We are in the process of buying a property and have just been informed
by one of the neighbours that the house we're buying suffered from
subsidence and was underpinned about 15-years ago. I don't know much
about subsidence/underpinning but it has got me worried about the
purchase. Should I be worried? And...
If a house has been underpinned for subsidence, is that it, fixed for
good, or is there a chance it might recur and need doing again?
Is it likely to affect my mortgage - i.e. will the lender be reluctant
to give me the mortgage when this comes to light - and similarly, will
it affect me ability to sell the property on?
I've only found out about this by co-incidence from a future
neighbour. Will this come up in any surveys I have done - if I hadn't
been told, would I ever have found out in any official way?
Any advice about whether I should continue with this purchase
regardless, forget about the house completely, or try to re-negotiate
a cheaper price would be welcome.
On 2007-02-18 13:34:04 +0000, email@example.com said:
If underpinning was done properly with structural engineer involvement
etc. it should have improved the original. That is not to say that
of the house may not still be subject to subsidence and have not been
It may do. The bugbear usually comes with trying to insure the property
for building insurance - for whatever reason best known to themselves,
insurers seem to have the willies whenever underpinning is mentioned.
It should have been among the list of questions asked by your solicitor.
If it wasn't, it should have been, and I would look very carefully at what else
was asked and answered.
It's possible that the underpinning preceded the occupancy of the
and he didn't know - although since the neighbour told you, it would be hard to
believe that he didn't tell the current vendor.
If the vendor was asked and didn't reply truthfully, then it begs the
of what else did he lie about.
As a minimum, I would check what has been asked and replied to with the
If that checks out, then ask the vendor about it and ask to see a copy of his
buildings insurance policy. Check that subsidence has not been excluded, then
check with the insurer and some others as to whether they will insure
All of this assumes that you really want the house. If that motivation
isn't strong, then
you may prefer to walk away.
One can always negotiate price - the question is what.
On 18 Feb, 13:34, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Not if it was done properly. In fact, it should be an advantage in
that case, compared to others in what is likely to be a subsidence-
prone area - ie with clay soils. Though that doesn't guarantee that
subsidence would occur, you'd probably need a tree coupled with the
clay soil. Likely to increase in the future with global warming.
Don't know - wouldn't have thought so, because these things are paid
for by insurance companies, so they'd tend to insist on it being done
properly before they pat out.
Not if it has been OK'd by the ins co, I'd have thought.
I would have thought it would come up through the solicitor's
As I say, should all be fine if the Ins co has OK'd it but your
surveyor will do a check of course if you specifically mention that
If you have had a survey then why was it not pointed out? I can tell you
that it will be difficult to get house insurance. None of the major
companies will cover any property or one within 100ft of it.
Why would the neighbours be pointing this out to you and why are you asking
here without getting a proper survey? How do you know it is true. The
neighbour might not like the look of you and be trying to put you off.
A house that has been underpinned correctly and to local council building
standards is perfectly OK. Trying to reduce a price using that as an excuse
is not acceptable, at least the work is guaranteed for a minimum of 20years
in some cases and you will not have many future problems.
Rubbish. I was asked very little when I changed my buildings insurance
online. As it happens the house across the street was underpinned 10
years ago. I don't give a toss and I doubt if Norwich Union do either.
Not sure about the "100ft" bit, but other than that, yes - if the
insured property has been underpinned then it will absolutely,
unequivocally be an issue with insurance companies.
I've twice had the misfortune to have offers accepted on properties
where it has subsequently emerged that there has been underpinning (done
properly and fully guaranteed), after I'd started spending money on
mortgages, surveyors etc. Both times I had to option to withdraw over
the reluctance of insurers to accept the risk under sensible conditions.
In one case I couldn't find a quote less than about 6-fold the
normal premium, and in the other I gave up looking for a broker or
company who would even consider it, when it became quite obvious it was
a major issue. The usual advice is to use the same insurer as the
seller, to ensure continuity of cover by the same insurer in the event
of problems, but even they declined. (The property concerned was
permanently withdrawn from sale).
So whatever you do, have a go at obtaining quotes for buildings
insurance for the property now, before you spend any more money, and see
how the land lies.
