Stamp Duty Holiday: Why first-time buyers should be aware of asbestos in their new homes

What is Stamp Duty?

Stamp Duty, otherwise known as Stamp Duty Land Tax, is a tax paid by anyone buying a property in the UK. The rates of the tax vary depending on where the property is located and how much it costs. 

While this scheme is mostly to help first-time buyers make their way onto the property ladder, second home buyers are eligible for the tax cut but will still have to pay the extra 3% of Stamp Duty as per the previous rules.

The Chancellor’s announcement

In light of the current situation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced with immediate effect a temporary holiday on stamp duty on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland. 

This change has been implemented in order to help boost the property market and help those who would like to buy but are finding it difficult because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis. 

Property buyers will be able to make the most of the stamp duty holiday until 31st March 2021. At this point, the old tax rates will resume for buyers in England and Northern Ireland.

What does this mean?

The Stamp Duty tax holiday means that there is likely to be a sudden rise in the number of buyers, particularly first-time buyers, who have been encouraged to climb onto the property ladder.

With the deadline of March 31st looming in the not-too-distant future, now is the perfect time to start looking for a home and making the necessary preparations for the big move. 

While the idea of moving into a new property is undoubtedly exciting and a huge step to take, there are so many things to consider and factor in. Things which first-time buyers might initially be unaware of, like hidden asbestos in their home.

What should I check for?

When moving into a property, especially one that you’re buying, you should be on the lookout for a number of things, such as:

  • Mould or damp 
  • Cracks or stains in the ceilings and walls 
  • The number of powerpoints and their location 
  • The state of the insulation
  • The plumbing

The list could go on, but you get the idea. These are things which are important because they could be expensive to repair or replace a few years down the line. However, there is a much more important issue which buyers should be aware of.

While cracks or stains might be problematic to deal with, they’re unlikely to pose a threat to the health of you and whoever else lives in your new home. In contrast, asbestos is a genuine threat and can cause life-threatening diseases if it’s not dealt with properly.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a group of six naturally occurring minerals. These minerals take the form of microscopic fibres which if inhaled can seriously damage the lungs. 

Asbestos was banned in 1999, but before then it was widely used in construction because of its useful qualities. Being resistant to heat, electricity and chemicals made asbestos very popular. Before its true nature was realised, it would have been sprayed all over ceilings and walls and used generously in insulation.

Is asbestos still around?

Yes. Any new homes will have been constructed without asbestos, but if you’re going to buy a home built before the year 2000, then the professional advice is to assume that asbestos is present and to act accordingly. 

With more people buying a property because of the Stamp Duty holiday, our concern is with the safety of the new inhabitants. Asbestos might be hiding in a garage roof, underneath tiles in the kitchen, or inside loft insulation. You never know until your property is surveyed by a qualified contractor.

How dangerous is asbestos?

There’s a reason why the government put an absolute ban on the use of asbestos; it’s an extremely dangerous substance. 

Once asbestos particles are inhaled, they lodge themselves in the lungs and remain there for long periods of time. While they’re in there, they irritate the lung tissue and can leave deep scarring. 

The result of this lung tissue damage can lead to Mesothelioma, Asbestos-related lung cancer, Asbestosis or Pleural thickening. All of these diseases can be fatal. According to the Health and Safety Executive, asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year.

I’m a first-time buyer making the most of the Stamp Duty Holiday and I’m worried about asbestos. What should I do?

If you’re a first-time buyer, then you should undertake the following assessment:

  • Was your house built before the year 200?
  • If it was, do you have proof that the house has been surveyed and tested by a qualified contractor?

If you can’t confidently answer these questions, then you should contact a qualified asbestos removal contractor immediately. When it comes to a substance as dangerous as asbestos, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance. You may be able to ask the seller to have the asbestos removed before going ahead with a sale.

From a seller's point of view

If you’re looking to sell a property during the Stamp Duty Holiday, then making sure you have removed any present asbestos is a must. This period of time would be the perfect time to sell your property quickly as there will be more interest than usual from buyers.

Doing everything you can to make your property more appealing will improve your chances of making a sale. Being able to hand over proof that a qualified asbestos contractor has removed and disposed of any existing asbestos would put the buyer’s mind at ease and would make your property stand out in comparison to others which lack this documentation.

Speak to a professional

If you think there is asbestos in your new home, stay away from that area and don’t touch it under any circumstances. For peace of mind and absolute assurance that asbestos isn’t present, contact our team of qualified contractors. While asbestos can be safe while it is in place and not disturbed, there is no guarantee that it isn’t breaking down or hasn’t been accidentally disrupted. It is not visible and there is no need to take a chance. 

We provide a fast, safe and secure asbestos removal and disposal service across Essex, Suffolk and London. Take a look here at some of the places where we work.

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