Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: My landlord has offered to sell me the house I’ve been renting. But the central heating system has broken down, and I’ve just learned that the air ducts are covered with asbestos. My landlord knows about this but refuses to lower the price of the home. What do you think I should do? Michele

Dear Michele: Unless the laws in your area require a seller to make such repairs, what you have is a negotiable issue. If the landlord remains firm in his position, you should decide if the property — plus the cost of furnace repair and asbestos removal — is acceptable to you. To help with this decision, get some bids from local contractors who service heating equipment and who handle asbestos removal. Be aware, however, that asbestos duct insulation is not necessarily hazardous or problematic. If the material is intact, it can be encapsulated by overlaying it with fiberglass insulation. The cost of encapsulation is far less than for removing asbestos.

If you decide to purchase the home, be sure to hire a qualified home inspector to conduct a thorough evaluation of the property. In all likelihood, there are other issues that should be addressed and that might be negotiated with the seller. If the heating ducts have asbestos, this is probably a very old home and is likely to have other significant issues.