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Subsidence claims quadruple Image

5th December 2018
Subsidence claims quadruple

Subsidence claims quadrupled during the summer heatwave to levels not seen in more than a decade, insurers say


   • More than 10,000 households made claims worth a total of £64m
   • 357% increase in subsidence claims was highest quarterly jump since records started 25 years ago
   • The hot summer saw some UK regions experience the driest months on record
   • £194m was paid to help homeowners cope with the misery of burst pipes


The tropical summer temperatures sparked a surge in claims by households to deal with the impact of subsidence, figures from insurers show.

According to the Association of British Insurers, the number of claims across July, August and September quadrupled compared with the previous quarter, rising to levels not seen in more than a decade.

Between July and September more than 10,000 households made claims worth a total of £64 million to deal with the effects of subsidence. 

The figures were the highest level of subsidence claims since the heatwaves of 2003 and 2006, said ABI.

Subsidence warning signs can include cracks emerging in properties, often around windows and doors, suddenly, and appearing thicker than a 10p coin.

It can occur when the ground beneath a building loses moisture and shrinks, and is routinely covered by buildings insurance.

The subsidence can be caused by several factors, including prolonged dry spells which cause soil to lose water, as well as trees and shrubs which can absorb large volumes of water from the soil.

Clay soils in particular are seen as vulnerable and leaking underground pipes due to problems with drains and water mains can also cause soil to soften.

During the quarter prior to July and September the total value of claims was £14 million. The number of claims during late summer was around four times the 2,500 claims filed in the previous quarter.

The ABI said the 357% increase in the value of subsidence claims was the highest quarterly jump since records started, more than 25 years ago.

The organisation said the hot summer of 2018 saw some UK regions experience the driest months on record, with the south east of England being particularly affected.

ABI's tips for spotting the signs of subsidence

   • Subsidence cracks usually appear very suddenly, rather than gradually
   • They are usually diagonal, and wider at the top than the bottom
   • They tend to be thicker than a 10p coin
   • They are often found around doors and windows
   • Subsidence may also cause dry wallpaper to rip or crinkle
   • Doors and windows may start to stick

Laura Hughes, the ABI's senior policy adviser for property, said: 'Insurers understand that this is a stressful time for affected homeowners and are providing widespread support to help with repairs.'

'Our advice is don't panic if you spot a crack in your home - there are many other reasons why these may have occurred,' said Hughes.

'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,' she added.

Hughes continued: 'Insurers and their appointed loss adjusters are very well equipped to deal with these types of complex claim.'

The ABI said previously that the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, which caused widespread disruption in late February and March, led to property insurers paying out around £194 million in burst pipe claims in the first quarter of 2018.  

'Protecting against extreme uncertainty has become a cornerstone of the insurance industry's offering and this latest development provides a clear demonstration of the agility and flexibility that good providers offer,' said Samantha Holland, insurance partner, Gowling WLG.

'Extreme events also provide an opportunity for the industry to demonstrate best practice to its members and better guarantee that providers collectively improve, as the likelihood of these circumstances coming about in the future, increases,' added Holland.

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