Insurers warn that heatwave could create subsidence issues for landlords and home owners

subsidence issues for landlords

This Summer’s record heatwave is breaking records, but property sector insurers are warning that it could be causing subsidence issues for landlords and property owners.

Directline, the sixth-largest home insurer in Britain, told the Daily Telegraph that the rising temperatures has caused a sharp rise in the number of homes affected by subsidence issues.  In terms of cost, this will leave property owners facing a collective £375 million repair bill.  The company expect insurance claims for structural damage to double to 50,000 in the next 12 months.

Direct Line says that the number of properties subsiding is running at more than double the rate of last year.

Subsidence describes a process where the ground under a property collapses or sinks lower, taking some of the building’s foundations with it. This puts strain on the property structure, causing cracks to appear.  Warm weather affects subsidence in a number of ways:

  • Clay soil can shrink, crack and shift during hot, dry weather, making the ground unstable and potentially causing foundations to sink.
  • Drought prone areas are particularly at risk because the soil is much more likely to dry out.
  • Trees and shrubs can also be a factor, particularly if they’re close to your foundations. Some species absorb a lot more water, making the soil much drier.

Claims for subsidence issues often increase during warmer weather – however it isn’t just home owners, but also landlords who need to be aware of the issues.  Landlord insurer Hamilton Fraser is predicting a surge of claims over the next few months, and is urging landlords to check exactly what is covered by their current policy, and to check their property for signs of subsidence.

The problem can be exacerbated because busy landlords may not check their properties in person when tenants are in-situ – and tenants would not normally keep an eye out for the tell tale signs.  Signs of subsidence include:

  • Cracks which appear to run diagonally, and are wider at the top than the bottom
  • Cracks which can been seen both internally and externally
  • Wallpaper crinkling at wall/ceiling joins
  • Cracks where an extension joins the house
Insurer Axa say that once a property owner gets in touch, the insurer will conduct further investigations – and if the problem is indeed subsidence, it can be remedied.
“In some cases, the problem may be monitored; which involves digging a hole beside your home to find out what’s causing the problem, and tracking how far and fast the property is moving. This can take around a year. In most cases, this will end with finding and removing the cause of the subsidence. However, in serious cases, your home may need structural support from a process called underpinning while the foundations are strengthened.”
However, the message from all insurers is to contact them at the earliest opportunity.
Eddie Hooker, CEO of Hamilton Fraser explains:

Minor cracks often appear in properties for a number of reasons, and most of the time these are not related to subsidence and can be dealt with during routine maintenance. If your home is in a shrinkable clay area, cracks with widths up to 5mm can occur during unusually dry spells and can then be treated by redecoration when they have closed again after the normally wetter winter months. However, if the cracks do not close, or continue to open beyond widths of 5mm, it is likely there is a long-term problem and you should consult your insurance company immediately.”

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