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Subsidence Effected House Insurance - Drains Damaged by Trees

                   Previously Underpinned Building Insurance 

Specialists for Subsidence Effected House Insurance

                                                      "THE PUP's POLICY"

                  Insurance for Subsidence & Previously Underpinned Properties

There a number of reasons why a Property could suffer Subsidence. A common fault is due to leaks from Drains, or damage caused by Tree Roots to the Building and its Drains. Some parts of the Country are more susceptible to subsidence due to the Geological make up of the area, in some cases Subsidence has been caused by badly laid foundations.

Most insurers are aware of the problem areas and will quote terms accordingly, or will even decline to quote because some Post Codes are regarded as Blighted. Even where a problem has been rectified, known as Underpinning, there is still a hesitancy by most Insurers to offer a Quotation and they will Refuse House Insurance where a Property has been Underpinned.

Mining Areas: Where the home has suffered subsidence because of local coal mining works, and underpinning has been done, the following phone number 01623 637000 is where you can apply for a letter from The Coal Authority, which will indemnify you for any future subsidence. Unfortunately not all Insurers will accept the letter but normally our Underwriters will.

Where a problem has occurred, it leaves the house with a subsidence History, and selling a Previously Underpinned Property (PUP'S) always proves to be a problem. Should your property be undergoing monitoring because of suspected Subsidence and your renewal is due, it is normal that no other Insurer would want to quote. Also our Underwriters would be reluctant to offer cover within 1 year of any rectification work of Subsidence problems. However in some cases where neighboring tree roots have encroached your property, there may be a slim chance of obtaining Insurance cover.

Crown Insurance have experience of Insuring Previously Underpinned Properties (PUP'S). We have negotiated a scheme with Underwriters at Lloyds of London, so we are able to offer Insurance cover on Subsidence Blighted Homes.

Subsidence House Questionnaire                House Insurance Quotation Form

The more information you can provide will help us get the best House Insurance quote for you

Please contact us giving all details along with any supplementary information you may have for your home that has Suffered Movement. One of our Underwriters will discuss your Subsidence Insurance solution. Normally after a Subsidence repair a Certificate would be issued confirming works carried out. Also if you are purchasing a house which has suffered subsidence it would show up on any survey. Insurers will require as much documentation as possible to enable them to offer a quotation.

Subsidence Effected House Insurance

In the most serious cases of a Subsidence effected house, the investigation including monitoring of the movement causing the damage can take a considerable period of time in order that a proper and lasting repair is made to the property. Where monitoring of this nature is required the time taken by the investigation work may well exceed 12 months. Most household insurance policies require policyholders to pay the first thousand pounds (the normal “ excess ” figure) of a subsidence claim. The policyholder should prepare to meet this expense.


For all your Subsidence Effected Home Insurance Tele: 01784 436 262                                                                                 Fax: 01784 434 992

PROTECTING YOUR HOME FROM SUBSIDENCE DAMAGE The shortage of rain during summer months cas cause an increase in the amount of damage to buildings by subsidence. In extreme cases such damage can result in house being uninhabitable while repairs are being carried out. Domestic properties are addressed mainly but the advice can also apply to generally smaller commercial buildings if they have shallow foundations. The Problem Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground supporting the building. Damage occurs because the movement is often uneven, causing cracks in walls, floors and ceilings. The main cause of subsidence in the UK is the shrinkage in dry weather of clay soils which expand and contract with changes in their moisture content. The escape of water form leaking or damaged drains below the ground can also cause subsidence. Subsidence damage to buildings is generally distinctive in appearance, cracks in walls usually having the following features: Apparent from both inside and outside the property Tapered Extending below the damp proof course This is often accompanied by doors and windows sticking, reflecting the distortion of the building. Much less common but causing damage of a similar nature are: “ Heave ” which is an upward movement of the ground supporting the building i.e. the opposite of subsidence “ Landslip ” which is the movement of a mass of ground down an incline or slope trying to find a natural level. All buildings can suffer minor cracking arising from a number of causes other than subsidence, heave or landslip, the most common of which are: Consolidation settlement of soil due to the weight of the building. This normally occurs early in the life of a building Temperature changes of the building superstructure causing expansion and contraction Drying and shrinkage of building materials

Subsidence caused by weather.

