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Buy to let landlords rarely have an easy time of it running their business in a difficult private rental sector.

If there is one thing that might help you keep on top of the current themes and issues, it is likely to be a regular update on the latest news.

Bearing that in mind, here is our pick of some of the topics making the headlines.

Social media is putting your home at risk of being burgled

Before you are tempted into using social media to showcase the property you want to let, spare a thought for the valuable secrets you might be disclosing by posting pictures to the world at large.

A story in the Daily Mail newspaper recently warned that pictures of home interiors maybe a giveaway to potential thieves and burglars of the valuable contents of the property. Even a seemingly innocent shot of the front door to the place might reveal the make, model and standard of the lock that is fitted – saving burglars precious time in breaking into and entering your let property.

You know that potential tenants might be looking for somewhere to rent that has access to a back garden. But think about how those carefully shot photos of the garden and the back of the property might also point the way to vulnerable entry points – windows and sliding doors, for instance, which might often be left ajar.

Professional Airbnb sub-letters exposed

Reporting on a BBC Inside Out documentary, a story in Property Reporter on the 28th of October illustrated how things might go horribly wrong if your sub-letting tenants are acting to all intents and purposes as professional Airbnb hosts.

It relates the case of one landlord who suffered losses of around £10,000 after having told his tenants to stop using his let property as a commercial venture on Airbnb, only to discover that the same activities resumed after a brief pause.

Not only had the tenants breached their tenancy agreement – since the landlord had given no permission for the sub-letting arrangements – the property was also in breach of various local authority licensing requirements and material damage had been caused.

Landlord fined for not licencing HMO

In a separate story appearing in Letting Agent Today on the 28th of October, it is clear that substantial penalties await those landlords who are in breach of local authority licensing regulations.

For failing to obtain the necessary licence to run a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) from South Holland Council in East Anglia, a landlord was fined £750 by Boston Magistrate’s Court and, together with other costs that were imposed, faced a total penalty of £1,205.

In pursuit of the prosecution, the local council insisted it would apply the law to ensure unlicensed and unsafe landlords were brought to justice.

Crisis looming in supply of rented homes

There is little doubt about the demand for private rented accommodation.

In the results of a survey published by the Residential Landlords’ Association recently, a quarter of all landlords had witnessed an increase in demand; 41% believed there has been no change; and, only 15% detected any fall in demand.

Despite that growing demand, landlords are continuing to sell up. 31% reported plans to sell at least one of their let properties during the coming year and only 13% said they planned to buy.

The widening gap between demand and supply of private rented accommodation heralds a looming crisis warned the RLA.

October is National Home Security Month.

When the clocks go back on the 27th we can expect the usual spike in burglaries that customarily accompany the darker evenings. This swells the already high number of break-ins and attempted break-ins that occur in the UK – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there were 669,000 incidents in 2018.

Although burglars might relish the cloak of darkness, there is never a time to let slip the security of your home. The website Safe Style, for instance, points out that the majority of break-ins occur between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when many people are out of the house at work.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take any intruder at all long to break in and make off with your valuables. The time taken by most burglars is no more than an average of just 10 minutes.

What you can do

Firstly, take another look at our detailed Guide to Protecting your Property. It is packed with helpful advice for all property owners and landlords in particular. The more secure your let property, the happier your buy to let insurance providers are likely to be – and, conversely, you or your tenants’ failure to take reasonable precautions might be interpreted by your insurer as contributory negligence if you ever need to make a claim.

As part of the annual awareness-raising initiative of National Home Security Month, on the 1st of October, the Residential Landlords Association issued some guidelines with particular interest to landlords in improving the security of their let properties.

Some of that advice might appear only a matter of common sense – but no less worthwhile in reminding your tenants. Remember to lock the front door whenever they go out, for example, since an estimated 5% of all burglaries are committed through an unlocked front door.

In addition to reminders to your tenants, though, there are several straightforward, simple and relatively inexpensive measures you might take to improve the overall level of security:

  • ensure all doors – external and internal – are undamaged and fit properly and snugly into their frames;
  • upgrade the lock on the front door – with a five-lever mortice lock on external timber doors and a three-point lock on PVC-u doors;
  • fit a door chain on all external doors;
  • if your let property has a patio door, fit a purpose-made French-window lock;
  • don’t leave ladders or other tools outside where a burglar can use them to gain entry to the property but keep them locked securely away;
  • a prominently visible burglar system may deter some opportunist thieves but needs to form part of your overall security measures, says Police UK – consider installing spy-holes on doors, a burglar alarm system, and security lighting or motion-detector lights; and
  • if you are the landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) consider delegating responsibility to one of your tenants for ensuring that the door that gives common entry to the premises remains locked at all times.

