The ACT real estate industry is calling for the release of a list of homes containing dangerous loose-fitted asbestos, also known as the Mr Fluffy homes, so agents and property managers can keep track of properties that have a stigmatised history.
More than 1,000 homes in Canberra still contain residual asbestos fibres, despite a Commonwealth clean-up program in the 1980s.
Real estate agents and property managers have joined the Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT) in calling for the 1,049 homes on the Mr Fluffy list to be made available to enable the checking of homes they list for sale, or to manage for the benefit of full disclosure.
More than 200 real estate industry members attended an asbestos forum recently held in Canberra to explain the Mr Fluffy situation and the obligations the sector faced.
Speaking at the forum, REIACT chief executive officer Ron Bell said he had asked the government for a copy of the list but had so far been refused. He said he advised the government that the REIACT would act as the repository of the list and it would not be made publicly available.
The fines for not disclosing that a property is a Mr Fluffy home are as high as $3 million for a business and $600,000 for an individual officer.
The Canberra Times reported on the controversy surrounding a property known as the 'Deakin home’ where the buyer claimed he was not told by the agent that his home contained loose-fitted asbestos. He claimed he only discovered the history after insisting on an asbestos report, then calling the removalist when he was on the point of exchanging contracts. This led the Real Estate Institute to warn agents that full disclosure was paramount, as with other stigmatised houses.
During the asbestos forum, attended by some 200 real estate professionals, the head of the newly formed Asbestos Taskforce, Andrew Kefford, outlined the government's reasoning behind refusing to publicly disclose the list.
Mr Kefford said the government was considering ways to make the information available to those who needed it but it had to be balanced against the privacy of the homeowners. He said advice to the government at this point was that it did not have a legal duty to disclose the information but he was willing to work with the Institute about ways to share the information.
The ACT's chief minister has also called for a system to alert tradespeople and potential renters to homes containing Mr Fluffy asbestos in a way that allows homeowners to keep their locations secret from the general public.
One proposal she received was to put a special tag in the meter box so that renters or tradespeople can simply check when on the site.
At the forum, Mr Bell warned his profession was being singled out as irresponsible, which he felt was “unfair”.
"I think most agents are doing the right thing, particularly if they know something is there," he told the <i>ABC</i>. "I can't recall anything that has been as sensitive as this and has brought everybody together."
Two Mr Fluffy homes were sold recently for well below their previous worth, demonstrating the extent to which the asbestos crisis is affecting house values. It is understood to have sold for around the land value of about $640,000, well below the original asking price of $870,000.