How the dry summer of 2022 racked up record sinking claims

A record number of homeowners are expected to file subsidence claims with insurers this year.

Experts say the hot, dry summer means thousands more homes are likely to be affected by problems caused by subsidence.

This year is likely to surpass the record total of 2018, when 23,000 claims worth £145m were made.

The total number of sinkhole insurance claims this year is likely to surpass the record set in 2018, when 23,000 claims were made for a £145m bill.

Insurance giant LV= saw a 205 percent increase in claims between June and July, while other companies report cases have increased fivefold.

Subsidence instills fear in many homeowners. Most cases are due to the soil drying out during long periods without rain.

Subsidence can reduce a property’s value by up to 20 percent. Lenders often refuse to offer a mortgage until it has been settled.

Most home insurance policies will cover subsidence, but companies will ask new customers if it has been a problem in the past. If there have been problems, some insurers will deny coverage.

Other companies may charge higher premiums to cover these houses or apply larger additional charges of around £1,000 for houses with a history of subsidence.

Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath a building subsides and the property’s foundation collapses with it.

Telltale signs include diagonal cracks around window and door frames, as well as sloping floors. Homes built on clay soils are at particular risk because clay expands in wet weather and contracts when conditions dry out again.

These soils are prevalent in London and the South East, where houses are most frequently affected.

England recorded its driest July since 1935 this year and insurers are responding to a deluge of inquiries.

Last month, claims adjuster Sedgwick reported a 480% year-on-year increase in the number of sinkhole claims in the UK. The experts are the professionals in charge of evaluating the cost of the damages.

Causes: Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath a building subsides and the property’s foundation collapses with it.

James Preston, the firm’s technical director, says: ‘The extremely dry weather we’ve had this year has left very little moisture on the ground.’

Insurance claims negotiator Jeremy Rollinson of Salmon Assessors says the number of sinking claims has doubled since the summer. “Claims have skyrocketed since the long dry spell and extreme heat we had,” he says.

Richard Hazelgrove is alarmed by the cracks that have appeared in his townhouse in Fareham, Hampshire, since the summer.

‘Everywhere you look there are cracks, it’s really worrying.

“They are around all the windows in the house and most of the doors don’t close properly, including the ones to our patio,” says the 64-year-old.

The cracks had appeared on both the inside and outside of the house over the summer, Richard says, but they continued to widen after recent storms and are now between 5 and 6mm wide.

Richard contacted his insurance company because he believes his house is built on clay soil and needs shoring, but has yet to receive a response.

Cracks can appear quickly, but no repair work can begin until the root cause of the subsidence is identified. That can take at least six months to fully investigate and diagnose, Rollinson warns.

Heat wave: people cool off in the sea in Brighton in July.  Experts say the hot, dry summer means thousands more homes are likely to be affected by problems caused by subsidence.

Heat wave: people cool off in the sea in Brighton in July. Experts say the hot, dry summer means thousands more homes are likely to be affected by problems caused by subsidence.

‘You have to use lasers to monitor which way the property is sinking over time. Only then can it be stabilized.

“After that, we recommend an additional five to six month wait to make sure it’s done correctly before any repair work is done inside the home.”

Tree roots are a common cause, as they tend to draw moisture from the soil under a home.

Leaks from drains or main water pipes are another: they will soften the soil or wash it away.

Victorian and Edwardian properties are also more at risk of sinking because their foundations are shallower than more modern buildings.

According to Mr Preston of Sedgwick, around 35 per cent of sinkhole claims made at this time of year will be rejected.

One of the most common excuses insurers will use to deny a claim is that something else caused the damage, such as wear and tear or poor construction.

Disputes can also arise if a slump is discovered soon after the homeowner has switched to a new homeowners insurance policy.

Rise: Insurance giant LV= saw claims jump 205% between June and July, while other companies report cases quintupling

Rise: Insurance giant LV= saw claims jump 205% between June and July, while other companies report cases quintupling

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) trade body has an agreement designed to resolve this. For example, if the sag is found less than eight weeks after someone switched providers, it is the old company that will handle the claim.

Both insurers will share the cost if a claim is made between eight weeks and one year on a new policy. But some cases drag on for years as a result of disputes between companies.

Roger Flaxman, of insurance claims defense firm Flaxman Partners, says: ‘These cases can be similar to flood claims in that they can be complex, take a long time to resolve and the most extreme claims can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. pounds.

“I had a case where a property had to be demolished 14 years after the claim was first filed because the insurers spent too much time discussing what to do with the case.”

Kate Pomfret, a consulting manager, has spent the last five years in a dispute with Direct Line over a sag claim.

The insurer now agrees that some rooms in his four-bed semi-detached house in Birkenhead, Merseyside, are affected by the subsidence, but says others are not.

At one point, a Direct Line-appointed loss adjuster dismissed the cracks in his living room as he claimed they had been caused by “vigorous activity” in the upstairs bedroom.

Kate, 46, says: “It’s been an incredibly stressful few years and I just want this whole saga to be resolved.”

After Money Mail contacted Direct Line, they arranged for the loss adjuster’s technical director to visit Kate’s home.

An ABI spokesperson says: “If a client suspects that their house has collapsed, it is crucial that they contact their insurer as soon as possible.”

j.beard@dailymail.co.uk

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