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Standard fact sheet.

Frequently asked questions 

Loose-fill asbestos insulation 

Loose-fill asbestos
Testing and results
Assistance for owners and tenants
Changes to Residential Tenancies Agreement in relation to Loose-Fill Asbestos

Loose-fill asbestos 

What is loose-fill asbestos insulation? 

This is insulation made from raw asbestos that has been crushed into a fine state and installed in roof spaces as ceiling insulation.

If disturbed, asbestos fibres can move from the ceiling to other areas of the home, such as walls and sub-floor areas. The fibres can also become airborne and breathed in or ingested which may cause health risks.

However, ensuring asbestos remains undisturbed and sealed off can minimise the risk of exposure.

What is ‘Mr Fluffy’? 

During the 1960s and 1970s, pure loose-fill asbestos was sold as ceiling insulation for residential and commercial premises. A Canberra based company known as 'Mr Fluffy' installed this insulation in around 1,000 homes in the ACT.

Mr Fluffy is understood to have also installed insulation in homes in NSW. A second contractor, Bowsers Asphalt was identified in a 1969 ACT Health Services Branch report as using loose-fill asbestos for ceiling insulation, but only for large non-residential buildings.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was commissioned by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities to conduct an independent investigation to measure the number of properties in NSW with loose-fill asbestos insulation.

What are the health risks for residents in affected properties? 

The NSW Chief Health Officer has advised that living in a house with loose-fill asbestos will not confer any significant health risks provided that there is no meaningful exposure pathway to asbestos fibres.

NSW Health acknowledges that this will place an onus on homeowners to continually maintain their house, not access their roof space, wall cavities and sub floor area and will require management if they want to renovate their home.

Given the continuing onus on homeowners to carefully maintain their properties, NSW Health also acknowledges that demolition of an affected house, comprehensive site remediation and appropriate disposal would remove any enduring health risk.

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Testing and results 

Who is eligible for free ceiling insulation testing? 

Free testing for loose-fill asbestos insulation (LFAI)  was offered in 2016 in identified local government areas but registrations have closed.  There is a limited offer of free testing in the Tamworth Regional Council due to the recent discovery of LFAI in that area.

The LGA boundaries as they existed as at the date of Program announcement (29 June 2015) apply for the purposes of determining eligibility for free testing.

If you did not register for free sample testing and are concerned that your pre 1980’s built home may contain loose-fill asbestos you are encouraged to arrange your own ceiling testing through a licensed asbestos assessor.

Where private testing confirms a property is affected by LFAI the homeowner will be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program.

This opportunity is available until 31 July 2017.

If the result confirms the presence of loose-fill asbestos insulation, please contact NSW Fair Trading to inquire about potential assistance available which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

AsbestosEnquiry@finance.nsw.gov.au

Can I get free testing if my home is outside the identified local government areas? 

Homeowners are encouraged to arrange their own ceiling testing through a licensed asbestos assessor.

If the result confirms the presence of loose-fill asbestos insulation, then please contact NSW Fair Trading to inquire about potential assistance available which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. AsbestosEnquiry@finance.nsw.gov.au

How many homes in NSW have been affected and where are they? 

Information on the number of affected homes and their local government areas is available on the Property testing results page.

I have registered for the program, when can I expect a test to be done? 

More than 96,000 NSW homeowners have registered for the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program. Testing is being prioritised for LGAs where the likelihood of properties containing loose-fill asbestos is highest.

Further information on when you can expect a test is available at the Property testing timeframes page.

What action has been taken with the affected properties? 

All properties affected loose-fill asbestos were eligible for free technical assessments to determine the adequacy of risk controls and any appropriate remedial action required.

Technical assessments have been completed for a number of the properties identified as containing loose-fill asbestos fibres. The assessments include a housing assessment, dust sampling and air monitoring over a 7 day period to determine the risk of exposure.

The NSW Government is implementing a Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program comprised of a NSW Government purchase of premises and land, and a NSW Government purchase of premises only.

Owners of any NSW residential premises confirmed to contain loose-fill asbestos insulation may be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program.

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Assistance for owners and tenants 

Is the Make Safe Assistance Package still available? 

Prior to the announcement of the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program on 29 June 2015, the NSW Government provided a short term assistance Make Safe package to homeowners and residents with homes containing loose-fill asbestos.

