Record levels of subsidence insurance claims were recorded in the UK last summer, with a total cost of claims reaching £64 million* between July and September.
The South East in particular, which is renowned for building on subsidence-prone clay soil, recorded some of the driest months on record, which led to an influx of subsidence claims.
With the Met Office warning that global temperatures are likely to approach record-breaking levels in 2019, homeowners should be on the lookout for signs of subsidence and checking their building insurance policies to ensure an adequate level of subsidence insurance is provided in the event of a claim.
What is subsidence?
Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground supporting the building and the main cause of subsidence in the UK is the shrinkage of clay soils, which occurs in dry weather. Clay expands and contracts with changes in moisture content. Subsidence damage occurs because the movement is often uneven, distorting the building and causing cracks in walls, floors and ceilings.
What causes subsidence?
Subsidence is caused by changes in the moisture content in the soil and is often attributed to large trees and shrubbery surrounding the building, which suck up the moisture. However, long periods of dry weather, as we experienced in Southern parts of the UK last year, can also cause subsidence.
If your home is built on clay, you are at a greater risk of subsidence damage. Clay typically dries in the summer and swells in the wetter winter months, but due to the recent dry summers and winters, the soil has been unable to recover, leading to an increased number of subsidence claims.
Signs of subsidence
The key indicator that your home is suffering from subsidence, is the appearance of subsidence cracks.
There are many reasons why cracks may appear in the walls of your home, including damp, settlement (common in new properties) and drying and shrinkage of plaster. However, subsidence cracks have some distinctive features.
Common features of subsidence cracks:
• Visible from both inside and outside the property
• Tapered – usually wider at the top than the bottom
• Extending below the damp proof course
Other signs of subsidence include rippling wallpaper (not caused by damp) and doors and windows sticking.
Is subsidence covered by house insurance?
The UK is one of the only countries in the world that insures private homes for the risk of subsidence and you’ll usually find subsidence is covered under your building insurance. However, it’s worth checking your policy to see what level of subsidence insurance is offered, as this may vary.
You will normally pay the first £1000 excess of your policy and the majority of damage should be covered, including temporary accommodation. If the property has history of a prior subsidence claim, the excess may be more.
To ensure your building insurance will adequately protect your home in the event of a subsidence claim, seek the advice of a professional insurance broker.
Robison & Co. Insurance Brokers are highly experienced in providing building insurance policies that provide subsidence insurance and will protect you in the event of a subsidence claim. If your property has a prior history of subsidence, please speak to one of our specialists to ensure your building insurance provides an adequate level of cover for your requirements.
Contact us today for advice or a quote for your building insurance on 01730 265500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Stats from the Association of British Insurers ABI
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