Insurance brokers are advised to warn property developers in Metro Vancouver to obtain proper environmental impairment liability policies when demolishing older houses, as the prevalence of asbestos is causing rising costs for some.
It has emerged that contractors demolishing Metro Vancouver's older homes as part of the region's development boom are encountering more and more asbestos, used extensively in construction up until the 1970s, in vinyl tiles, drywall and insulation.
But because it is now so unusual to encounter asbestos in construction, many contractors do not have the necessary skills or knowledge in house to deal with the carcinogenic substance.
Hundreds of houses are demolished and renovated every month in B.C., especially during the summer months, according to WorkSafeBC, a workplace health and safety organization.
In 2014, WorkSafeBC conducted 210 site inspections and found 43% of hazardous material surveys done by contractors were inadequate. WorkSafeBC officers wrote 257 orders for hazardous materials violations and imposed 20 penalties.
Speaking to Insurance Business Canada,
Brody Stonehouse, general manager of A C & D Insurance Services, a broker serving B.C., said one of his own clients had hired a contractor to remove asbestos in a home he was tearing down to build a new project. But the job wasn't done properly and when the demolition contractor discovered asbestos all work had to be halted.
As the home was already partially demolished, the cost to remediate the asbestos at this point was significantly higher and the company that had done the original work had disappeared.
“Contractors doing this type of work require an environmental impairment liability policy,” said Stonehouse. “In order to procure this type of policy they need to have people on staff who are trained in the proper handling and disposal of asbestos. My client’s first mistake was his failure to ask for a certificate of liability insurance and WCB forms from the original asbestos remediation contractor. Had he done so he very likely could have concluded that the company wasn’t legit. He is now facing mounting cost related to this delay,” he said.
Stonehouse warned that the cost associated with the ongoing training, insurance, and disposal of asbestos can be “significant,” so if a client gets a quoted cost to remove asbestos that seems too good to be true – it probably is.
“A certified and insured asbestos removal contractor knows the costs associated with doing the job properly. If a contractor doesn’t have a long-term relationship with a trusted asbestos removal firm I suggest they obtain multiple quotes for this work and ensure they pay close detail to the paperwork, even going to the extent of having their own broker review it to make sure it is all in order,” said Stonehouse.