It may have been the wettest April in over 100 years but after two winters of exceptionally low rainfall the lack of soil moisture can cause the ground beneath housing foundations to contract, resulting in serious subsidence damage.
Insurers are on course for an expensive year for subsidence claims, according to Harry Rule, Allianz’s property claims manager.
“The first quarter 2012 subsidence claims are the worst we have seen at Allianz in the last ten years,” Rule said. “The recent heavy rain is unlikely to have much effect on soil moisture levels as the hard ground has been unable to absorb the water…this could be one of the worst years for subsidence claims in recent memory,” he added.
If a home has one or more of the following it could be more at risk from subsidence:
- Trees close to buildings. Trees are a major cause of subsidence because they remove moisture from the ground. A single large deciduous tree can remove more than 50,000 litres of water from the surrounding soil per year.
- Clay soils. Clay soil contracts and expands to a greater degree with changing moisture levels. Most shrinkable clay in the UK can be found in the Southeast, an area most affected by a lack of rainfall and where properties are more prone to subsidence.
- Escape of water. Damaged and leaking drains or pipes can further weaken foundations and increase the risk of subsidence.
Small cracks no wider than 5mm are unlikely to be serious and may not be an indication of subsidence.
Large cracks and distortions wider than 5mm could indicate subsidence. The cracks tend to be visible both inside and outside the building, tapered and extend below the damp proof.
Doors and windows that begin to stick when they haven’t done so before or have significant cracks around them can also be a sign of subsidence.
Source: www.YourCoverInsurance.co.uk, part of Allianz Retail
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