Legal Q&A:how can I persuade my insurers to stop my subsidence?

My insurers have been monitoring my home for subsidence for three years. A tree has been removed but no other action has been taken and more cracks are appearing. What can I do?

Question: For more than three years my home has been monitored by my insurers for subsidence — the house is apparently still moving. Apart from visiting every couple of months to measure the cracks, the only action taken has been to remove a tree from a neighbour’s property and to check that neither the water supply nor the drains had been leaking. Both were okay.

As more and more cracks are appearing, I would like to know if there are any guidelines as to how long the house should be monitored before decisive action is taken to sort out the problem, and whether underpinning should be an option. The insurers seem to be against this.

Answer: The building should be monitored to establish the cause and extent of ongoing movement and to decide on any remedial works that might be required. These investigations can take a significant period of time, which can generally mean up to a year or so. In view of the time that has elapsed, speak to your insurers to establish how much longer the monitoring is to continue and request a management plan which includes a timescale.

It is important to resolve the situation because if you wish to sell your property at some stage, you will have to disclose the subsidence and any insurance claim made in connection with it which may affect the ability of any buyer to obtain mortgage funding. Future insurance can be more expensive although this is not always the case, provided the situation has been resolved satisfactorily.

If you are unhappy with the progress you could instruct your own independent surveyor or structural engineer to inspect your property and to advise on whether there is subsidence and the necessity for underpinning. Such a report could be useful when you are liaising with your insurers.


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.


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