Subsidence describes the effects of the movement of a property’s foundations and is among the most serious issues which can affect buildings. It can cost upwards of tens of £1,000s to remedy and if left untreated leaves open the possibility of a building falling apart and lethal accidents occurring.

There are 4 chief factors which increase the likelihood of subsidence, both alone and in combination; these are:

  • Tree roots (these are the most serious culprits);
  • shallow foundations;
  • clay sub-soil; and
  • dry weather

If you see a crack that looks larger than the width of a 50p coin then your suspicions should be raised. It’s worth finding out definitively whether your dwelling is affected by subsidence because it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to secure a mortgage from a lender if it does.

Here are the 3 things you can do to if you want to investigate whether your property has subsidence, ranging from the relatively inexpensive to the most expensive, but the most authoritative approach.

  1. Book a Subsidence Report

This report costs around £20 and will identify if the type of soil that your property is built on and the area around your property is at risk of subsidence. It won’t tell you if you definitely have subsidence but will indicate if the land your property is built on is at a higher risk of the problem.

If you were looking to buy a property, your conveyancing solicitor would advise you to get a subsidence report if:

  • your suspicions of subsidence are mild; and/or
  • you want to know whether the type of soil under your property is rated at high or low risk of the problem.

You would not be advised to get a subsidence report if:

  • someone qualified in the subject has raised suspicion about your property having subsidence; and/or
  • you have cracks that are expanding and the cracks are 3mm wide or larger.
  1. Book a RICS Survey

You’d normally book a RICS Home Buyers Survey, whether a Building Survey or a HomeBuyers Report, when you’re looking to buy a property. One of the reasons that you’re always advised to book a survey when thinking of buying a particular home is that your surveyor is particularly looking for suspicions of issues like subsidence.

Additionally, they’ve normally looked at 100s of houses and so will have a fair idea about whether the condition is present. They are also indemnified so if subsidence is subsequently discovered and they didn’t – but should have – spotted it, you can claim the entire cost of remedy from them. If they have serious suspicions of subsidence, they’ll normally recommend an inspection by a structural engineer.

  1. Book a Structural Engineer

A structural engineer can give you the most definitive answer as to whether your property has subsidence. If they decide that it has, they can advise on fixing the problem.

Depending on the particular case, a structural engineer can carry out either a non-intrusive inspection or an intrusive one; the choice here depends on how strong your suspicions of subsidence are. The intrusive inspection should be carried out if you feel there are clear and definite signs of the problem.

Non-Intrusive Subsidence inspection

This inspection can cost anything from £600 upwards. A structural engineer will attend the property and they will conduct a non- intrusive assessment providing an opinion as to whether there are any signs of subsidence, or if they have any suspicions that there may be subsidence.

If you:

  • have not yet been advised by a qualified person that there is a suspicion of subsidence at the property; and
  • have ‘hair line’ cracks or if there is a crack 3mm or wider,

You would be advised to book this inspection.

However, you would not be advised to book this inspection if you:

  • have been advised by a qualified person that there is suspicion of subsidence at the property; and
  • have cracks that are expanding and if you have a crack 3mm or larger.

Intrusive Subsidence inspection

This type of inspection can cost anywhere from £600 upwards. If a mortgage lender, surveyor, RICS surveyor or any other qualified surveyor has flagged the property as having subsidence then you should go straight for this level of inspection.

This inspection will be able to determine fully if you have subsidence. The structural engineer will dig into the ground to inspect the footings of the property, which will allow them to find where the subsidence is, what is causing it and what will need to be done to stabilise the foundations that the property is built on.

Once the structural engineer has produced a report on their findings, you will know how severe the subsidence is, what action will be needed to remedy the situation and have a clear idea how much the work, which builders carry out, will cost. 

By Marcus Simpson

Digital Marketing Manager

SAM Conveyancing

Author: Katie

Katie is a finance specialist with one of the biggest firms in London. From savings to investments, there’s nothing she can’t advise on and she’s here to help spread the word and help you on your way to financial freedom.

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