That extra vigilance on the part of you and your tenants may avert the hassle, inconvenience and danger of break-ins this autumn and winter.

The central heating boiler is the beating heart of any home. And as winter approaches – and if you haven’t already – now is a good time to make sure yours is maintained and ready for the cold weather.

Certainly, breakdowns are incidents you want to avoid. Any breakdown is likely to happen when you need the heating the most and turns into something of an emergency. And emergency callouts to get it fixed are then going to be all the more expensive.

Maintenance

The best way of avoiding those unexpected breakdowns, of course, is to ensure that your boiler is regularly serviced.

Whether it is the home you live in as the owner-occupier or one that you let to tenants, timely maintenance helps to prevent those troublesome and costly callouts when boiler engineers are likely to be at their busiest. It may typically even be a condition of your buildings insurance policy to ensure that your boiler is regularly serviced.

If you are a landlord, it is more than just prudence, but a matter of law. You have a general obligation to ensure that the accommodation you let is fit for habitation – and that means a warm environment in winter and, hot water on tap. More specifically, you are required to have any gas-fired boiler installation – together with any other gas appliance – inspected and checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer at least once a year.

What to do if your boiler breaks down

Despite the compelling reasons for having your boiler regularly maintained, a recent survey published by Heating and Plumbing Monthly on the 13th of September revealed that one in ten households have never arranged such maintenance and one in five had not had their boiler serviced within the past year.

The inevitable result is that boilers break down. What should you do if and when that happens?

  • whether you are a homeowner or landlord safety first is paramount;
  • if there is a smell of gas, the normal colour of the flame changes, or there are sooty marks around the boiler, turn it off straight away and call the emergency gas line on 0800 111 999 (open 24-hours a day, whatever supplier you use);
  • if the pilot flame keeps going out, once again don’t try to re-light the boiler, but call out a Gas Safe engineer;
  • these include resetting the pressure gauge on your boiler, checking that the condensate pipe (on the outside of your home) hasn’t frozen up, resetting the thermostat or boiler temperature gauges, relighting the pilot light (provided it is not constantly going out – in which case, call the gas engineer), or resetting your boiler if it has “locked out”.

It is important to stress, however, that you should only try these suggested remedies if you are confident in what you are doing and are absolutely certain that the boiler and its gas supply remain safe. Otherwise, shut everything down, make that call to the emergency gas line, and await the arrival of a certified engineer.

New opportunities open up, different challenges come along, and the business environment for the buy to let landlord is forever in flux.

So that you keep abreast of those changes, seize any new opportunities and rise to any challenges, it is important to stay tuned to the news. So, here are a few snippets as to what has been going on in the world of buy to let investors recently …

Latest changes to the How to Rent Guide

As a landlord, you probably know that you are required to give (or email) any new tenant a copy of the official How to Rent guide.

But had you considered that the version of the guide you provide to any new tenant must be the current version – and that the versions change on a fairly regular basis (updates were issued as recently as in June and again in July, for example)?

The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) issued a warning on the 13th of August reminding landlords that you must give your tenants a copy of the latest version of the How to Rent guide for the date on which the tenancy started.

If you fail to do so, you are likely to find it difficult if you subsequently try to serve a Section 21 “no-fault” eviction notice to the tenants concerned.

Private rents rise by 1.3%

Landlord Today reports that average rents in the private sector have risen by just 1.3% in the year to the end of July.

This is the third month in a row that the average private sector rents have remained the same. It also means that rental income for landlords is effectively falling, relative to inflation.

Rents may have risen by 1.3% in the past year, but inflation has climbed more steeply over the same period – by 2.1% when measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and 2.8% in terms of the Retail Price Index (RPI).

Section 21 is not responsible for causing homelessness says NLA

The National Landlords’ Association (NLA) robustly challenges any suggestion by government that the use by landlords of so-called Section 21 – or “no-fault” eviction notices – has led to an increase in homelessness.

Research by the NLA instead suggests that the main reason for homelessness is the result of family or friends no longer being prepared to share their home with them.

Where former tenants have become homeless at the end of an assured shorthold private rented tenancy, this has been because of the landlord evoking Section 8 “fault” eviction notices, or the tenants have simply abandoned the let property or have fallen into rent arrears.

What constitutes the perfect home?

Online estate agents Zoopla – in a joint exercise with the Society of Garden Designers – have discovered the somewhat surprising premium which house hunters place on a well-groomed garden.

