Recent figures show that last year’s record breaking summer has caused a massive increase in the number of homes suffering from subsidence.
But how can you tell if yours has been affected? What can be done about it? And how might it affect your vital buildings insurance cover?
Big increase in subsidence
Statistics from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that in July, August and September last year, the number of claims for subsidence damage leapt to more than 10,000.
That’s much higher than the more usual total of around 2,500 for the same three month period.
Why subsidence occurs
Very hot summers create perfect conditions for subsidence too occur as the earth dries out and shrinks. Homes might then sink and move as the foundations can be seriously affected, causing major headaches for homeowners.
But it’s not just heat and dry conditions that can cause subsidence however. Leaking underground pipes, and drainage or mains water problems can also lead to soil softening, or being washed away over time causing instability in a home’s foundations, similarly to dried out soil.
What to look out for
Both the internal and external structure of a building can be affected, with large cracks being the main indicator that damage is occurring.
Door frames and windows may also jam as walls move and, in worst case scenarios, homes can become dangerous and uninhabitable
In particular, homeowners should look out for cracks which develop suddenly and run diagonally, rather than straight or along wall joins. Any that are approximately wider than a 10 pence coin should be investigated further.
The South East of the UK tends to have the highest number of insurance claims for subsidence as it experiences the least rainfall and have clay soils, which tend to dry out and move more easily.
Help is on hand
Fortunately, the good news is that home insurance is there to help. Policies nearly always cover subsidence, which can be very expensive to put right.
Anyone thinking their home might be suffering should get in touch with their insurer immediately as the longer you leave it the worse it can get.
Contact your insurer immediately
In the first instance, your provider will send a claims investigator to assess the damage and help you in the process of finding a company to remedy it.
The bad news is that there is usually a much higher ‘excess’ the policy holder must pay towards the cost of subsidence repair work than with most other types of claim.
Higher ‘excess’ for subsidence claims
The standard excess on most home insurance claims – the ‘excess’ being the first part of a claim which the homeowner covers – is usually in the region of £150 to £250. For subsidence, the figure is more likely to be £1,000 to £1,500.
However, in areas more prone to subsidence, and especially if other homes close to yours have suffered from it, the excess payable on any claim could be as much as £3,000 or more.
Additionally, your premiums will almost undoubtedly rise significantly as your home will be viewed by insurance providers as a higher risk, and you will have lost any no claims bonus you might have built up.
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Published 22 January 2019