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advice please - "structural movement" and home insurers!

(16 Posts)
WeetzieBat Sun 14-Jul-13 16:45:16

In a nutshell - does structural movement mean the same as subsidence and would we need to declare this to insurers?

Long winded explanation - we are FTB in the process of buying a Victorian terrace. In the building survey we had done it states that there is evidence of structural movement (unsurprising, given the age of the property). Although the words "long-standing and non-progressive" (suggested by Direct Line as the phrase they needed to hear in order to offer insurance) are not used in the survey, it does say that there is nothing to indicate any recent movement has occurred and does not highlight anything other than historic movement and hairline cracks. (However, searches done by our solicitor suggest there is a moderate to high risk of natural ground subsidence - although this is quite normal for the area we are buying in and we aren't worried.)

With all this in mind, I'm totally unsure what to do about our home insurance! With the exception of Direct Line who specifically ask about subsidence AND structural movement, all other insurers i've spoken to seem to to only ask about evidence of subsidence. Our building survey didn't mention subsidence, only structural movement typical of a Victorian property - but in the interests of full disclosure I mentioned this structural movement to insurers I've called this week. As soon as I've mentioned structural movement to insurers almost all of them immediately said something along the lines of "computer says no to subsidence" even though subsidence is not mentioned in our building survey at all.

My DP says we should just take the questions at face value and unless they specifically mention "structural movement" in their questions we just say "no" to the subsidence question. But I'm really paranoid that this would come back to bite us on the bum - especially given the conversations and quotes I've had from insurers, surely I can't just ring back and go "forget about what I said before!!"?! A couple of insurers are willing to insure us based on the info I have given but the difference is £250 in cost to just the standard quote that I got not mentioning the structural movement.

Has anyone else faced a similar problem?

Spickle Sun 14-Jul-13 17:47:32

Hope someone comes along with more knowledgeable advice.

Has the house been underpinned? If the structural movement was significant, then underpinning would most likely have been done. If the house has not been underpinned, then I imagine the hairline cracks are indeed historic and nothing to worry about.

I believe all surveys now mention "evidence of structural movement" just to cover themselves. It doesn't mean the house has subsidence or heave, more like settlement (especially since there is a lot of clay soil around) and tbh most houses probably have this to some extent.

TheRealFellatio Sun 14-Jul-13 17:51:46

However insured the house at the time the structural movement was discovered and dealt with is duty bound to reinsure you, and they cannot refuse. Ask the current owners who their insurers are and go with them. Most other people will not want to touch it, or at least not for an affordable amount of money.

Most victorian or older houses had a bit of movement at some time - it's not as bad as it first sounds.

TheRealFellatio Sun 14-Jul-13 17:52:02

Whoever, not However!

WeetzieBat Sun 14-Jul-13 18:11:52

The house hasn't been underpinned.

It doesn't say how long ago the structural movement was detected - the house was built in 1895 so take your pick I guess!

littlecrystal Sun 14-Jul-13 21:42:40

My house only had "past movement" according to the survey but nevertheless regular high street insurers refused to insure. So I went with the previous owner's insurer, Halifax. Later I read that past movement and subsidence should be differentiated, but I am still with the same insurer - not sure how to go about it if I want to change.

Shattereddreams Sun 14-Jul-13 21:46:15

It could be bomb damage. It could be many things.

My end wall end of terrace bends about 6" outwards. There is no mention of subsidence with our house but survey says structural movement from many years ago.

What if you hadn't had a survey? You would have just insured the house. Stupid system if you ask me.

Just buy decent insurance! There is a lot of crap insurance about with low limits on things like alternative accommodation. So I would stop saying it has subsidence and buy decent insurance.

I pay £60 a month (greater london) which is a lot. But it's unlimited and I accept my Victorian terrace is far more likely to need it than a new build.

umpti67 Sun 14-Jul-13 21:54:57

We took over the previous insurance - but we do have a large excess on subsidence - £1000. I think we were advised to by the surveyor.

