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Warning over subsidence risk as dry spell continues
25th April 2012
The UK's current drought could leave buy-to-let property owners needing to make landlord buildings insurance claims due to an increasing risk of subsidence.
First Direct has warned that the prolonged dry weather and resulting hosepipe ban could lead to the drying out of soil in gardens and areas surrounding properties.
The drying out of earth often causes it to shrink and shift, leading to subsidence.
This can cause significant damage to properties, such as cracks in walls, floors and ceilings.
The presence of nearby trees will often exacerbate the problem, the company warns.
During prolonged periods of drought tree roots suck the moisture they need from clay in the ground surrounding them, causing it to shrink even further.
To assess if a property is at particular risk of subsidence, owners need to consider the proximity, height and species of nearby trees to calculate if they pose a threat.
For example, a Willow tree of 24m (79ft) in height needs to be at least 40m (132ft) from property to be safe.
A Pine tree of 29m (95ft), because it has a smaller root system, needs to be only 8m (26ft) to be safe.
Andrew Ferguson, head of home insurance at First Direct commented: "It's always worth taking note of what trees are surrounding your property and, if looking to plant new ones, considering how tall a fully mature tree will grow before planting it near a property."
Buildings up to four storeys constructed before the 1950s are most at risk of subsidence, as they frequently have foundations only 50cm deep.
If landlords are worried about a tree on or near their property, they should consult a qualified arborist and building surveyor before removing the tree, as this can sometimes make the problem worse.
They should also make sure the tree is not protected by a Tree Preservation Order before cutting it down.
Posted by Jason Randall