks on the first floor are going to hear some noise as it is scraped up. Then they use solvents to get up the old adhesive, which also contained asbestos. Usually, if the adhesive is black, it contains asbestos.
If they have gone through the permitting process, as opposed to just getting some workers to make the stuff go away, they are handling it correctly, and you probably won't even know it is happening.
With floor tile, in virtually every case, the VAT (vinyl asbestos tile) was made 9" square. If the tile is 12" square, 95% or better probability it is not VAT.
posted by rudd135 at 4:30 AM on February 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

I took classes about asbestos when I was a property manager, but I never worked with the removal process.

I would not be worried about moving into that apartment from what you have told me.
posted by Melsky at 5:27 AM on February 3, 2017

I worked on many projects involving asbestos abatement, and I’d have zero qualms about moving into your apartment.

What are your concerns? That they’re not telling the truth about your apartment being clear of asbestos, or that there’s a possibility that asbestos will travel from the second floor to the 12th?

On the first point, I guess there are no guarantees, but if they seem otherwise trustworthy there’s no reason to doubt them on this. Also, the risk with asbestos is inhalation, so unless you see, say, pipe insulation crumbling or floor tiles disintegrating, the day to day risks of living with asbestos are minimal (even if there were asbestos in your apartment). If you have ever occupied a building built before 1980-ish that hasn’t been abated, I promise you that you have already been around plenty of asbestos (without risk).

On the second point, there’re pretty strict regulations in place regarding air quality control during abatement and since they’re posting in advance, it sounds like they are on it. It also sounds like the job will be complete before you move in? Yeah, you should not be worried.
posted by Kriesa at 6:26 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Good advice from the posters above. A little more info about asbestos to put your mind at ease.

Asbestos is basically a very fire-resistant rock - it's a hard but unfortunately brittle substance that is only harmful when you inhale it. So, when it is in an intact, unbroken state, it is not harmful. Especially when contained in some sort of plastic or other sealant, as in vinyl tiles.

Of course, old pipe insulation can crumble and obviously everything gets broken (including e.g. vinyl asbestos tiles) when rooms are torn up for demolition or upgrading. Those are the times to be concerned, because asbestos dust gets into the air. By posting signs and hiring remediators, it at least looks like this building is on the up and up about containing the potential harm.

Assuming this work was done in even a marginally diligent way, the risk is dramatically reduced, I would say down to a negligible amount, within a few days after the work is done. Most of the asbestos dust is removed via remediation, and any trace amounts have dispersed or been re-encased beneath the surfaces of the new work. And then there's the fact that your potential unit is 10 stories away in any event.

Bottom line, I would not hesitate to move into this unit.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older Area lighting for low ceilings   |   Moving to Geneva from US for 2 months Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.