Subsidence occurs when the ground under your property sinks or drops. It is one of the most serious problems for homeowners as the foundations of your home can become unbalanced and lead to damage. It is important to consider subsidence risk when buying property as it can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage.
What are the risk factors?
Subsidence can be directly linked to an unusually wet winter followed by a particularly dry summer. It usually happens when the ground loses moisture and shrinks due to long periods of dry weather. If you live somewhere that is prone to drought then the dry soil can increase the likelihood of subsidence. In recent years, subsidence claims have been rising as extreme weather has caused more heatwaves, storms and flooding.
Trees or shrubs planted too close to your property can also increase the risk. Estimates suggest that around 70% of all subsidence cases are a result of tree roots absorbing all the moisture out of the soil.
Clay will absorb moisture and expand but then shrink, crack and shift when it is hot and dry. Areas built on highly absorbent clay soil, such as much of North London, Surrey and the South East of England are particularly at risk.
Age and Construction
If you live in an older period property, then your foundations may be shallower than new builds. Similarly, if the foundations are not done properly during construction, then this can also make your property more susceptible to subsidence.
If your house is near a former quarry or pit, then the ground around could be unstable. If mining activity occurs nearby, then this can also have an impact on subsidence risk. You may be able to claim for subsidence damage caused by coal mining.
A RICS building survey gives buyers the ultimate peace of mind in knowing a property’s history and susceptibility to subsidence. Purchasing a property without a professional building survey can expose buyers to the serious and expensive consequences of subsidence. If historical subsidence is found, then it is common practice to renegotiate the buying price in proportion to the cost of repair. At Chawton Hill, we are also able to help rectify issues linked to subsidence, using our strong network of contractors and specialists.
If previous subsidence repairs have been carried out, then the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will ensure that suitable warranties are in place and that the property is insurable.
If you have any questions or would like to arrange a building survey on your next home please contact us.