Loose-fill asbestos insulation (LFAI) is raw, crushed asbestos that was installed as ceiling insulation during the 1960s and 70s by a number of Canberra-based companies collectively known as Mr Fluffy.

About 1,000 homes in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales are believed to be affected, with the majority concentrated in the ACT area. However one house in Cardiff is known to have tested positive and was bought and demolished.

However, the companies are also believed to have sold sacks of asbestos fibre insulation to homeowners directly for DIY insulation installations. 

Loose-fill asbestos insulation task force

In the past, homeowners whose properties were found to contain LFAI, were simply advised to have it removed by qualified asbestos removal service. However, experts now agree that simply removing loose-fill asbestos from the ceiling cavity doesn’t remove the enduring hazard.

In 2015, the NSW Government announced the voluntary purchase and demolition program for all NSW residential property owners with LFAI.

Though concentrated in areas close to the ACT border, homes in regions such as Sydney’s Hills District, Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, North Sydney and the northern beaches have tested positive to loose-fill asbestos. 

LFAI found in Newcastle homes

A recent glut of properties in the greater Newcastle region that have tested positive for loose-fill asbestos has seen the Department of Fair Trading’s Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce launch an awareness campaign, with Fair Trading staff visiting regions all over the Newcastle this July to provide information to homeowners.

Newcastle residential property owners can register their homes for a free loose-fill asbestos test, or visit staff at the information stalls in Newcastle this July. 

When a home tests positive

If a home tests positive for loose-fill asbestos, the homeowner has two choices:

  • Sell the property and land at market value, as if the property doesn’t contain asbestos. The property will be demolished and the land remediated — the process of removing the asbestos contaminants from the soil, groundwater, sediment or surface water where necessary — and then put on the open market for sale.
  • Retain the land and sell the premises only, as if it were free of asbestos. The property will be demolished and the land remediated, after which you can rebuild on the land again. If a homeowner’s land is greater than two hectares, this is the only option available.

The state government said in 2015 it would put aside between $250 and $280 million for the voluntary buyback scheme. As of June this year, it had already identified 149 properties containing LFAI, and bought 124 of them. 26 were remediated and returned to the homeowners, 49 were demolished and remediated, and 558 financial assistance payments have been made.
Financial assistance packages

Besides the voluntary buyback program, the government will also provide affected homeowners with financial assistance, which, among other things, includes:

  • Relocation assistance of $10,000 plus $2,000 for each dependent child in the home
  • Tenant assistance of $1,000 to each tenant named on the residential lease
  • Stamp duty concession for owners who sell their affected property to the government, reducing the amount of stamp duty they pay on a future property purchase. 

Visit the Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce information page about the voluntary buyback program. 

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This post first appeared in SellingYourProperty.com.au