Spot the cracks

More than 10,000 households made claims worth a total of £64 million to deal with the impact of subsidence in just three months of this year, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has revealed this week. The figures for July, August and September are the highest level of subsidence claims since the record-breaking heatwaves of 2006 and 2003. The hot weather of 2018 saw some UK regions experience the driest months on record, particularly in the South East which is also well-known for building on subsidence-prone clay soil.

From the previous quarter, the number of claims jumped from 2,500 to 10,000 – rising in value from £14 million to £64 million. This increase of 350% is the highest quarter-on-quarter jump since records began more than 25 years ago. Subsidence usually occurs when the ground beneath a building loses moisture and shrinks. This can be caused by a number of things including prolonged dry spells which cause soil to lose water and trees and shrubs which can absorb significant volumes of water from the soil.

Subsidence cracks usually appear very suddenly, rather than gradually and tend to be diagonal and wider at the top than the bottom. Thicker than a 10p coin, they are often found around doors and windows, and can cause dry wallpaper to rip or crinkle. Subsidence is routinely covered by buildings insurance. Each claim is unique depending on the building, circumstance and severity involved so there is no typical approach to repairs. In some extreme cases the home may need to be monitored for a period of time, and, if the home is uninhabitable during this process – the insurer can cover the cost of alternative accommodation until the homeowner is able to move back in.