Jan49 Sun 14-Jul-13 23:05:19

Could you ring the surveyor and have a chat with him/her about it? It sounds like the survey report just mentions the usual thing that most survey reports will mention in an older house - signs of movement in the past, and no signs of a problem now. Assuming s/he confirms this, I think you could just get insurance quotations and say No to the question about subsidence. However, with the ones you've already mentioned subsidence to, maybe you'd need to explain that you misunderstood what the survey report said (and I bet they'll still hesitate). You could use the comparison websites, work out which company you want to insure with, and if it's one you have already told about subsidence then explain as above or if it isn't, just say No to the subsidence question. If you end up asking for a quote on the phone and having issues over the subsidence question, the person you're speaking to should have someone they can get to speak to you who will be more knowledgeable than the "computer says no" type of people.

If you didn't have a survey and you said there was no subsidence when there in fact was, and then claimed later for subsidence, I think the insurance company could refuse to pay because you've declared there's no subsidence and the problem actually started when the house was probably insured by another company.

I'm not sure where TheRealFellatio gets that information from but I think it's completely wrong. No insurer is obliged to insure you.

I'm really not sure about any of this but I think your best bet is to talk to your surveyor.

flow4 Mon 15-Jul-13 08:01:32

Who commissioned the survey? If it was the mortgage company, you have little control; but if it was you, you have more than most people realise: you can ask for a change to the wording to clearly distinguish between the different types of wording, and probably even to insert the words you need to satisfy insurers, providing they're true. It should be easy, if you haven't yet paid them, tho might be trickier if you have!

flow4 Mon 15-Jul-13 08:05:28

"you can ask for a change to the wording to clearly distinguish between the different types of wording movement"

MadeOfStarDust Mon 15-Jul-13 08:15:44

A house with any type of movement - even historic, will cost more to insure than one without..

£1000 is a standard excess on subsidence.

We had "roof spread" causing one wall to move a bit -
roof spread being "an intrinsic design fault in the house" is not covered under buildings insurance angry

Our insurance went up due to a structural weakness (even after it was fixed at great expense by us) - went to a broker for re-insurance and didn't cost us much more than a standard rate in the end.

LastButOneSplash Mon 15-Jul-13 08:59:17

I had this exact thing, was a huge pita.

We have structural movement, not subsidence. It's just a bit of extension settlement. I went through a brokers in the hope an expert would know how to deal with it. In the end they made it worse, as they weren't distinguishing either. I could only get huge quotes or quotes with exclusions. This was a coupe of days prior to completion with a solicitor asking for insurance details.

I got a specific surveyor's report, £200ish, so we'd have some clear evidence. Still didn't help with the broker's insurers as they were still being daft about the difference. Solicitor suggested using mortgage company's insurers as they must be happy to mortgage it. Was Santander so did the insurance online with the surveyor on the phone telling me exactly what to answer to the questions. They distinguish between subsidence and structural movement too. In the end was easy as he could tell me to answer no to subsidence.

Surveyor basically told me that all the insurers want is to shift the risk. So my surveyor's report shifts the risk from insurers to him. So I could clearly say no to the subsidence question on his advice. Making it totally back and white for insurers rather than muddy grey it was by me waffling on about structural movement/subsidence each time. From recollection I think the structural movement question had a time limit on and he could confirm it was outside of this. Was £200 well spent as was easy once he was onboard.

If you don't have subsidence you should be able to answer no and not muddy the waters. Insurers don't like muddy.

dueanamechange Mon 15-Jul-13 16:13:24

I would declare and then there is no chance your home insurance will be made void. The house we own had recent 'crack repair work' completed as an insurance claim when we bought our house, I didn't know anything about subsidence or house movement at the time, just thought 'old victorian house, of course it will have cracks'. Luckily we got a full structural survey which picked nothing up and submitted this to our current insurer, Halifax, and it was fine. It does mean that you cannot buy insurance online as you will have to raise it. We were lucky we didn't have to stay with the insurer the previous owner used, it would have been £500 more per year!

poocatcherchampion Mon 15-Jul-13 22:54:47

fellatio is right - the insurers who insured it when the problem was found are bound to continue to offer insurance. sorry jan.

WeetzieBat Tue 16-Jul-13 21:26:48

Thanks so much for all the advice. The surveyor was unwilling to re-word the report so we ended up declaring everything and as a result paying a little more than anticipated - but at least we know we'll be covered and no nasty surprises!

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