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Insurance claims for subsidence ‘quadrupled’ during summer heatwave

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Insurance claims for subsidence damage hit levels not seen since 2006 this summer because of the heatwave conditions, according to industry figures.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said compensation for things like cracked doors, walls and windows almost quadrupled in July, August and September compared to the same period last year.

It reported claims worth £64m submitted by more than 10,000 households during the third quarter – the most since the heatwave of 2006.

Subsidence is a regular feature of sizzling weather as soils shrink back because of a lack of moisture.

Ground containing heavy concentrations of clay is often the worst affected as shifts put stress on windows, pipework and even foundations.

Signs of stress can include doors and windows failing to open and the sudden appearance of, often, diagonal cracks.

The Met Office reported in September that England had enjoyed its hottest summer on record – with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland seeing near-record conditions.

The map illustrates the risk of subsidence in an average summer compared to one that is hotter than average. Source: Crawford Report: Subsidence - The  Silent Surge
Image:
The map shows which areas of the country are more prone to subsidence risks in a warmer summer. Pic: Crawford Report: Subsidence – The Silent Surge

The surge in claims followed a record number for burst pipes during the cold snaps of February and March.

It resulted in £194m being paid out to cover the cost of repairs and damage – with the industry facing a growing bill in recent years following weather extremes, most recently from flooding.

The ABI said the south east of England was particularly badly affected by summer subsidence and, in some cases, homes may have needed to be evacuated while damage was assessed.

Its senior policy adviser for property, Laura Hughes, said: “Insurers understand that this is a stressful time for affected homeowners and are providing widespread support to help with repairs.

“Our advice is don’t panic if you spot a crack in your home – there are many other reasons why these may have occurred.

“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.”

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