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Spotting Subsidence

Spotting subsidence in time and taking remedial measures before the problem assumes greater proportions may save you a great deal of money. If you are a landlord, spotting it in time might make all the difference between success and failure of your buy to let business.

Insurance

This holds true whether or not you have taken the precaution of arranging landlords insurance for your property because:

  • some insurers simply decline to extend protection against subsidence;
  • other insurers decline insurance altogether on a property that is located in an area where mining has previously taken place or where there are known risks of building subsidence;
  • some insurers offer building insurance in areas with such a high-risk record but exclude the risk of subsidence; whilst
  • other insurers include subsidence as a standard risk.

Note that if you have a mortgage on your let property, then typically your mortgage provider will stipulate that you have appropriate buildings insurance in place to protect both your interests.

Here at UKinsuranceNET, we are pleased to offer both policies including subsidence as a standard risk and those that exclude subsidence, but still offer cover for buildings in high-risk subsidence areas - if the risk is excluded, then your insurance premiums may be even cheaper than our already competitively priced premiums.

Spotting subsidence

It is important to detect subsidence at its earliest possible stage, since it is a problem that may get steadily worse and cost considerably more to repair as time goes on. The problem, however, is that many of the apparent signs of subsidence may be evidence of other, rather less serious, issues.

If you suspect that your property is susceptible to subsidence, therefore, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors recommends inspection by an expert.

  • some of the tell-tale signs indicating the possibility of subsidence are:
  • cracks suddenly appear or existing cracks get worse on an outside wall;
  • cracks become apparent or spread in the plasterwork of internal walls;
  • doors or windows stop closing properly; or
  • ripples appear in your wallpaper and you have been able to rule out the presence of rising damp.

Although subsidence may not be responsible for some of these incidents, something likely to tip your diagnosis that way is the fact that cracking caused by subsidence is often characterised by cracks that are wider at the top and become narrower down towards the ground.

Why does it happen?

There are a number of circumstances which may give rise to subsidence and all of them are the result of movement in the ground or foundations on which your property is built:

  • a past history of mining operations, for example, may have left excavations and shafts into which the ground above eventually collapses;
  • if your property is built on chalky, sandy or gravelly soil, surplus water from a leaking mains or drainpipe may wash away the soil;
  • on clay soil, dry spells of weather might lead to the water table falling and the drier soil no longer able to support the weight of the building; whilst
  • the intrusion of roots from bushes and trees may again lead to the shrinkage of soil - and an even wider growth of the roots - during periods of drought.

Protecting your investment

If you are a landlord, it might repay you to seek specialist advice about the insurance that may be available to protect your investment. In the light of the cost of the premiums you are offered, you may then decide whether to guard against the risk in the insurance policy you choose, or lower the cost by excluding this risk.