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We live in a rented house with an old furnace duct system (probably 1960's). There is asbestos-containing duct-wrap all around the ducts, and it starts to crumble in some places (it's located in the attic).

I want to make sure that it is safe to use the duct system.

My question is: what type of companies / professionals should I be looking for in order to do this kind of inspection? (we live near San Jose, CA).

Thanks in advance!

Background:

This question, and a breakdown of professionals that I have spoke with:

  • HVAC cleaning companies: don't want anything to do with it.

  • Asbestos companies (like Benchmark environmental, EnviroCheck): propose to take samples and see if the material is asbestos or not. They don't do an overall evaluation, or even promise to look at the entire duct system.

  • Other HVAC companies: "we don't clean ducts" / "We won't touch anything with asbestos" etc.

  • Are these asbestos fiber ducts (no metal, just a cardboard tube like duct) or metal ducts with asbestos insulation on the outside? – diceless Nov 21 '14 at 20:29
  • Metal ducts with asbestos tape on the outside (on the joints). – Amir Nov 22 '14 at 0:22
  • Because of the liability and also because of the all or nothing asbestos is, finding an inspection will be hard. Asbestos wrap is much better for staying stable as the air is in contact with the metal. If the metal ducts are in good shape, then the likely hood of asbestos in the home environment will be low. But the only way to tell for sure is to get a company out to monitor the amount (if any) of asbestos in the air of your home. – diceless Nov 22 '14 at 4:47
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Based upon the description, the hazard of asbestos has been present on the property for many years and most likely through multiple owners. To date the current owner has not moved to mitigate the hazard, either through ignorance of its presence or due to disregard for the potential harm that may result.

As renters, the meaningful options are really:

  1. Convince your landlord to deal with a hazard.
  2. Stay and live with things the way they are.
  3. Move.

Perhaps your landlord remains unaware of the asbestos containing materials, in which case they should be promptly informed so that they may take appropriate action toward abatement/encapsulation. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the agency responsible for regulating construction related activities in your area when asbestos is involved.

Given the level of resources often entailed in proper removal of friable asbestos containing materials, proper removal is likely to be the source of substantial disruption to activities in your home.

A typical residential rental agreement may not allow a renter to contract for the scope of work required for abatement of the HVAC duct system. It would be wise to have your attorney review your lease before hiring a company to disassemble or partially demolition any building systems.

In the end, the home may not provide the sense of safety that people commonly expect without meaningful action on the part of your landlord and should it be necessary to consider forcing the landlord's hand as an option, the end result may not be worth the energy required.

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