Possibly one of the biggest nightmares for any property owner is subsidence:
- it may be difficult to detect;
- the sooner it is detected, the more straight forward remedial works are likely to be;
- the cost of dealing with subsidence that has taken hold may be very costly; but
- the saving grace is that subsidence insurance is available to indemnify you against such costs (providing you already have the insurance cover in place of course).
What is subsidence?
According to a brief guide published by the Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine, subsidence typically occurs when the soil – especially if it is clay – is subject to shrinkage or swelling and so disturbs the foundations on which your property is built.
The tell-tale signs of subsidence are often in cracks appearing in walls, windows or doors sticking for no other apparent reason, or ripples appearing in wallpaper where damp does not seem to be a problem.
One of the problems, however, is that any off these signs are not necessarily evidence of a problem with subsidence – if yours is a newly built property, for instance, it might be quite usual for the building to go through a quite normal process of settlement.
It is usually necessary, therefore, to seek the expert advice of a professional surveyor to properly diagnose the problem.
The best remedy, of course, is to prevent subsidence occurring in the first place. Avoid planting trees or shrubs near the walls of the property since the soil may shrink as roots absorb the water from it. Water supply and drainage pipes also need to be kept in good repair in order to prevent leakages from washing away the soil on which foundations are built.
Despite these precautions, however, it might be impossible to prevent subsidence from occurring – especially if the property is in an area already susceptible to the problem or built on land previously used for mining.
The typically high cost involved in addressing subsidence – especially if there has been a delay in diagnosing it – is because of the extent of building works that are necessary.
More often than not, such remedial work may require extensive underpinning of the affected property.
Here at GSI Insurance, we take the view that homeowners and buy to let landlords need to be given the opportunity to safeguard their property against such a fairly widespread risk as subsidence, yet still get their insurance at a competitive rate.
This is achieved by taking a special interest in subsidence as an insurance risk and by applying the relevant experience and expertise in identifying those insurers prepared to extend cover at a competitive rate.
According to a subsidence guide published by the Landmark Group, each year sees roughly the same number of insurance claims for subsidence as there are for flooding – in other words, the problem represents a significant insurance risk.
Indeed, subsidence represents such a risk that some insurers specifically exclude it from standard home building and contents policies, whilst others charge a significantly inflated premium for its inclusion.
You can read the GSI Guide to Subsidence insurance here.