Subsidence Management Ltd » F A Q’s

F A Q’s

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 my building?

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 very useful.

How long will it take to resolve my subsidence damage?

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 work?

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.

Subsidence Management Limited