subsidence in private rented property

Last year’s sweltering summer saw soaring subsidence claims, with several insurers reporting that subsidence incidents were up 20 per cent. With some commentators predicting another scorcher in 2019, we consider the issues surrounding subsidence and what landlords can do to maintain and prevent their property being affected.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is caused when the earth below a building or structure moves downwards. This movement results in a reduction in structural support and causes instability underneath the property’s foundations. As a result, the property sinks, which can be extremely challenging to rectify.

Many people are concerned about the possibility of subsidence as it can be problematic, timely and costly to resolve. Early identification and awareness is the best way for landlords to avoid extensive property damage. In addition, protecting yourself from the outset with a comprehensive landlord insurance policy is vitally important to ensure that you are not left out of pocket should the worst happen.

What are the causes of subsidence?

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to subsidence, all of which could impact your property.

These include:

  • Shrinkage of clay soils in warm weather – more common with increasingly hot summers
  • Vegetation growing close to a property – roots can grow under foundations and disrupt them by drawing out moisture from the soil
  • Leaking drainage – this can result in soil being washed away
  • Soil erosion – whilst natural soil decomposition can lead to a reduction in volume and therefore structural instability

Subsidence warning signs that you shouldn’t ignore

Typical warning signs of subsidence include:

  • Diagonal cracks that increase in width the further they are away from the ground
  • Cracks are visible both internally and externally in the property
  • Cracks are normally at least 3mm wide and can be as thick as a 10p coin
  • Cracks are visible in brickwork and plasterwork surrounding doors and windows; they can also become misshapen

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is important that you notify your insurer immediately. They will then be able to best advise you on the next course of action. In many cases a surveyor will be dispatched to your property to identify the extent of the issue and to identify the cause of subsidence. Issues surrounding subsidence can require careful monitoring over extended periods of time and often require specialist support to rectify.  As a result of this insurance claims related to subsidence can take longer to resolve depending on the severity of damage and so early identification and prevention are the best line of defence for your property.

How to prevent subsidence in your property

In order to prevent subsidence there are a number of measures you can take, including:

  • Avoid planting vegetation close to the property or outbuildings. Don’t forget to also be mindful of neighbouring properties
  • If your property is situated close to a mature established tree it is a good idea to seek expert advice from a tree specialist or surveyor to monitor and manage its growth and impact on your property. In some cases the tree may need to be removed.
  • Regularly prune trees and shrubs on your property to reduce how much water is being absorbed
  • Leaking or blocked drains, pipes and guttering pose a significant problem to a property. Regular maintenance of all these factors can help to prevent subsidence
  • Always make sure to carry out regular inspections of your rental property to identify and rectify any problems in the property as soon as possible

“As a landlord, ensuring the structural safety of your property should be one of your biggest priorities and protecting your property from subsidence is no exception. Subsidence can be extremely costly for landlords and as the famous saying goes, prevention is always better than cure.

A comprehensive landlord insurance policy is a must for landlords and can not only provide you with the knowledge to identify any subsidence warning signs in your property, but also rectify any issues before they escalate. NLA Property Insurance recognises that serious issues with your property, such as subsidence, can be extremely worrying for landlords. Our superior policy benefits include subsidence cover as standard, so you can rest assured that you are protected should you experience subsidence in your rental property.”

Steve Barnes, NLA Property Insurance


Sign up to the newsletter

Like this article? Sign up to our free mailing list and join 38,000 landlords who trust us to deliver licensing and legislation updates, thought provoking news pieces, and practical property advice straight to their inbox.

9 May 2019 - 3:07pm

Join the NLA

The NLA is the UK's leading association providing support for private residential landlords, serving over 40,000 members nationwide. New landlords join the NLA for advice, information and guidance and to keep up-to-date with fast changing laws and regulations.

Join today and receive instant access to a wide range of key landlord services, award-winning resources and exclusive supplier discounts.

Become a member