Is my building
suffering from subsidence?
Your building may be suffering from subsidence if there are a series
of cracks generally around one part of the building, e.g. bay window,
corner, additional annex. Similarly, if repaired cracks reappear or
doors or windows begin to stick, then these are all signs that there
is movement to the walls which may be due to subsidence, heave or landslip
and requires further investigation.
Does subsidence damage constitute a danger to
In structural terms, damage caused by subsidence rarely caused the building
to become unstable overnight. As a general guide for more modern properties,
the crack width/movement needs to be about 15mm or more to warrant a
severe damage classification. Even with such movement, the building
may not be unstable.
What are the causes of subsidence?
Most commonly, subsidence is due to shrinkage of clay soils beneath
the foundations. Shrinkage is usually caused by roots from nearby vegetation
drying out the soil. Other causes include softening of the foundation
soil. Other causes include softening of the foundation soil due to water
e.g. because of leaking drains and long-term consolidation of fill (any
soil which has been moved/excavated by man).
I am experiencing difficulties in securing Insurance cover on my property
If you are having difficulty in obtaining subsidence cover as part of your Buildings
Insurance, a specialist Broker can often help. Under such circumstances, you may
wish to contact Woodstock Insurance Brokers on 01622 776676, as they specialise in
securing cover in such matters.
If I suspect my buildings have suffered subsidence
damage, what do I do?
You should seek advice from an experienced and qualified Chartered engineer
who can arrange the necessary investigations and monitoring and who
can suggest remedial measures and ultimately co-ordinate repairs. You
should also notify your buildings insurers as soon as possible, as they
may wish to appoint a loss adjuster to help with the insurance issues.
What investigations are needed for subsidence?
Generally, it is necessary to dig trial pits so as to establish the
foundation and subsoil characteristics. Boreholes for deeper soil samples
may also need to be formed. Soil and root samples are then tested in
the laboratory. Other tests include checking drains for leaks, which
may require a CCTV survey. Visible cracks need to be measured and monitored
for changes. Establishing a history of the site/building can also be
How long will it take to resolve my subsidence
Because of the need to monitor movement, it is common for subsidence
damage to take 12-18 months to resolve. However, if there is significant
damage or monitoring is not considered to be beneficial, then repairs
can be carried out more quickly. There are situations, e.g. where a
tree identified as being the cause of damage belongs to someone else
or where there are party wall issues to resolve, which can result in
the process taking longer than 18 months.
Who or what is a loss adjuster?
A loss adjuster is an insurance specialist who is appointed by the buildings
insurers to impartially advise on your claim and to liaise with all
parties in order to bring the claim to a satisfactory conclusion at
a reasonable cost within the constraints of your insurance policy.
Does the loss adjuster work for the insurers?
Although the loss adjuster is paid by the insurance company, his/her
brief is to be impartial.
Can I have someone "on my side"?
Your engineer can help with technical issues and can liaise with the
loss adjuster in order to simplify communication if you so wish.
My insurers have appointed their own engineers,
is that reasonable?
That depends very much on the engineer and some loss-adjusting firms
have in-house engineers to advise them. There should normally be no
difficulty in your instructing your own engineer should you so wish
or to ask for a second opinion, but check your policy first to ensure
that reasonable fees incurred will be paid. We can assist from the onset or provide
a second opinion if needed.
Will my property need to be underpinned?
Only about 20-30% of properties suffering from subsidence need some
form of underpinning. In most instances, remedial measures (such as
removal of trees or repairs to leaking drains) are sufficient for the
building to regain stability. On these occasions only superstructure
repairs are then required.
Will I need to move out of my home?
That depends on your own personal circumstances and the nature and extent
of repairs envisaged. In most instances, the repairs are not significantly
more disruptive than normal redecoration of the house.
How much will it cost and who will pay for the
You as the homeowner are usually responsible for the costs incurred,
but your buildings insurers would reimburse you the engineer's fees,
investigative costs and repair cost if they are reasonable and if policy
liability is confirmed. The loss adjuster/insurers would be able to
advise you with regards to policy liability.
What is the policy excess?
Many insurance policies include a policy excess. If policy liability
is established, then you as the homeowner would be responsible to pay
for costs up to that limit providing your insurance situation does not
require you to pay any of the other costs. The amount of the policy
excess should be specified in your insurance documents in relation to
subsidence/heave/landslip and in most policies is £1,000
How will the fact that I have had subsidence
affect my home in terms of value insurance and saleability?
Most insurance companies take a reasonable view of the position and
are prepared to continue to insure the buildings under normal rates
and conditions if the cause of damage has been eliminated. Some may
also continue to insure a future owner, but this is an aspect usually addressed
by your insurance company/loss adjusters. If you experience difficulties in obtaining
Buildings Insurance you could seek the advice of a specialist broker such as
Woodstock Insurance Brokers Ltd (contact tel. 01622 776676), who have proved
to be of great assistance in such matters.
What if I don't agree with what my insurance
company loss adjuster's say?
Differences of opinion can usually be resolved by corresponding with
your insurers/loss adjuster. Where significant disagreements occur,
your insurance documents should detail how to resolve them, including
the procedure for referring the matter to the insurance ombudsman. We
can assist you in the discussions.
What is the Party Wall Act?
This is an Act of Parliament which requires you to notify any neighbours
who may be adversely affected by investigations/repairs necessary to
your property. It is to ensure that where damage does occur to an adjoining
property, then it is recognised and can be addressed. Usually a Party
Wall Surveyor is appointed and
a Party Wall Award issued.
It is alleged that my tree has caused damage
to my neighbour's property, what do I do?
You should contact your Contents Insurers who may appoint a loss adjuster
or we can help as accredited expert witnesses of the Law Society.
Are all your Engineers well experienced?
All the engineers working for Subsidence Management Ltd are experienced
and most also have an in depth understanding of insurance matters.
How much will it cost for a brief visit and
your initial assessment/second opinion?
For a brief visit and overview with short letterform report, we would
charge you only £250 + VAT. Our further involvement and costs can be
discussed during our visit should you so wish.