Cracks arising from these causes are usually uniform in width and narrow (hairline to 3mm) and can be dealt with during routine maintenance or redecoration. The Cause Most of the shrinkable clays in the UK are located in Southern England, the area most affected by the lack of rainfall over recent years. In normal circumstances clay will shrink in the summer and recover by swelling in the wetter winter months. With the advent of a series of dry summers and winters, in many cases the ground has been unable to recover. As a general rule clay with a high shrinkage potential will only have its moisture content vary up to 1m in depth. Modern day foundations should not be affected, as they are normally at least this deep. Where trees and shrubs are present, moisture content will be affected to a much greater depth. Trees and shrubs need large amounts of water to survive, a mature deciduous tree can remove in excess of 50,000 litres per year. In drought conditions moisture removal up to a depth of 6m can take place and trees will send out extensive root systems looking for water. Heave is normally caused by the removal of trees or large shrubs. While the tree is growing the surrounding soil is dried out but when the tree is removed the moisture content builds up, causing the ground to swell. The process can take many years but the damage caused by heave is, in most cases, much more severe than that caused by subsidence. Problems can arise if mature trees near houses are cut down or if a site is cleared of vegetation before construction commences. Other causes of subsidence not so commonly encountered are mining excavations; swallow holes or solution cavities, improperly compacted ground, and leaching of sandy or silty soils often caused by leaking or broken drains. Landslip is usually caused by the removal or failure of a feature supporting the building (e.g. The building of new houses nearby), and the action of water to lubricate the movement. The Solution Whilst southern England is particularly vulnerable where shrinkable clays predominate and where rainfall is lowest, problems also occur in other parts of the country where clay forms a significant proportion of the soil. Research has shown that the majority of subsidence problems involve trees to some degree. Trees more likely to cause problems than other have fine root structures longer than other species, such as poplars, willows, elms and oaks.

Subsidence caused by trees & Roots

The results of recent survey showed that the trees most often involved in subsidence incidents were Oak, Willow, Sycamore, Ash, Plane and Poplar. A few simple actions can be taken to protect your property and prevent long- term problems if you love in a clay soil area: Do not plant trees or large shrubs close to the house, garage or outbuildings. Table 1 gives distances from buildings at which it is generally accepted various species can safely be planted. These are also presented in hazard order in Fig (1). Remember that small trees or shrubs can quickly grow to substantial heights. NB Initially small hedges of Leylandii bushes (Cupresso-cyparis leylandii), which singly may not cause a problem, will have a much greater desiccating effect when massed together (and can grow large) If trees have been planted within the safe distance from your property after the house was built, it is recommended that they are moved. Trees which are older than the structure but within the safe distance can be managed – that is to say a programme of pollarding or crown thinning carried out to control the amount of foliage produced, which will in turn reduce the amount of water it requires. Trees which are older than the structure should not be removed as this could cause uplift of the ground and heave Never remove or in anyway alter a tree on which there is a preservation order, without the appropriate consent. If in doubt obtain specialist advice from a tree surgeon or similar professional. (Initially the cost involved will normally have to be borne by the policyholder and will only be reimbursed by the insurer if a claim is met.) The tree may be within a neighboring garden or in the street. If you are worried about the potential subsidence problems that a neighbour ’ s tree could cause, discuss it amicably and try to persuade him or her to take an appropriate action. Only if your neighbour is uncooperative, or the tree is the property of the local authority, write a letter expressing your concern and keep a copy for future reference. Putting Matters Right Minor cracking can occur in any building for reasons not related to subsidence. This can be dealt with during routine maintenance and decoration. If your home is in a shrinkable clay area, minor cracks with widths up to 5mm can occur during unusually dry spells and can then be treated by redecoration when they have closed again after the normally wetter winter months. If the cracks do not close, or continue to open beyond widths of 5mm, there is a long-term problem and you should immediately consult your insurance company.

Claiming for Subsidence Damage

The insurance company will advise you on steps are steps to be taken. Where appropriate, specialists will be appointed to investigate the cause of the Subsidence damage and to arrange for repair work to be carried out (the effects of even quite serious subsidence damage can often be rectified by means other than under-pinning).

In the most serious cases, the investigation including monitoring of the movement causing the damage can take a considerable period of time in order that a proper and lasting repair is made to the property. Where monitoring of this nature is required the time taken by the investigation work may well exceed 12 months. Most household insurance policies require policyholders to pay the first thousand pounds (the normal “ excess ” figure) of a subsidence claim. The policyholder should prepare to meet this expense.

 Publication from the ABI   Subsidence - Dealing With The Problem


It is the sight every homeowner dreads - cracks appearing in the walls of their home. But don’t fear the worst - while there has been an increase in subsidence claims in recent years, most buildings suffer minor cracking at some time so it doesn΄t mean that there is a subsidence problem.

This information sheet explains:

    * What subsidence is and how it can affect a property;

    * What signs may indicate there could be a problem with the property;

    * What can be done to reduce the risk of subsidence; and

    * How household insurers will investigate potential problems and deal with any claim.


What is subsidence?

Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground supporting the building. Particular problems arise when the movement varies from one part of the building to another.

It can be caused by:

Certain soils - Clay soils are particularly vulnerable to subsidence since they shrink and swell depending on their moisture content.

Vegetation - Trees and shrubs take moisture from soils causing them to shrink.  This is especially so during long periods of dry weather as roots extend in search of water.

Leaking Drains - Damaged drains can soften or wash away the ground beneath the foundations.

Less commonly, problems may occur where properties are built over, or close to, mine workings.

Other types of ground movement, which can result in cracking and structural damage, are:

Heave - the upward movement of the ground supporting the building.

Landslip - movement of ground down a slope.

What should you look out for?

The first obvious sign of subsidence is the appearance of cracks. However, not all cracks indicate that there is a problem. Most buildings experience cracking at some time and there is no need to be alarmed by every crack that appears.

