Whether renting office spaces or apartments, property owners have an obligation to ensure the safety of their properties for tenants’ use. While they may easily identify and resolve some potential hazards, such as a stairwell in ill-repair, property owners may not spot other dangers as effectively.

To protect themselves and their tenants, it may help for property owners to understand the danger posed by asbestos and their liability for any adverse health effects exposure to asbestos in their buildings may cause.

What is asbestos?

According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos refers to a group of minerals occurring naturally as bundles of fibers. These minerals have been put to use commercially and industrially in the manufacture of construction, shipbuilding and automotive materials. For instance, prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ban on the new use of asbestos, these fibers were used in cement, roofing, floor tiles, paints and insulation products.

What are the health effects of asbestos exposure?

When inhaled, asbestos fibers may accumulate and cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs. People may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, and swelling of the face or neck, among other effects. Additionally, asbestos exposure may contribute to the development of certain types of cancer, as well as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Often, people may not experience symptoms or notice the effects of asbestos for years after their exposure.

Can renters take legal action?

According to FindLaw.com, people who believe they were exposed to asbestos in their homes and as a result became ill may have grounds for legal action. In order to recover compensation for asbestos exposure based on property owner negligence, people must show that the owner knew about and had a duty to disclose the presence of asbestos in the home but failed to do so. Further, they must prove that their illness was caused by asbestos exposure. Tenants in such cases may pursue compensation for the damages resulting from their illnesses, including pain and suffering, current medical expenses and the costs of future medical care, lost income and reduced earning capacity.

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