General Insurance Article - Three hundred percent increase in subsidence claims

Dominic Bird, CEO of AA Underwriting Insurance Ltd says: “The ABI’s figures reflect our experience. I’ve not seen such a high level of subsidence claims for many years and I am concerned that we may in future, see more frequent long, hot summers which may make this a more common type of claim from home owners.

 “Subsidence is a particular problem for properties built on clay soil substrates and our experience suggests that those built in late Victorian years are more prone to the issue. Of course homes of any age could be affected although with modern building methods, more recent homes appear to be much less likely to be subject to subsidence.

 “At a time when more and more homes are being built, we are seeing some long-established properties that have never have suffered subsidence problems being affected. Neighbouring building works and trees – particularly willow and oak, which can take up to 200 gallons of water out of the ground every day, especially in hot weather – affect the moisture content of the soil, leading to the possibility that it becomes more likely to dry out and thus shrink, leading to foundations settling.”

 The AA says that if cracks big enough to insert a pound coin develop in walls, around window and door frames and gaps appear between the damp proof course and the first course of bricks above it, then subsidence is almost certainly the cause.

 Adds Bird: “Happily, subsidence is a standard risk covered by your home buildings insurance. You should contact your insurer as soon as possible if you see such issues developing. They will arrange for a survey to be carried out and if subsidence is the cause, will appoint contractors to put the problem right.

 “However I should point out that there is no instant solution. It can take several months to identify the cause, take remedial action (such as removing nearby trees) and undertake possibly extensive repairs such as underpinning as well as restoration of the damaged building works.”

 The AA predicted earlier this year concerns that the long hot summer might result in a sharp subsidence claim increase.

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