Cracking summer: UK insurers expect rise in subsidence claims

August 27, 2018 12:00 pm Published by

Several big-name insurers have said subsidence incidents are up 20% on this time last year.

Insurers are bracing themselves for a spike in subsidence claims after this summer’s heatwave led to cracks appearing in walls across south-east England.

Several big-name insurers have reported that subsidence incidents are up 20% on this time last year. The fear is that that those returning from holidays will see fresh damage and in September there will be an influx of substantial claims.

Heather Smith, the managing director of LV’s general insurance business, said: “Homes across the UK have certainly been suffering as a result of the heatwave and in July alone reports of subsidence were up by 20% compared to the same time last year.

However, in the last few days, parts of the country have received some much-needed rain, which has started to normalise the soil surrounding our homes and we’ve already started to receive reports of subsidence claims reducing in some parts of the country.”

Insurers have identified the 226 postcodes that are most susceptible to subsidence claims, mostly where homes are built on clay. They all lie to the south-east of a line drawn across from the Humber down to the Severn. Subsidence has been a particular problem in London – especially south of the Thames.

The most obvious sign that a householder has a problem is the appearance of large diagonal cracks in internal and external walls.

Doors and windows can become impossible to open. Cracks caused by subsidence tend to be wider at the bottom.

Home insurance premiums have risen in recent months, partly in expectation of an increase in subsidence claims, which have cost the industry as much as £540m in previous years.

Britain’s last serious heatwave in the summer of 2003 resulted in subsidence claims of £390m, according to the Association of British Insurers. In a normal year, it said insurers would expect to pay out £75m to rectify the impact of subsidence on homes.

Since their peak in 1991, when subsidence claims topped £540m, pay-outs have fallen steadily, in part because insurers have taken a tougher stance with claimants.

The AA recently warned that “shop around” home insurance premiums were rising at a rate of 5.3%, on the back of cold weather claims from frozen pipes in January and in expectation of more heatwave-related subsidence claims.

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