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Subsidence - come and tell me your experiences with buying, selling, insuring and correcting please

13 replies

IlanaK · 12/02/2010 16:27

We are in the process of buying a ground floor flat in a converted semi that was built around 1880 and is on London clay soil. The surveyor (full structural) has found some cracking at the front of the building that is current and is likely indicative of subsidence that is due to soil settlement or from two large trees near the road.

I have seen a copy of the building insurance (this is a leasehold flat so the insurance is in the freeholders name) and it covers subsidence. We have agreed with the managing agents to share in the cost of a report from a structural engineer (three way share with the two flats and us). We obviously won't exchange contracts until we see the report.

Now, I really want this flat and we do want to go ahead and complete the purchase on it. We are also aware that subsidence on London clay on old buildings is fairly common. And my understanding is that if the insurance covers any work that needs doing (underpinning or a tree barrier) then there is not much to worry about.

However, my over cautious f-i-l is telling us to run like the wind away from this.

So, tell me your stories with subsidence please. Help me see this from many views.

OP posts:
IlanaK · 12/02/2010 17:25


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maxpower · 12/02/2010 17:32

My parents have subsidence in their house. (they live within the M25). I don't know the full details but I do know that it can take ages. They had one lot of underpinning done which took a few months from inital surevy to completion. They are refurbishing it and because of the underpinning, they had to leave it all the settle for about a year. They resumed work on it, only to find that the house was subsiding again. That was about 6 months ago and they're still waiting for the second lot of underpinning to be done.

IlanaK · 12/02/2010 18:35

Thanks. I just found an interesting link that seems to say that underpinning should be a last resort for all sorts of reasons. So hopefully it won't need that.

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lalalonglegs · 12/02/2010 18:45

It's really common, especially in bay windows, in London. A surveyor once told me that a good way round it is to convert the cellar (if there is one) because that will mean massive underpinning but it won't be because of subsidence so you won't be slapped with huge insurance premiums ever afterwards.

It is one of those scary words but there are lots of different grades of subsidence and some will never develop (or at least not in your lifetime)- it's kind of like the word "tumour", sometimes it means something very serious and sometimes it is nothing more than something that shouldn't be there but isn't actually doing any harm. Insurers always get knickers in a twist though.

IlanaK · 12/02/2010 18:52

This is not on the bay window side of the building. And as far as I know, there is no cellar. I am not scared of the word really, but wondered what others had experienced.

Surely, if the insurance covers it, they can't stop covering it? Is it the premiums that go up?

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IlanaK · 12/02/2010 20:19

bumping for the evening crowd

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toja555 · 13/02/2010 11:14

My story. We recently bought a house with the past subsidence. Our floors and our stairs are slightly out of the level, and this was the only con of the house. It did take long for us to consider whether to pull out or not, well eventually we decided to carry on with the purchase. I was calmed down by the words "past subsidence that is unlikely to appear again", that there were no major subsidence triggers (no large trees, no slope on the street whatsoever) and the insurance quote was of normal amount. However, I had difficulties to insure. Most of insurers refused to insure, especially afraid of the combination past subsidence + bay window + conservatory. I went with the previous owner's insurer and I got very reasonable quote.
I can see some potential issues when I am about to sell but I believe that there are loads of houses in London with subsidence - and they still get bought and sold - have you ever seen any house collapsed because of it?
My friend's story is not that cheerful though. 6 months after he bought a house he decided to have some double glazing done. The surveyors came and pointed out present subsidence (which was not noticed when he bought the house). The reason looks like it was caused by a large tree next to the house, which was uprooted, however now the house will be monitored for a year during which he cannot install double glazing, and obviously would have issues if he would want to sell.
I cannot advice you really. If it is a current issue you need to know what is the remedy before you buy. If it can be fixed and insurance afterwards will be reasonable, I think you could go ahead with the purchase.

IlanaK · 13/02/2010 12:05

Thanks for that. There is a structural engineer going in today to do a report which we should have by Tuesday so that will tell us more. We don't need to change insurers as it is a leasehold flat insured already through the freeholder - we jut pay towards the premium. Resale would be more my concern.

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CMOTdibbler · 13/02/2010 21:42

Dh is a subsidence insurance expert, and says that huge areas of London are very susceptible to subsidence. Not a problem, the insurers will continue to insure it, but you do need to be vigilant about trees in the area - don't plant new shrubs or trees, even bushes, and take advice on existing trees as to maintaining height etc, and never cut one down or reduce it's height without proper advice.

Innat · 14/02/2010 21:23

Hi we just bought a house with a history of subsidence.

It is in a nice area of town and has a much lower price than other houses on the street to reflect the problem. we were happy enough to take the risk (which in our opinion is quite small) as we would not be able to afford to live in that area otherwise.

we have carried on the previous owner's insurance but have had some trouble with getting them to correct some work that was done under a previous claim that was not doen properly although hopefully it is going to get sorted now.

we were/are slightly apprehensive about resale but decided in the end that we want to live there for a long time (hopefully next 10 years or so) and we know it will be cheaper than other houses but hopefully this means there will be more people willing to buy it. we are also doing a major renovation of the property which should make it more attractive.

garden · 17/02/2010 21:54

hi- we bought a house with subsidence history caused by a leaking pipe. had to continue with insurance owners had as no one else would take us on- it is more expensive (about £200 per year more)but we love our house and have had no probs.
good luck and don't be scared, just get as many facts as you can before making a decision.

mummygogo · 19/02/2010 19:38

wasn't there a post on here recently about someone trying to renew there house insurance and the insurers were reluctant to renew? I think the issue was the policy had lapsed and because of this the insurers tried to avoid renewing. Have a look through the history.

Not a scare story but just something to be aware of (i.e. dont let the policy lapse)

Pannacotta · 19/02/2010 20:35

We also bought a house with subsidence and took on the previous owner's claim/insurance, again as no one else woudl insure us.
My main bugbear is that a new shower room was put in under this claim as the old one had been damaged during the subsidence, and the work was done badly and we now have a leaky shower which the insurance co refuses to pay to correct.

If we have any subsequent problems with subsidence we will have to pay a huge premium somthing like 5K I think...
Not great.

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