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Summer heatwave leads to record subsidence claims: what to do if you’re worried

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The heatwave this summer sparked a surge in subsidence-related insurance claims.

More than 10,000 households made claims worth a total of £64m between July and September, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

This was up from the 2,500 claims valued at £14m made during the previous quarter and is the highest level of subsidence claims since the record-breaking heatwaves of 2006 and 2003.

This year’s hot weather 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.

What is subsidence?

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.

How can you tell the difference between subsidence and general wear and tear?

  • 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 and;
  • doors and windows may start to stick.

What should you do if you think you have a subsidence problem?

The advice from the ABI is not to panic.

“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,” said Laura Hughes, the ABI’s senior policy adviser for property.

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, the ABI said.

In some extreme cases your home may need to be monitored for a period of time. If your home is uninhabitable during this process, your insurer will cover the cost of alternative accommodation until you are able to move back in.

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