Cracks are not uncommon in new properties and newly built extensions. They are likely to be the result of the building settling under its own weight. These usually are nothing to worry about, nor are fine cracks that often appear in newly plastered walls as they dry out. Buildings shrink and swell naturally due to changes in temperature and humidity, which can lead to minor cracks where walls and ceilings meet. These too should not normally be anything to worry about.

What should be looked out for are small, usually diagonal, cracks which suddenly appear in plaster work inside and outside bricks at weak points, such as around doors and windows, especially after long periods of dry weather. These may, but not necessarily, indicate movement in the building´s foundations. The cracks will normally be thicker than a 10p coin, and usually be wider at the top. Doors and windows may also “stick” due to the distortion of the building.

Can you do anything to reduce the risk?

Yes. Taking a few simple precautions can help reduce the risk of structural damage.

Trees and shrubs planted too close to a property are a common cause of problems. The attached table indicates the suitable planting distances of various trees from houses, garages or outbuildings. You should also consider the proximity of trees to underground drains and buildings including any belonging to neighbours.

Ensure that trees and shrubs are pruned regularly. Expert advice should be sought from an arborist to make sure they are pruned correctly. Regular general maintenance checks should be carried out around a property. Checks should be made for blocked or leaking drains; dirt and leaves cleared from gutters; and pipes checked to make sure there are no splits.


Cover provided by household insurance

A buildings insurance policy will normally cover damage caused to a property by subsidence, heave or landslip. Damage to walls, gates, fences, patios, drives and swimming pools will not usually be covered unless a home is damaged at the same time and by the same cause. The policy should set out what is and what is not covered. However, if any clarification is required, an agent or the insurer will be happy to help.

Policyholders will normally have to pay the first part of any claim - the excess. This will be detailed in your policy.

If the damage is so serious that a home cannot be lived in, most buildings, and even contents, policies will pay for the cost of comparable alternative accommodation, while the damage is being investigated and the repair work is carried out. This will be subject to a limit which is usually a percentage of the sum insured.

When should you contact your buildings insurer and what will they do?

As soon as you believe there may be a problem, you should contact your buildings insurer. A policy will normally require the insurer to be advised of any potential claim as soon as possible and, in any event, it is sensible because the sooner the problem is investigated, the quicker everything can be put right the less inconvenience will be caused.

It will first be necessary to identify the cause of the damage and what needs to be done to stop it. Once any movement has been stabilised the necessary repairs can be carried out.

Insurers really do understand and appreciate policyholders΄ concerns and will do all they can to minimise the worry and inconvenience. Insurers will also keep policyholders informed of developments at every stage.

Handling a claim

Once they are aware of the damage, the insurer may arrange for a structural engineer and other specialists to carry out detailed investigations to decide the best course of action. These experts will report back to the insurer with their recommendations and then supervise any work that needs to be done.

Alternatively, the insurer may advise the policyholder to contact a structural engineer (it may be able to provide a list of recommended firms) so that the problem can be investigated. Once again, the insurer should then know the cause of the problem and how best to deal with it.

Investigations may include digging holes to find out the type of soil, the depth and condition of the foundation and whether roots are causing a problem – this is quite normal.

It may also be necessary to monitor the width of cracks or other signs of movements over a period of time, usually for at least twelve months, so that the extent of the problem can be accurately established. Once all the information has been collected and analysed, then a plan of action can be drawn up to cure the problem.

Today, very few cases of subsidence are likely to require under-pinning - the strengthening or deepening of building foundations. Generally, further damage can be prevented by the professional removal or pruning of trees, repairing drains, or by localised repairs to brickwork. Then internal decorations will be renewed to complete the job.

If a property has suffered coal mining subsidence damage, the Coal Authority or mine owner mining in the area will be responsible for dealing with any claim. If a problem arises contact should be made with the Coal Authority (01623 427162) - as they will be able to provide information regarding the procedure involved. At the same time, the buildings insurer should also be informed.

What happens if you change your insurer?

If you change your buildings insurer and then discover a subsidence related problem, any claim may be dealt with under the Association of British Insurers΄ Domestic Subsidence Claim Handling Agreement. The agreement sets out which insurers will be responsible for handling any claim. The majority of household insurers subscribe to it. If a claim is made within the first eight weeks of the changeover, the previous insurer will deal with it. Claims between 8 weeks and 1 year will be handled by the new insurer with the cost of settlement shared equally between the two insurers.

Any claims made a year after the changeover means that the new insurer alone will deal with the claim.

Things to remember

If cracks suddenly appear, it does not necessarily mean there is a major problem.

Careful attention should be paid to the type, size and distance of any trees and shrubs from a property

While buildings insurance covers damage caused by subsidence, heave or landslip, there will normally be an excess which the policyholder will have to pay – you should check your policy to see what excess you have.

You should contact the buildings insurer as soon as you believe there is a problem. They are there to give help and guidance.

If you change insurer and a problem arises, there is an ABI Agreement that sets out which insurer will deal with the claim.

This article was published by the ABI