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?
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.
Very hot summers create perfect conditions for subsidence to occur as the earth dries out and shrinks. Homes might then sink and move as the foundations could 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.
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.
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.
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.