There were some sunny intervals during the summer of 2022, especially in the South East of the UK, where the expensive properties are located. That means more cases of subsidence and heave, as Allianz are reporting;
Allianz Commercial recorded a significant surge in subsidence claims in September, with volumes 140% higher than the same month last year. Parched clay soils are the main contributing factor, and summer 2022 was one of the hottest and driest seasons that England has experienced since Met Office records began. The second cause of subsidence is drain or sewer leaks which wash out granular soils.
Rebecca Rogers, head of property claims at Allianz Commercial, comments: “Subsidence is different from other perils in that claims require more time and expertise to resolve. Investigations are often complex, involving many parties, but they are crucial in establishing the cause of the damage to then remove it, stabilise the building and finally repair the property. Since the whole process can be time-consuming, early notification is crucial.”
Where nearby trees and shrubs have caused root-induced clay shrinkage, then vegetation mitigation will allow the soil to hydrate and swell, and the building to stabilise. The cracks will often close as the foundation comes back up, but this will need to be confirmed by a period of monitoring.
Many trees are planted close to properties for sound deadening in urban areas, or to prettify the street. But then nature takes its course and 20 years later you have roots burrowing their way into foundations.
Where an escape of water has caused the damage, then fixing the defective drains or water main will allow the building to stabilise. Again, the building may need to be monitored to confirm stability. Only once the property has stabilised can superstructure repairs be undertaken. The specialist loss adjuster will advise on the most suitable repair to return the structural integrity of the building. After crack repairs, the affected area can be redecorated.
While tree or drainage mitigation can resolve the majority of subsidence claims, approximately 5% of cases are more severe and require an engineered solution such as underpinning. This is where the building foundation is improved to overcome the subsidence affecting the property.
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