Under the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program, the Make Safe Assistance Package will no longer be offered to homeowners whose homes have been identified from 29 June 2015 as containing loose-fill asbestos.

Owners and tenants who participate in the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program may be eligible for assistance.

Visit the Assistance for owners and tenants page for more information.

Will there be any requirements for disclosure of hazard information? 

Yes, the Implementation Taskforce will be supported by a number of new laws which include:

  • The establishment of a public Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Register
  • Mandatory hazard labelling of affected properties
  • Identification of affected properties on section 149(2) planning certificates
  • The development of a generic warning statement for inclusion on section 149(5) planning certificates for pre-1980s homes across 28 local government areas
  • The consideration of a warning statement as a prescribed document on a Contract of Sale and for the vendor to warrant that a property is free of loose-fill asbestos.
  • Amendments to residential tenancy laws to protect current and future tenants living in premises affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation and ensure it is disclosed by real estate agents

What assistance is being provided to owners and tenants? 

Assistance is being provided to owners and tenants under the Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program. This includes assistance with relocation, home contents, independent legal advice, stamp duty concessions and counselling services.

Visit the Assistance for owners and tenants page for more information.

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Can my local council help? 

Resident ratepayers who are experiencing genuine financial difficulties in paying their rates and charges may contact their local council for information on applying for their rates to be deferred and interest written off.

Councils may have a rates hardship policy to provide a formal process for assisting ratepayers who are experiencing genuine financial hardship. Council's decisions are made in accordance with the relevant sections of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council is offering assistance to resident ratepayers affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation, including deferring rates and waiving some development application fees for homeowners wanting to rebuild.

Albury City Council and Greater Hume Shire Council are also providing assistance to homeowners by waiving some development and construction fees and levies.

You can visit the Office of Local Government's Find my Council page for the contact details of your local council.

Will compensation be offered to residents living in affected properties? 

The NSW Government is providing practical and financial support to people who own or rent loose-fill asbestos affected properties.

This does not include compensation for damages or loss to individuals. Visit the Assistance for owners and tenants page for more information.

Changes to Residential Tenancies Agreement in relation to Loose-Fill Asbestos 

Where is the Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Register? 

Recent regulatory amendments related to loose-fill asbestos insulation (LFAI) required the establishment of a public register of residential properties affected by LFAI.

The LFAI Register has been publicly accessible from the Fair Trading website since 30 May 2016.

What are the changes to the Residential Tenancy Agreement?  

As of 30 May 2016, real estate agents and/or landlords have to notify prospective tenants if residential properties available to lease are already listed on the LFAI Register.

As of 30 October 2016, a new term will be added to the standard form tenancy agreement requiring landlords to tell existing tenants if a property has been added to the LFAI Register.

How can tenants find out if a rental property has tested positive to LFAI, or gets listed during their tenancy?  

Tenants can check at any time if a property is listed by visiting the LFAI Register page on the Fair Trading website.

Under the new Residential Tenancy laws, a landlord must advise their tenant in writing within 14 days of the property being listed on the LFAI Register.

What are my responsibilities as a landlord if my property has been listed on the register while it is being leased?  

Under the new Residential Tenancy laws, a landlord must advise their tenant in writing within 14 days of the property being listed on the LFAI Register

If tenants find out that the property they are renting has been put on the LFAI register, what are their options?  

Tenants who are not concerned by the presence of LFAI can choose to keep renting the property. However, if the landlord is participating in the voluntary purchase and demolition program, this won’t be a long-term option.

Tenants who are not within the fixed period of a rental tenancy agreement can give 21 days’ notice and vacate the property.

If tenants are still within the fixed period of a rental tenancy agreement but want to vacate the property quickly, they should contact the managing agent or landlord and seek to negotiate the termination of the lease.

Tenants who want to terminate the lease following the detection of LFAI, but are experiencing difficulties doing so can seek dispute assistance by lodging a complaint with Fair Trading.

How does this affect a tenants' rights to terminate a lease? 

Tenants' rights to terminate a lease remain the same.

How can a tenant find out if a property is safe to stay in?  

Tenants can request a copy of the air and dust reports which provides readings on the level of asbestos in each area. If the landlord won't provide the report, tenants can seek dispute assistance by lodging a complaint with Fair Trading.

Tenants can also ask their local GP for advice on health risks.

How do I get further information or request assistance?  

You can contact Service NSW on 13 77 88 for more information.

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