You need to consider how a future prospective buyer will fare when you
come to sell the property... in my case, neither property was going to
be a long-term purchase; but if you've fallen in love with the place and
are likely to stay put for 60 years, then that may not be much of an
issue for you.
Some extremely useful replies there - thanks very much. I haven't had
a survey done yet and I'm glad I've found this out before having done
so, or I'd have potentially wasted a lot of money before finding out
whether it's feasible to progress or not.
I will ask my current - and some other - buildings insuers if they'll
insure this property for a reasonable sum and see how it goes from
Thanks for all the advice
On 18 Feb 2007 11:46:31 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
If you do want to proceed make sure that your get a proper survey done.
Not the "Home Buyers" thing which is not much more than a glorified
valuation for the mortgage provider. Talk to several chartered surveyors
and get some idea of their costs and what they'll do for their money.
Get relevant documentation from the vendor and council.
Dave. pam is missing e-mail
I just went to the DirectLine site. They ask if the home is in an area
subject to subsidence.
By which they mean
"Have properties in your neighbourhood (within 100 yards of your home)
been affected by subsidence".
How on earth are you supposed to know this? When you buy a house, all
the questions about subsidence relate to the house itself, not to the
neighbourhood. So you could move into a house tomorrow and have no idea
that the two neighbouring houses were underpinned last year.
It doesn't matter whether you know or not.
If you answer yes, they won't insure you. If you answer no, and there's
a subsequent claim for subsidence, and they can find a garden shed
that's slipped on a wonky paving-slab, the claim is invalidated anyway.
From the Direct Line web site;
Q: If I live in an area that is prone to flooding or subsidence does it
cost a great deal more to insure my property?
A: We aim to provide competitive quotes for homeowners in all parts of
the country. If your home is in an area with a known history of flooding
or subsidence, we will require further details from you to assess whether
we are able to offer cover. If it is the case that your home has suffered
from flood or subsidence damage in the past, we may have to recommend that
cover is continued with the current insurers.
IOW, "go away".
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those
who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this
The local council doesn't set the standards, only implements according to the
It's always acceptable to try to get a price reduction when one is a
of the reason. The vendor has the choice to accept or not.
Whether or not the stability of the property has been improved (and it
then there is likely to be an increased cost for insuring it vs. a
property than has not
been underpinned and it would be reasonable to deduct the increment for N years
of increment in premium. If insurance is possible, but with an
exclusion for subsidence
then the buyer is assuming the risk for that, which also should have a
My son bought a house about 17 years ago. When he tried to sell it the
sale fell through because of subsidence. He had it underpinned under
insurance. Later we moved into the house (he had by this time moved
out but couldn't sell because of negative equity). The insurance
company continued to insure it, and didn't exclude further subsidence.
About seven years ago we noticed the back wall was leaning outwards.
Our son asked us to deal with it for him. It took us over two years to
persuade the (same) insurance company it needed attention. We had to
get a structrual engineer in to sort them out. It was discovered that
the original job had been botched. Because of this the insurance
company had to forego their 1,000gbp excess, and pay again to get the
job done. This time the whole back walls (next door's as well) had to
come down and be completely rebuilt. It was also discovered the local
council had lost all the paperwork for the original work. If you buy
the house, make sure your insurance cover further susbsidence, and
also make sure they know about the underpinning.
If it was done properly to regulations, it will be better than other
houses nearby that haven't been underpinned.
Underpinning consists in making a house with poor foundations into a
house with 100% to spec modern foundations.
Although the insurers won't agree with you, even if they commissioned
the work, oversaw it, and paid for it. They will tend to be wary of
neighbouring properties, and run a mile from anywhere that's actually
been underpinned. Which is almost totally arse-about-face and dumb
beyond belief, but no-one said insurers have to be logical.
Hmm, I think I'd stop at "making a house with poor foundations into
something a little better than it was originally". It's a bit like
plastic surgery, really.
"I have seen the truth and it makes no sense."
A LOT better.
When you have gone from a row of bricks laid on damp clay to 6 ft of
concrete strip foundations, all with rebar, you will understand.
And just tell the insurance company it was underpinned to stop HEAVE,
not subsidence. That will shut them up.
Or simply negotiate a deal that says 'susbidence not covered'
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.