2 July 2021

The Mr Fluffy buyback scheme has been extended but what if you're a worried renter?

| Dominic Giannini
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Aerial view of Canberra suburbs

More than 1000 Canberra houses were identified as having Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos, but what can you do if you are a renter in a Fluffy home? Photo: File.

The ACT Government has extended the Mr Fluffy buyback scheme, after more than 1000 houses were identified for acquisition and demolition, and a further five have been discovered since the start of the scheme.

But what rights do you have if you are a renter and concerned you may be living in a Mr Fluffy house?

Those who have just moved to the ACT recently and may not be acquainted with the Mr Fluffy debacle can rest a little easier: properties known to contain loose-fill asbestos cannot be rented out under the Residential Tenancies Act.

An initial cleanup of the loose-fill asbestos first occurred in the 1980s, but a demolition scheme was not implemented until 2014. More than 1000 houses were identified for acquisition and demolition and a further five have been discovered since the start of the scheme.

Any tenancy agreement over a property known to have loose-fill asbestos is automatically void, and tenants can apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for compensation.

The ACT Government maintains a register of properties known to contain loose-fill asbestos.

If loose-fill asbestos is found after the lease commenced, either the landlord or the tenant can end the tenancy by providing notice.

The tenant is only required to provide the landlord with two days’ notice but the landlord must provide the tenant with one week’s notice.

Tenants can apply for a Relocation Assistance Grant, a $10,000 lump sum payment per household plus $2000 for each dependent child living in the affected property.

However, there is no current requirement for landlords to test the house for asbestos and it remains up to the landlord to agree to the request.

READ ALSO Public housing to be built on Mr Fluffy blocks

Tenants can request a copy of any asbestos assessment reports for the rental property. The landlord must provide a copy if it can be obtained through reasonable steps.

If no assessment report exists, or it cannot be obtained, then the landlord must provide information about asbestos on the property.

This includes the likely location of asbestos in buildings constructed before 1985 when the use of asbestos sheeting was common.

If the tenant decides to order an assessment of the house, the cost of the assessment will be reimbursed by the ACT Government if loose-fill asbestos is found.

A list of licensed asbestos assessors can be found on the Access Canberra website.

However, like lead paint, unless bonded asbestos is disturbed, it poses little risk to occupants.

Environmental contamination expert Professor Mark Taylor said for the risk to become a hazard, something needs to happen for the particles to enter the body.

This usually happens during construction or demolition works when dust is created or disturbed.

More information about rental properties affected by loose-fill asbestos is available on the Justice and Community Safety website.

For more information about tenancy law in Canberra, visit the Tenancy Advice Service through Legal Aid or Canberra Community Law.

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