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Property owners fail to remove asbestos safely, tenants at risk

When people think about premises liability, they often think that it simply means clearing a slippery sidewalk, fixing a broken step or putting up a fence around a swimming pool. These can all pose a threat to a person's safety and they should be addressed by a property owner in order to make it safe for others. However, not all unsafe conditions are this obvious. In fact, there can be hazards lurking inside a building that tenants and visitors are exposed to every single day without even realizing it. 

Asbestos is still commonly found in many buildings across North Carolina. It can be under our feet in the floor tiles, above our heads in the roofing or all around us in the insulation. When it is intact and undisturbed, asbestos may not present a serious health risk to people. However, once it is released into the air, it can be easily breathed in to a person's body where it can cause devastating and irreparable damage. That is why property owners are expected to remove asbestos-containing products safely and in accordance with state and federal laws. Unfortunately, not all property owners understand this or take this responsibility seriously.

Recently, for example, the owners of a rental property failed to follow the appropriate steps for safety removing asbestos from the residence. Rather than go through the process of having the site tested for asbestos and then hiring a certified abatement company, the owners simply skipped all these steps and just hired someone to come in, tear out asbestos piping and throw it away. 

Asbestos needs to be carefully removed and disposed of by certified and licensed parties who understand the risk of exposure to asbestos. Protective clothing and respiratory equipment needs to be worn during the process and people in the area need to be notified that there may be toxic asbestos fibers present so they can also take appropriate precautions. 

Because the property owners did not hire certified removal workers or warn their tenants about the asbestos being removed, they put a number of lives in serious danger. When property owners are negligent like this, victims who suffer an illness or injury as a result have the right to hold them accountable for damages.

Source: The Republican, "Williamsburg property owners fined $9K for improper asbestos removal," Patrick Johnson, March 17, 2014

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