I think the ceilings in my apartment contain asbestos. The landlord never said anything about this when I signed the lease and now the bedroom ceiling is peeling a bit. Was the landlord responsible for disclosing asbestos in the rental unit before I moved in? If not, is the landlord responsible for removing the asbestos (assuming the ceiling contains asbestos materials)?
Unlike federal required disclosures of lead-based paint hazards, or some state-required disclosures of hazards, such as mold, there are no specific landlord disclosures regarding asbestos in rental property. Landlords must, however, provide habitable premises, and state laws provide tenant options for failure to fix conditions that could cause significant injury.
If the landlord learns there is a dangerous level of asbestos on the rental property (as part of fulfilling OSHA asbestos regulations designed to protect people who work in areas that might contain asbestos), the law imposes a duty on landlords to take reasonable steps that tenants aren't harmed.
If you live in an older building and suspect that there is asbestos on the premises that is not being managed properly, ask your landlord, in writing, to have the material inspected by a trained professional. Use the Sample Letter to Landlord Regarding Deteriorating Asbestos, as a template in preparing your own letter.
If you or someone in your home has health problems that make you especially vulnerable to the effects of asbestos, see if your landlord will reimburse you for alternative housing until the asbestos-related work is done. Use the Sample Letter Requesting Reimbursement for Temporary Housing as a model in preparing this type of letter.
For details on OSHA's asbestos testing and protective rules that apply when a landlord undertakes a major remodeling or renovation of a pre-1981 building and other projects, such as stripping floor tiles containing asbestos, see the asbestos section on the OSHA website, or call 800-321-OSHA. For additional information on asbestos, including negative health effects, see the asbestos section of the EPA website.
For advice on your options if your landlord fails to fix a problem caused by asbestos or other environmental health hazard, see Every Tenant's Legal Guide or (if you're renting in California), California Tenants' Rights.