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Heat Wave Hits: Rising Temperatures and Subsidence Events

Rising heat has hit the UK and not just in the summer months.

Over the last two decades, the UK has seen its top ten warmest years. In July 2019, the UK recorded its highest temperature ever, 38.7 degrees in Cambridge. That is, until this summer, when on Tuesday, July 19, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a provisional reading of 40.2 degrees. On this same day, aircraft were grounded at London’s Luton Airport after the runway was forced closed due to heat damage.

With temperatures on the rise, the UK’s unprecedented heatwave has had a domino effect across many of the nation’s industries, as infrastructure and systems grapple with the impacts of temperatures they were not built to sustain.

While the temperature may be at an all-time high, this summer isn’t the first time the UK has been hit with the challenges of an unprecedented heatwave. In 2018, rising temperatures coupled with low rainfall saw a surge in subsidence events, as the ground too decided to melt away. This year, the UK is recording similar weather trends with little to no rain forecasted for the remaining summer months and soil that is comparably dry to 2018.

Insurance premiums for domestic subsidence events peaked quickly following the summer of 2018. Although, as shocking as it may be to hear that the ground is quite literally caving in, subsidence events are not a new phenomenon in the UK – sinking driveways and slumping buildings included.

Summer heatwaves and near-drought conditions are not the only catalysts to subsidence events. Roots from mature trees that are less than 10m from your insured’s home and leaking drains that soften the soil under foundations are two common causes that are often then exasperated by rising temperatures. Changes in soil and root formation are not as easy to monitor as impending heatwaves, yet combined, they present a suite of consequences to policyholders including uncertainties around policy inclusions.

Subsidence is a costly and time-consuming problem, and subsidence claims by their nature take longer to settle. Generally, ground movement takes around nine to 12 months to stabilise for tree root-related claims but can be up to two years or more. Repairs and recommendations cannot go ahead while the ground is still moving, and investigations and mitigation must come first.

To allow for time-consuming and preventive measures to take place, there are two top things you should discuss with your insured when first engaging in subsidence cover.

1. The signs of subsidence to look out for, as well as how they can report early signs – early notification or pre-emptive checks are key to ensure that ground movement can be stabilised swiftly. Signs of subsidence to look out for include:

    • Diagonal cracking, tapering in width, wider at the top
    • Cracking usually located around window & door openings/weakness in the structure
    • Cracks extending down to the ground level
    • Rucking of wallpaper in corners
    • Sticking doors and windows
    • Distortions to window and door frames
    • Rotational cracking at junctions of added structures, extensions
    • Seasonal opening and closing of cracks

2. Common areas for subsidence events. Educating policyholders who live in key subsidence areas of the risks at hand will help ensure they remain particularly vigilant of any early signs of subsidence. Based on previous subsidence events, we know common areas that are susceptible to this phenomenon include:

    • London
    • South East
    • South West
    • East Midlands
    • Yorkshire
    • Humberside

At Gallagher Bassett, our team is experienced in claims management during subsidence events. Plus, we have the technology to capture and inspect potential damage before it’s too late.

Ensuring that policyholders are well versed in the early signs of subsidence will help prevent a bottleneck of claims during seasons that historically see a surge in subsidence events.

Is your team ready to manage a surge in subsidence claims? Connect with our team today to find out how we can stabilise the impact you will feel if subsidence occurs. 

Nic Sproul

Director Property

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