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Is it legal to have asbestos ceilings in a rental property?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Real Estate Law |

Popcorn ceilings, also known as textured or acoustic ceilings, were popular in Florida in the mid-20th century for their sound-dampening and aesthetic properties. However, many popcorn ceilings installed before the 1980s contain asbestos, a mineral fiber known for its heat resistance and durability but also for its harmful health effects when disturbed and inhaled.

If you discover that your rental property contains popcorn ceilings, it is important to determine what responsibilities you may have if you discover they contain asbestos.

Understanding your disclosure requirements

Florida law does not mandate landlords to disclose the presence of asbestos in rental properties. However, you must provide safe living conditions under the implied warranty of habitability. If your tenants develop health problems and can prove you knew about the asbestos, you may be liable.

Determining whether your ceilings contain asbestos

The most reliable way to determine if your popcorn ceilings contain asbestos is to have a professional asbestos inspector take a sample and analyze it in a laboratory. You can also buy DIY asbestos testing kits, which involve taking a small sample of the popcorn ceiling material and sending it to a laboratory for analysis.

Complying with regulations when renovating

If you decide to remove the ceilings or do other renovations that might disturb them, you must abide by the Asbestos National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. According to this law, you must take the following steps:

  • Hire a Florida-licensed asbestos consultant to conduct a survey
  • Keep the written survey at the house during renovations
  • Notify the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pinellas County Air Quality Department two weeks before you begin
  • Remove the popcorn ceiling before doing anything that would make asbestos particles airborne

The above regulations are also part of Pinellas County Code, Chapter 58, sec. 58-149(d).

Before removing the ceilings, find out whether you might be exempt from having to notify the EPA. In the meantime, letting your tenants know not to clean or otherwise disturb the ceilings might help lessen your liability.