TenantsTips / Australia / Asbestos and lead in rental properties

Asbestos and lead in rental properties

This article offers tenants advice and information relating to the issue of asbestos and lead in rental properties.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural fibrous material previously used in the building trade. Asbestos was used largely for building insulation and is commonly found in roofing, walls, drains and flues. Prolonged exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause illness. However, asbestos does not normally pose a health threat unless it becomes damaged or exposed.

What is lead?

Lead is a type of metal. Lead was commonly used in paint before 1970 and some roofing and other building materials. Lead can be a health risk to young children and pregnant women.

Are these issues considered repairs?

A rental property will not be considered as in need of repair because of the presence of lead or asbestos. As outlined above these substances only present a threat if damaged or exposed.

Rights & Obligations:

The tenant is responsible for:


  • Ensuring that the property is kept ‘reasonably’ clean.
  • Promptly notifying the landlord of any damage to the property.
  • Taking action to avoid or limit loss (mitigating loss).


The landlord is responsible for:


  • Providing premises that are ‘reasonably’ clean.
  • Providing premises that are in a state of ‘reasonable’ repair.
  • Taking action to avoid or limit loss (mitigating loss).


Mitigation of loss:

In the case of an asbestos issue within a property examples of mitigation of loss include the following:


  • The tenant is aware that asbestos fibres have been exposed in a room at the property. The tenant closes off this room and does not use this part of the property until the problem has been addressed.
  • The landlord has been notified by the tenant of an asbestos issue. The landlord acts quickly and has repairs carried out to reduce health risks.


Staying at the property:

If you wish to stay at the property you should inform the landlord about the problem and ask that they arrange for the appropriate repairs. This request should be put in writing and the letter should include a list of repairs as well as a clear deadline for completion.

It is advised that you keep a record of any correspondence regarding repairs so that you are able to prove that you notified the landlord about the problem.

If your landlord fails to arrange for repairs in a timely manner you can make an application to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal for orders to enforce action.

Applications to NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal:

Applications to the NCAT can be made for any of the following orders:


  • That the landlord carries out repairs as requested.
  • That the landlord pays you compensation for a loss suffered as a result of their failure to make repairs.
  • That the rent be reduced from the time you informed the landlord about the problem until the repairs are completed.
  • That the rent be paid to the tribunal until repairs are undertaken.


In order to submit an application for orders to the NCAT your name must be on the tenancy agreement. Tenants are advised to submit applications within 3 months of the landlord’s failure to carry out repairs.

Orders for repairs:

If you make an application to NCAT you should be able to prove the following:


  • That the property is not in a state of reasonable repair.
  • That you are not liable or at fault.
  • That the landlord was aware of the need for repairs.
  • That you informed the landlord.
  • That the landlord did not act promptly to complete repairs.



If you make an application to NCAT for any orders you will be required to provide evidence in support of your claims. Types of evidence include any of the following:


  • The condition report.
  • Your tenancy agreement.
  • Any tenant/ landlord correspondence.
  • Photographs of asbestos/ lead from the property.
  • Information on asbestos/ lead which relates to the case.
  • Receipts for any expenses incurred.


Personal injury:

If you have suffered an illness or injury as a result of asbestos/ lead within your rental property you may wish to make a personal injury claim. In this case you are advised to discuss your options with a solicitor.

Further information:

Asbestos and lead can pose a health risk. If you are concerned that you or anyone at your property has been harmed or injured due to asbestos or lead inhalation you should seek medical attention


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