Latent Conditions in New Builds vs Renovations

The nature of latent conditions can differ significantly between new builds and renovations. 

In new builds, common latent conditions include poor soil conditions and other unanticipated site conditions such as rock or groundwater. These conditions can cause delays and additional costs. 

In renovations, asbestos and other hazardous materials are more likely to be encountered due to the prevalence of these materials in older buildings. The presence of asbestos in particular can cause significant delays and additional costs due to the legal and regulatory requirements for its safe removal.

Managing the Risks of Asbestos and Other Hazardous Materials in Residential Building

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was commonly used in building materials until the 1980s. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, for example, during renovation or demolition, the asbestos fibres can become airborne and inhaled. This can potentially cause serious health issues such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. 

Hence, it is important to manage the risks associated with asbestos and other hazardous materials during residential building projects. 

Below are some examples on how the homeowners and builders can manage these risks.

Firstly, it is important to have a thorough inspection and testing of the project site before construction commences. This includes testing for asbestos, lead paint, and other hazardous materials. If asbestos is identified, it must be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist before any construction work can commence. 

Secondly, homeowners and builders should ensure that all workers on the site are trained in the safe handling and removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. This can include providing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as respirators and disposable coveralls, and establishing safe work procedures to minimise the risk of exposure.

Thirdly, it is essential to properly dispose of any hazardous waste found during construction. This can include asbestos-containing materials, lead paint, and other hazardous materials. 

Finally, it is important to openly communicate with all parties involved in the construction (e.g. homeowner, builder, and subcontractors). Clear and transparent communication can help identify potential risks and prevent misunderstandings and disputes between the parties.

By taking these steps, homeowners and builders can minimise the risk of delays, cost overruns, and legal and regulatory penalties associated with latent conditions involving asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Variation Claims for Latent Conditions Involving Asbestos

Identifying asbestos as a latent condition in a residential building project may result in additional costs to the builder and delays to the project. 

For instance, builders may send variation claims to homeowners to recover additional costs relevant to this latent condition. A variation claim is a request for extra payment for additional work or costs incurred due to a change in the scope of work or unforeseen circumstances, such as the discovery of asbestos.

It is important for homeowners to carefully review variation claims related to asbestos to ensure that they accurately reflect the costs and risks associated with removing the asbestos. Homeowners should also seek legal advice to ensure that the variation claim is in accordance with their contractual obligations.

If a variation claim for asbestos is not resolved, it may lead to disputes between homeowners and builders. In such cases, the parties may seek legal assistance to resolve the dispute. It is crucial for homeowners to understand their legal rights and obligations in relation to variation claims for latent conditions involving asbestos to avoid any unwanted consequences.


In conclusion, managing the risks of asbestos and other hazardous materials in residential building requires careful planning, risk assessment, and compliance with legal obligations. 

Homeowners and builders need to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate steps to manage them. If you are a homeowner who has received a variation claim for latent conditions involving asbestos, it is important to seek legal advice to understand your legal rights and obligations. 

By seeking legal advice, you can ensure that your interests are protected, and any disputes or issues can be resolved effectively. 

Contact me today to advise you on your rights, risks and obligations regarding latent conditions involving asbestos and instruct a building consultant to manage the risks of latent conditions.