Houses are usually the most expensive purchases anyone ever undertakes and therefore we would encourage our clients to be as thorough as possible in respect of their due diligence including taking out searches, full surveys and not simply relying on mortgage lender valuations. Where properties are in certain areas it is always recommended that a buyer takes out extra searches and/or insurance for specific risks associated with those areas
My first Professional Negligence claim involved a transaction where the coal mining search came back clear.
So far so good you would think, but this property was in Cornwall and the correct search (which can be done) is for tin mining and this would have shown a risk which could have been insured against. When the garden subsided it became a Professional Negligence claim against the Solicitor. Whilst this claim was ultimately successful without litigation it caused considerable unnecessary stress for the homeowner whose property was condemned and ended up living in alternative accommodation in her advanced years.
What is an Insured Event?
An Insured Event is any accidental, unexpected or unforeseen event which is be insured against under your Home Insurance.
The type of subsidence damage described above is an “insured event” and there may be a third party, such as the National Coal Board (or its successor), who can be held liable for the damage.
In these circumstances your insurer will deal with your claim and look to recover what it pays out under your insurance policy by bringing a claim against the third party.
Sinkholes, Soluble Rocks and Solution Features
In our previous article Subsidence - Getting to the Root of the Problem I described how in heavy clay soils tree roots may cause a problem for homeowners.
However, in areas where soluble rocks such as limestone or chalk exist a “solution feature” (an erosion of the underlying soil that results in an underground cavern) may occur which eventually gives way and may cause subsidence to your property.
These collapses are often triggered by an escape of water or a rise in the water table. The first sign is usually a small hole appearing at surface level and needs to be dealt with promptly.
If the cause of the escape of water is due to mains pipes then you should put the Statutory Water Authority (SWA) on immediate notice of the problem and have them remedy the same. If the nuisance is not stopped then any damage that occurs after the point at which the SWA might reasonably have stopped the nuisance becomes recoverable in law.
The simple step of communicating with the SWA in time could prevent later difficulties.
We Can Help
At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including homeowners who are worried that their home is suffering or might be at risk from subsidence. If you believe that your property is suffering subsidence damage, it is important to act quickly.
We can help homeowners whose property is damaged through the actions of a third party. We will explore every legal avenue and our experts in MW’s are not just experienced in the law regarding these matters, but also in the underlying geological and biological causes.
We can advise if you are entitled to bring a claim for the recovery of your insurance excess and any repairs costs and we will act on behalf of your insurer should you wish to instruct a local firm. We can assist you with any discussions and negotiations with third parties in order to resolve any dispute. We are keen advocates of mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and we will do all we can to resolve your dispute in a sensitive and cost effective way.