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2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole, and the hottest ever for England, according to the Met Office.

Whilst most were enjoying endless days of blue skies, around 10,000 homes made insurance claims during July, August and September after the intense heat lead to subsidence. This was an unprecedented figure & only just short of the total of 12,000 claims made for subsidence throughout 2017 as a whole.

The simple explanation is that heat reduces the moisture in soil, causing it to shrink. Buildings then subside or move downwards, causing cracks. Properties built on clay which is particularly shrinkable or those with shallow foundations are more susceptible to subsidence.

This is of particular interest to us as many of our RICS Building Surveys are undertaken in the south-east of England which is built on the type of clay soil prone to drying out. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) report that subsidence claims worth £64m were made for the third quarter of 2018 when the effects of the heat were taking hold.

“Thousands of people across the UK are now suffering because we experienced such an unprecedented period of dryness this summer,” said Laura Hughes, the ABI’s Senior Policy Adviser for Property Insurers.

“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.”

Whilst the shorts and sandals are now tucked away at the back of the wardrobe, cracks can sometimes take time to develop as ground conditions change and moisture levels vary, so it’s good practice to take a look around your house whether you are a homeowner or landlord. If you notice cracks developing it’s important to contact insurer and report any issues immediately.

And if you are planning to buy a house, be sure to get a comprehensive Building Survey undertaken, particularly if it is situated in a high-risk area or position.

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