The summer months of 2018 proved to be the hottest the UK has experienced since 2006 and temperatures were joint highest since 1910. With recent heatwaves affecting the UK, Scotland and Wales in particular, it has been predicted that 2019 could continue in a similar manner. Whilst this is great news for many of us, it might not be such great news for your home.
As the temperature reached record-breaking levels in 2018, so did insurance claims for subsidence, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Over 10,000 households made a subsidence-related claim with insurers paying out over £64m between July and September in 2018. Compare this to the previous quarter where only 2,500 claims were made, it’s clear that the heatwave had a significant impact on these figures.
What is subsidence?
All buildings are reliant on the integrity of the ground they’re built on and, should these change, this can cause major structural damage to the property above. Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath a home collapses, bringing down the foundations of the property with it. These changes occur when the ground is very wet, or very dry.
If spotted in time, there are measures a homeowner can take to strengthen the existing foundations, prevent further damage and repair any existing damage. However, when left for an extended period of time the effects of subsidence could be very expensive to resolve.
Spotting the cracks
The main indicator that your home is affected by subsidence is if cracks start appearing in the walls. These are often more than 3mm thick, wider at the top than the bottom and are usually found close to windows and doors. If you notice any cracks in your wall, make sure to take action by alerting your insurer immediately.
Are you covered?
Most home insurance policies cover subsidence for your main building, although many have an excess of around £1000. However, features such as patios, driveways and swimming pools aren’t usually covered by a standard policy.
If you’ve made a recent claim for subsidence on your home, you may find it’s tricky to find an insurer who will continue to cover your home against subsidence at a competitive price. You could also find it difficult to switch home insurers as many won’t be willing to take on the increased level of risk. At this stage, help from an insurance broker can be invaluable.
Even if you are covered against subsidence, if your insurer finds that your property has not been built in line with good building practice and this has worsened the issue, your cover may no longer be valid. It’s essential that when you do notice the early signs of subsidence you take action and any repair is carried out with your insurer’s approval as these can help keep your insurance valid and increase your chances of remaining insured in the future.
Reducing the risk
There are steps you can take to safeguard your home against subsidence. We take a look at some of the preventative measures you can take to protect your home before the cracks set in.
Plants and greenery
Make sure all trees and shrubs are planted away from your property, ideally around 5-10 metres to reduce the risk of drying out the soil. Be mindful of the types of plants you keep, some cause more damage than others. Avoid planting pyracantha, rose-shrubs and wisteria close to your building.
Conduct regular maintenance, making sure to manage falling leaves, clear blocked drains and prune trees and shrubs regularly to keep them at a manageable size.
If you’re looking to buy a new home, make sure to find out if it has a history of subsidence, as if it does, it’s more likely to happen again. If the building has been underpinned, this is a strong indicator it has suffered subsidence in the past.
Getting the right insurance
If you’ve suffered from subsidence in the past and are now struggling to get affordable insurance, we might be able to help. Or, to check your existing cover and ensure it offers the protection you expect, why not arrange a quick review of your existing cover? Simply get in touch with the team at Caleb Roberts