Dear Barry,

We live in a 50-year-old subdivision where all the homes have asbestos floor tiles under the carpets. Now that we’re selling, our agent wants us to list these tiles on our disclosure statement. She says this kind of asbestos is not a health hazard and removal is not required but that disclosure is still necessary. Frankly, this makes no sense. If the material is safe and can be legally left in place, why is it necessary to wave a red flag at buyers? – Jeanne

Dear Jeanne,

Disclosure of old 9-inch asbestos floor tiles does not equate with waving of a red flag. Rather, it is a matter of providing meaningful information about the property so that issues will not arise at a later time. Here are two examples:

A home buyer closes escrow and decides to install new carpeting. The carpet layer says, “Did you know these tiles contain asbestos? What do you mean the seller didn’t disclose that to you? Hey, my brother-in-law is a lawyer. I’ll give your his number.”

Example #2 takes place a year later. The people who bought your home are doing a complete remodel, including ceramic tile flooring. All of the old asbestos tiles must then be removed to prepare the surface, and the bid for asbestos removal is over $5,000. Suddenly, the buyers are saying, “Let’s call that carpet layer and get his brother-in-law’s number.”

The bottom line with 9-inch asbestos floor tiles isn’t the health risk – it’s the legal liability. Asbestos tiles are designated as nonfriable material. This means they cannot be crumbled with normal hand pressure and, therefore, do not release asbestos fibers into the air. However, in the process of eventual removal, they could become damaged in ways they would result in fiber release. For this reason, disclosure is essential to reduce the likelihood of future problems with regard to health, as well as liability. Your agent should be complemented for suggesting this disclosure.

Dear Barry,

We are currently building a home that should be completed in a few weeks. Our builder has asked if we would like a list of “approved” home inspectors, and claims that they are all “certified.” We said “no thanks!” as we feel that “his” home inspectors would be less likely to give us an honest opinion of the house if they fear losing this referral base. Are we being overly suspicious? Should we find our own inspector or trust the ones recommended by the builder? – Randi

Dear Randi,

Most home inspectors are not looking for referrals from builders. In fact, very few builders even recommend home inspectors. You may actually be dealing with an unusually honest builder. But just to be on the safe side, compare the builder’s list with those inspectors listed on the web sites of established home inspector associations, such the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. The bottom line, however, is to find an inspector with many years of experience and a solid reputation for thorough, comprehensive disclosure. Inspectors with the right credentials are likely to represent your interests, whether or not they appear on the builder’s referral list.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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