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This is a word that usually strikes fear into the hearts of sellers and purchasers. Thankfully, over recent years the number of subsidence cases in this locality has fallen due to the wetter climate. However, the extreme conditions over the last few years (long dry spells, and prolonged wet weather) has resulted in an increased prospect that subsidence claims may start to increase again.

In this region the sub-soil is principally clay, which is susceptible to shrinkage particularly during long, dry periods. For that reason it is advisable to restrict the growth of trees or dense shrubbery near a building as the roots can withdraw a surprisingly large amount of moisture from the sub-soil each day. When we have plenty of rain this is not usually a problem, but drier than average autumns and winters can cause the sub-soil to shrink, resulting in a loss of support to the foundations. Although subsidence repairs can be expensive, in most cases the cost will be covered by the buildings insurance policy.

The existence of a subsidence problem may only come to light when a property is being sold and the purchasers Surveyor finds evidence of cracks and structural movement. Often this can cause the sale to fall through, as mortgage lenders are hesitant to make a decision whether to lend (and buyers are hesitant to buy) until further investigations or monitoring have been completed.

However, it must also be remembered that cracks can occur in buildings for other reasons such as thermal expansion and settlement, which are not usually of such concern. Similarly, not every case of subsidence results in the foundations being underpinned. It may be possible to remove dense shrubbery or cut back trees to reduce the amount of moisture being withdrawn from the soil, to stabilise the situation.

If you are thinking of selling your property, it could be prudent to arrange for a Pre-Sale Survey by a Chartered Surveyor to check if there are any major structural problems or other defects that need to be dealt with before the property is marketed. This can help to avoid problems when you find a purchaser and increase the chances of the transaction going through.

For further information and advice please contact McNeill Lowe & Palmer, Chartered Surveyors

Peter McNeill

Peter McNeill

Peter McNeill is a residential Surveyor specialising in pre-acquisition survey and party wall work. He jointly founded the company in 2002.

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Tags residential subsidence

Category Residential