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New asbestos removal policy in Flanders
Kyoto Van Herreweghe
The Flemish government has adopted a new policy to remove asbestos from buildings. The ultimate goal of these rules is to create an asbestos-safe environment by 2040. One measure is the introduction of an attestation of asbestos inventory (asbestinventarisatieattest). This attestation will need to be present at every transfer of real estate in Flanders. The decree was adopted in the spring of 2019, but the precise date of entry into force of the provisions regarding asbestos still needs to be determined by the Flemish government.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural product consisting of minerals with hard, non-combustible fibres. It was widely used in the construction sector in the 20th century, especially from the 1940s onwards. As asbestos is very strong and cheap, it was applied in a wide variety of materials, such as:
• corrugated sheets;
• chimney ducts;
• insulating plaster;
• flower boxes;
• pipe insulation; and
As long as the asbestos is still intact, there is no danger to health. However, if it breaks down, the fibres can be inhaled and may get stuck in small airways and pulmonary vesicles. This can lead to diseases if absorbed by the body, such as several types of cancer.
In Belgium, the production of asbestos applications was prohibited in 1998 and the sale and use of asbestos have been prohibited since 2001. More recent policy is mainly geared towards the removal and processing of asbestos. It is estimated that there is currently around two million tons of asbestos present in buildings in Flanders. Around 2.8 million houses and 354,000 non-residential buildings in Flanders are estimated to contain asbestos.
The new asbestos removal policy in Flanders
On 29 March 2019, the Flemish government adopted a decree containing a new asbestos policy. The ultimate goal of this decree is the creation of an asbestos-safe environment by 2040.
The decree entails a general obligation for the Flemish public authorities to remove asbestos from all public constructions that were built before 2001. Real estate that was built before 2001 is generally considered a risk when it comes to asbestos. Where it concerns private owners of real estate, rules regarding an attestation of the asbestos inventory have been introduced (asbestinventarisattest).
Most provisions of the decree entered into force on 27 April 2019. However, the date of entry into force of the provisions regarding the ban of asbestos still needs to be determined by the Flemish government.
The Decree of 29 March 2019 introduces the aforementioned asbestinventarisattest. This is an official document containing an inventory of the asbestos that is present in the building.
The attestation needs to be present at the transfer of ownership of every building built before 2001. As from 1 January 2032, the attestation is not only required at the transfer of a building, but every owner of real estate will have to have an attestation. The attestation needs to be drawn up by a recognised expert in asbestos. The expert will inspect the building and judge it according to its risks. The expert draws a conclusion regarding the asbestos that has to be removed and the procedure that needs to be followed. The inventory is then digitally transferred to the OVAM (the Public Waste Agency of Flanders) and is entered into a database. This enables the Flemish government to monitor the presence of asbestos in buildings. The OVAM will issue an attestation if the information is complete. The notary needs to make sure that the attestation is part of the authentic deed when a transfer of real estate takes place.
The Flemish ‘House Pass’ (Woningpas)
The Woningpas (House Pass) is a digital passport for houses in Flanders. It bundles together all available information about a house which the owner can then access. Thus, it is no longer necessary to consult several different government entities. The introduction of the Woningpas takes place in phases. The information that can be found in the digital portal is gradually being supplemented. For example, information on energy performance, urban planning and flooding zones can be administered in the portal. In the future, the asbestinventarisattest will also be included in the Woningpas.
 Decree on the sustainable management of material cycles and waste of 23 December 2011, published in the Belgian State Gazette on 28 February 2012.
 Decree on the amendment of different provisions of Title X of the Decree of 5 April 1995, concerning general provisions relating to environmental policy and the decree of 23 December 2011 on the sustainable management of material cycles and waste of 23 December 2011, published in the Belgian State Gazette on 17 April 2019.