The home was built in 1978. There was nothing in the disclosures and while I did have an inspection that noted flaws in the ceiling and noted the construction as drywall the risk of asbestos was not risen at the time.

Fast forward and after closing in preparation of updating the home it was brought to my attention that popcorn ceilings around the time period could contain asbestos. I've had the material tested and confirmed, it does in fact contain 4% asbestos. (Above the EPA threshold to be considered dangerous.)

Am I looking at a costly learning experience, and a quick history lesson, or is this a "material" flaw I could have expected the seller to be aware of or the inspector to have provided some insight here? Do I have grounds for financial compensation as an uninformed purchaser?


The general rule is that a purchase of "used" real estate (as opposed to newly constructed residential real estate sold to a first buyer) is "as is" with regard to physical condition and defects.

There is an exception for latent defects of which the seller has actual knowledge, which are not disclosed and would not be discoverable by a reasonable inspection.

Unless you can prove that the seller had actual knowledge of the asbestos (which is usually nearly impossible even when it is true), you have no grounds for seeking compensation from the seller.

Further, if you review your contract with the inspector you hired, it very likely limits the inspector's liability to a refund of the amount paid for the inspection, although in the absence of that waiver, the inspector could have liability for negligence in not detecting the problem prior to the sale.

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    Even if the seller had actual knowledge, he probably doesn't need to disclose them as they are "discoverable by a reasonable inspection". The ceilings are visible and are of a type which is known to contain asbestos- that this fact was not known to the buyer's inspector is not the vendor's fault. Most compressed sheet products manufactured before 1990 contain asbestos - the stuff was just so damn useful! – Dale M Jul 20 '17 at 22:32
  • Also, you have to actually know that the suspect stuff is asbestos (not cellulose). Most people are unaware that older drywall and joint compound contains asbestos; also floor tile, carpet pads, cement siding. – user6726 Jul 20 '17 at 23:11

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