Summer heatwave leaves legacy of surge in subsidence claims
Last summer’s prolonged hot and dry weather may be a distant memory, but the legacy of 2018’s record-breaking weather is being felt through a surge in insurance claims due to subsidence.
Around 10,000 homes made claims during July, August and September after the intensity of the drought lead to subsidence. This was a whopping 350% up on the previous quarter, and not far short of the total of 12,000 claims made for the same problem in the whole of 2017.
With Britain now properly back to work following the Christmas and New Year break, last summer’s sizzling temperatures are a fading memory as the bleak midwinter takes a grip. But while editors dusted off the old ‘Phew! It’s a scorcher!’ headlines last year, the weather was drying out the ground beneath buildings to an unprecedented level.
Heat reduces the moisture in soil, causing it to shrink. This, in turn, can result in buildings subsiding – moving downwards, then developing cracks due to this change in environment. Subsidence is most common in properties built on clay, a very shrinkable soil, and homes with shallow foundations.
Much of the south-east of England is built on the type of clay soil prone to drying out, and with the area subject to a lengthy spell of ferocious temperatures last summer, a leap in insurance claims has followed on. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) report that claims worth £64m were made for the third quarter of 2018 when the effects of the heat really kicked in.
“Thousands of people across the UK are now suffering because we experienced such an unprecedented period of dryness this summer,” said Laura Hughes, the ABI’s Senior Policy Adviser for Property Insurers.
“Our advice is don’t panic if you spot a crack in your home – there are many other reasons why these may have occurred. Get in touch with your insurer if you believe your home is experiencing subsidence and they’ll be on hand with the best expertise and the best technology.
“Insurers and their appointed loss adjusters are very well equipped to deal with these types of complex claim.”
Now’s the time to check
Subsidence symptoms, even the smallest of cracks, often appear several months after the dry weather. So even though the weather right now may feel like the polar opposite of last summer, checking for cracks should be on the minds of homeowners and property investors.
If you notice cracks developing in your property, it’s important to contact your insurer and report any issues immediately. And if you are planning to buy a house, be sure to get a comprehensive structural survey done of the property, particularly if it is situated in a high-risk area or position.
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