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Possible subsidence, about to change insurance - claim now? claim later? don't claim at all?

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I'm looking for some wise advice from those more experienced than I with insurance and subsidence claims.

 

Our house (circa 1890 semi-detached) is on a small slope and had some evidence of small "historical" movements when we bought it 20 years ago. Very little has changed since, and a structural engineer didn't mention subsidence in an inspection 4 years ago. However, it seems the neighbour's house has developed cracks near the party wall in the last few years, and they seem to suspect OUR house is to blame as we are further down the (small) incline. They say they have inspection reports from the last 6 months, but we haven't seen anything yet.

 

To complicate matters slightly, we are changing from our current landlord's insurance policy to a homeowner's policy in a couple weeks, as we will be moving into the house ourselves.

 

We are worried about

1) raising the issue of subsidence on our current landlord's policy, as this might make our new (already agreed and paid for) homeowner's insurance invalid.

2) waiting until we move in to raise the topic, as our new insurance might balk at a subsidence claim if we make it shortly after the policy starts.

3) being stuck in a no-man's zone between the two policies, with neither willing to cover...if indeed there is subsidence.

4)the neighbours will take some sort of legal action and find a structural engineer that will pin all blame on us.

 

Both our policies are with the same company, which will hopefully help.

 

We don't even know if there is subsidence of course, but it does seem possible. Any advice from those who know more about how insurance companies would treat such things would be most appreciated.

 

What is the best course of action?

1) Raise the issue immediately?

2) Raise it later?

3) Do our own inspection first and only then contact the company? (this will likely push us into the new policy period)

 

Thanks in advance for any information or advice!

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There is no current evidence of subsidence. The cracks could be caused by a number of issues.

 

First thing to do is ask neighbours for the inspection reports, to see what they say about the party wall. Are they structural engineers reports ? If they are just a basic survey, then I doubt any surveyor has stated that there is definitely a subsidence problem. If they are a standard surveyors report suggesting possible subsidence, then obtain a structural engineers report. Because Insurance has a subsidence excess of £1000 plus, you would always pay for such reports anyway.

 

Once you have more information, then you should speak to the current Insurance underwriters. They will probably be able to continue Insurance for a standard homeowners policy and deal with any subsidence claim under any new homeowners policy you arranged with them. If the neigbours had the same Insurance underwriters, then this will make it easier in regard to any work that is required to fix the problem.

 

Don't change Insurance before you find out whether this a subsidence issue or not. You will end up having problems, with new Insurers not accepting any claim and your old Insurers also not helping as the policy was cancelled. Best to resolve whether this is a subs issue or not and retain Insurance with current underwriter in the meantime.


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Thanks Uncle Bulgaria.

 

It's a bit tricky, as we will be *required* to change insurance when we move into the house in two weeks (currently it's landlord insurance, we'll need homeowner's insurance). We are using the same company, but perhaps should double check the underwriter is also the same.

 

Given that we haven't seen any reports or been officially informed of any subsidence on the neighbour's side, and we have a structural inspection report from 2014 that doesn't mention subsidence on our side, it seems like we're asking for trouble if we raise it now, no?

 

Once we move in, we would of course do a proper inspection of the house, including structural engineer if there's any suspicion of subsidence or other movement, but if we did it now and it discovered a problem, wouldn't that make our new application invalid?

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

There is no current evidence of subsidence. The cracks could be caused by a number of issues.

 

First thing to do is ask neighbours for the inspection reports, to see what they say about the party wall. Are they structural engineers reports ? If they are just a basic survey, then I doubt any surveyor has stated that there is definitely a subsidence problem. If they are a standard surveyors report suggesting possible subsidence, then obtain a structural engineers report. Because Insurance has a subsidence excess of £1000 plus, you would always pay for such reports anyway.

 

Once you have more information, then you should speak to the current Insurance underwriters. They will probably be able to continue Insurance for a standard homeowners policy and deal with any subsidence claim under any new homeowners policy you arranged with them. If the neigbours had the same Insurance underwriters, then this will make it easier in regard to any work that is required to fix the problem.

 

Don't change Insurance before you find out whether this a subsidence issue or not. You will end up having problems, with new Insurers not accepting any claim and your old Insurers also not helping as the policy was cancelled. Best to resolve whether this is a subs issue or not and retain Insurance with current underwriter in the meantime.

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Needs to be the same underwriter and not just the same broker. This is about continuity of Insurance cover, with the same underwriters, so you can claim for any subsidence issue, if one exists.

 

Most landlord underwriters, will also underwrite homeowners policies. Find out the underwriter and ask them.

 

Ok lets just imagine that the cracks become a major issue, after you have moved into the house, because the neighbour is on a mission. The Insurers send out a loss assessor and the neighbour tells them you knew about the issue. You might think this is one persons word against another persons. But are you willing to take the risk ? Insurers will appoint a company if they have any concerns to question you very closely. It will be very difficult, not to admit that you had some prior knowledge. If you have changed underwriter, you face a nightmare situation. Even with the same underwriter, they might say you failed to advise them when you were first aware. But then you can argue about the 2014 report and no evidence of any subsidence issue.

 

My advice having seen claimants come a cropper in this situation, is to approach it safety first.

 

Priority

 

1) retain buildings cover with the same underwriter so you have continuity of cover.

 

2) speak to the neighbours about the reports and current condition of the party wall they spoke about.

 

3) Depending on what you find out, obtain a structural engineers report.

 

 

You really have to think about the worst case possible, where major underpinning works are required, meaning you need to also claim for alternative accommodation costs. Such claims can run into many tens of thousands. Ok, it might not be as bad as this, but this is the largest possible risk you could face.


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