Home insurers are now preparing themselves for a potential spike in subsidence claims, due to hot weather drying out soil, according to the AA.
Dry clay can lead to subsidence
“Clay that shrinks as it dries out […] can lead to increased subsidence risk and consequent damage to buildings in some parts of the UK,” said Janet Connor, the AA’s director of insurance.
“However, the industry is well prepared for such an eventuality. The last time there was a significant rise in subsidence claims was in 2006.
“Now might be a good time to check that your home is fully insured against such risk.”But what exactly is subsidence and what can cause it?
Subsidence is the downward movement of a house’s foundations, and can be caused by a number of factors.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) subsidence usually happens where:
• Houses are built on clay soil, and either the water table drops due to a long, dry spell or water is sucked out of the soil. As the clay shrinks, it pulls the foundations, which triggers deflection, possibly causing structural damage to buildings. Different types of clay shrink and swell at different rates
• Water leaks into the soil. This can happen when a drainpipe is broken and washes soil away from the foundations. This usually happens to soil with a high sand or gravel content, or sometimes in chalk
• Previous mining activity has taken place
How to spot a problem
There could be movement in the ground beneath your home if you find:
• New or expanding cracks in plasterwork
• New or expanding cracks in outside brickwork
• Doors or windows sticking for no particular reason
• Ripping wallpaper that isn’t caused by damp.What to do if you find subsidence
If you spot any of these problems and can’t find a reason for them, the RICS advise you to seek specialist help as soon as possible.If the issue is subsidence, the sooner it is diagnosed the better. It is important to remember that subsidence can usually be rectified.
Claiming on your insurance
If you suspect subsidence in your property, check that your buildings insurance covers subsidence and whether your insurance policy covers the cost of investigation and repair.
If the loss adjuster or insurance company considers this reasonable, you will get your costs back.
A policy excess will probably be specified in your insurance documents. If it is, you will need to pay up to that amount before the costs are covered by insurance.
Insurers will recommend specialist advice. Your chartered surveyor will deal with your insurance company, and help with any claim you need to make. They can also help with design and arrange for any work needed to fix the problem.
You may also need specialist geological and drain surveys, as moving soil can sometimes crack drains or water mains.