A comprehensive guide to asbestos in Flandres
Everything about the OVAM asbestos certificate, from rights and obligations to important milestones and costs. Above all this guide aims to keep you informed about the asbestos legislation in Flandres and what it means for your home (and its residents), today and tomorrow. It is sometimes difficult to see the trees for the wood, especially when it comes to a subject that is deeply rooted in Belgian construction history. Asbestos has made many victims over the years and Flandres has only just started tackling its removal structurally. Still today more than 80% of Flemish people are potentially exposed to it in their homes every day.
What is asbestos actually?
Back to the facts. Asbestos is simply a collective name for a mineral of natural minerals consisting of microscopic, needle-like fibers. The fabric's useful properties made it a popular product in the construction industry from 1945 through the 1980s. Asbestos is cheap, wear-resistant, insulating, fire-resistant and also strong. Mainly the brown, blue and white asbestos fibers were commercially used.
Materials that contain asbestos
Asbestos can be found in more than 3500 materials or applications. The most well-known are the Eternit artificial slate roof tiles, the typical diamond-shaped facade covering, plaster insulation material around heating pipes and corrugated sheets (especially those from before 1985).
There are plenty of other materials you wouldn't suspect to contain asbestos, such as old vinyl flooring, under-roof insulation, black glue used for flooring, and even sealant around joinery, especially the sealant used around aluminum windows.
Banned since 2001
The peak of asbestos use in construction took place between 1955 and 1985. Buildings dating from this period are therefore most likely to contain asbestos. In the 1990s, there was finally proof of a suspected correlation between exposure to (loose) asbestos particles and fatal lung diseases. In addition to financial compensation for the many victims and their families, this health scandal has led to a definitive end to the use of asbestos from 2001 onwards. All production and sale of building materials containing asbestos was henceforth banned.
OVAM (Openbare Vlaamse Afvalstoffenmaatschappij) is the body within the Flemish government that is responsible for Flanders' waste policy and the remediation of our environment. OVAM's responsibilities include asbestos management in Flandres and the inventory and management of Flemish soil (for which the mandatory soil certificate must be submitted or drawn up when selling a home).
Requirement when selling property in Flanders
As of 23 November 2022, when you sell a property in Flandres it has become mandatory to have an asbestos certificate drawn up if the house or appartment was built before 2001. The asbestos certificate can only be drawn up by an asbestos expert who carries out a thorough visual check of the building and its annexes. In case of doubt a sample is taken that can be examined in a specialized lab to determine the presence of asbestos fibers. The complete inventory and the results of any additional lab tests are then collected in a report. That is the asbestos certificate. The asbestos certificate must be available at the time of signing the private deed (compromise).
However, a rented house with a year of construction dating from before 2001 does not fall under this obligation. Landlords will only have to have an asbestos inventory drawn up by 2032, just like all other home owners in Flanders.