I like smooth walls but in the apartments I've looked at, even ones built post-2000, many have textured walls. I believe they are called "knock down" texture, but do they often contain asbestos? Because they remind me of popcorn ceilings. What are they made of? Just drywall compounded formed into the texture with brushes and then painted over?
More expensive. It takes a skilled taper and one or more additional steps to achieve a paint-ready finish.
Impossible to get perfect. No wall is entirely flat, and when the light is right (from a low angle relative to the surface), waves and curves stand out prominently.
More difficult to paint. Overlapping strokes or roller paths leave minute ridges. Changes in direction can result in sheen variation. Touch-ups are more obvious.
Much more likely to show damage. Drywall is soft, and any little scratch, scuff, or ding is obvious.
More difficult to repair, for the reasons above. This is especially relevant in a rental situation, where either departing tenants or property owners are responsible for making a residence presentable to new tenants.
Texture is simply joint compound, slightly watered down. It hasn't contained asbestos for half a century.
Asbestos was became a bad thing in the late 70’s through the 80 and was outlawed by the 90’s in most locations.
Why is texture so common? a tape and texture pro can come in and knock out a entire house in a day or 2 when texture is heavy.
To make smooth wall it takes multiple passes to fill and sand the same house that was done in less than 2 days will take up to 2 weeks depending on the level specified for a big screen tv I have seen 1 wall take a week, so it comes down to cost to build, second is texture can hide small dings and imperfections, if a rental was flat to start with texture can be added to cover things up.
Basically, a textured wall is more cost effective than smooth wall which is why they are so commonly used in rental properties. Texture can by applied and finished faster than smooth walls, usually requires less material and less skill to achieve a good result. Rental properties will almost certainly need some amount of maintenance or repair to the walls from time to time, and a textured wall is cheaper and easier to fix than a smooth wall. Small patches can be textured with an aerosol can with a nozzle that can be adjusted to match the existing finish and can be used by just about anyone successfully. And while textured walls do a pretty good job of hiding minor imperfections, smooth walls tend to show even the tiniest of blemishes, and typically require an experienced taper for any repairs.
The texture that is used on walls does not contain any asbestos, and to the best of my knowledge the last construction materials containing asbestos were finally discontinued during the 90's. Texture is similar to joint compound which is a gypsum based product and is perfectly safe to use on walls in living spaces.