THE SURROUNDING AREA IN TERMS OF SUBSIDENCE
If your insurer asks you if there’s any history of subsidence in the surrounding area, you may have difficulty in answering.
Although you shouldn’t have to answer any questions that require specialist knowledge, if a question like this does come up, you need to ask the insurer for clarification.
The surrounding area is not a specific unit of measurement, so could in effect extend for a radius of several miles. Typically, such a question might refer to neighbouring houses because, if you’re aware that a neighbour’s house has undergone subsidence, you’re required to disclose this, if asked.
High risk areas
If you live in an area that is particularly at risk from subsidence, most insurers will already know about this. High risk areas include regions with a high proportion of clay in ground soils, such as the south east. Clay soils are more likely to be subject to subsidence issues than other types because they are prone to greater amounts of shrinkage during extended periods of heat and drought. When you first buy your house, you should always carry out checks about the property’s subsidence history and discern whether other nearby homes have had recent problems. Houses built upon clay soils are more susceptible to subsidence that can be exacerbated by the presence of trees.
An insurer is likely to ask you about any trees located near your property as, depending on the type of tree and the distance it is planted from the building, this information could be relevant to determining the risk of your case.
Most trees have a minimum safe distance that they should be planted beyond in order to minimise the chances of them causing (or accelerating) subsidence. You should always bear this in mind when planting new trees. A large tree that has been within the safe distance for many years (and perhaps even pre-dates the property itself) will not necessarily constitute a threat, but will still need to be disclosed on your insurance application.
The ‘surrounding area’ and mines
The definition of the ‘surrounding area’ changes considerably when it comes to mining. Because mining works are unlikely to be immediately visible until something goes wrong and a sink/pot-hole appears mysteriously out of nowhere, it is vital that you take steps to research the mining history of the land around your property. Because mines that closed over a century ago may never have been officially documented, there is a small chance that a mining check may not reveal that one is lying directly beneath your home.
In general, mining checks are a must if there is any history of mining in your region. This is something you should do for your own benefit, but if something is revealed then you need to let your insurer know. Since mine networks can span great distances underneath the ground, this could dramatically alter the definition of ‘surrounding area’.