A pleasant outside space appears to be just as important to those looking for a new home as the latest in designer kitchens or bathrooms – and those looking to buy a property are prepared to pay an average of £15,000 for a home with a garden.

The priority given to that outside space is underlined by the finding that 74% of homeowners have already invested in improving their garden or are planning to do so soon – in the expectation of the investment increasing the capital value of their property.

With Fire Door Safety Week running from the 23rd through to the 29th of September, now is a timely reminder for landlords to make sure they are fire door safe aware.

Fire doors

For most of the time, a fire door works just like any other door as a way of getting into and out of a room. Unlike other doors, however, a fire door is specifically designed to be part of a passive fire protection or safety system.

The Fire Door Alliance explains that a fire door is intended to keep any fire within the room in which it started, so protecting the occupants and providing an escape route through which others may leave the burning building.

They play such a potentially important, life-saving function, that fire doors are obligatory in all factories, offices and public buildings.

Perhaps less well appreciated is that fire doors are also required in houses in which there is a habitable room on the second floor – such as in a loft conversion – townhouses of two storeys or more, and in rooms that open into an integral garage. Most important of all, they are also required in flats and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Fire doors in flats and HMOs

If you are a landlord, you have a general duty to follow the published fire safety regulations that apply to either a purpose-built block of flats or a house converted into flats or used as an HMO.

So that you better understand quite what is involved in complying with these regulations, the organisers of Fire Safety Week have published two factsheets – one on flats and the other on HMOs – outlining how the fire safety regulations impact your premises.

Central to maintaining your responsibilities for fire safety, says the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) – which also sponsors Fire Safety Week – is a thorough fire risk assessment of your let property.

Assessments need to determine what fire risks there are to the property, the level of hazard to your tenants and their visitors, and the measures you need to take to control or at least mitigate those risks. There are strict rules on the installation of smoke alarms and CO2 detectors in many HMOs, but your risk assessment also needs to consider the standard and effectiveness of the fire doors you have fitted.

Bear in mind that, in addition to breaching any licensing conditions and your general responsibilities as a landlord, you may be subject to civil action if you have failed to conduct a fire safety risk assessment or failed to take adequate measure to control or mitigate those risks. Any tenant or visitor subsequently injured or having their property damaged in a fire may hold you liable and sue you for a substantial sum in compensation.

Even if you had the foresight to arrange landlord’s liability indemnity insurance, any settlement may be adversely affected by your failures, regarded as a function of your contributory negligence, and the amount paid out in insurance reduced accordingly.

Landlords might want to take particular attention to Fire Safety Week, therefore. Check the quality, standard and effectiveness of your fire doors – and you may not only help protect the health and safety of your tenants but avoid considerable additional expense.

A landlord’s work is never done. There is always some new development, it seems, that you might need to take into account for the smooth running of your business.

So, if the season of sunnier skies, warm weather and your hard-earned summer holidays might have taken your eye off the ball, here are a few snippets of news you might want to consider.

North-South divide: property prices are narrowing

Is it possible that the historic North-South prosperity divide in the UK is going into reverse?

New research – published in Landlord Today on the 30th of July – shows that while property prices in cities such as Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Cardiff are surging ahead, those in the traditionally more wealthy South, such as London, Cambridge, and Southampton, are lagging behind.

Although there remains a gap in the value of property in the South compared to the North – and that gap has continued to widen in at least the past couple of years – it might soon be going into reverse. As at June of this year, property prices in the South grew by an annual average of just 0.7% whereas those in the North enjoyed an average growth of 3.6%, as demand pressed against the available supply of housing.

Across the country as a whole, property prices grew by only 1.7% in the past year, with those in the North consistently outpacing those in the South – property prices in Edinburgh, for example, recorded a high of 5.1%, while the majority of those cities showing an increase of less than 1% are all in southern England.

Home insurance claims spike in August

Summer holidays can play havoc with your home insurance.

When children are around indoors for rather longer than the rest of the year and when some of those days are edging towards boredom or frustration, more than the usual number of accidents happen and an increased number of insurance claims are the result, reports Yahoo Finance in the UK.

Home insurance claims jump by as much as a third in the months between June and August – when children who previously spent most of the day at school are then on their holidays.

Illustrating the damage that might be caused during the summer holidays, the study gives the example of television sets broken because toys were thrown at them, sofas and carpets indelibly stained by the “slime” some children love to play with, leather sofas accidentally cut to shreds through careless craftwork, and smartphones dropped down the toilet.

£100,000 fine for Airbnb sub-let

A tenant of Westminster City Council in central London has been fined £100,000 for sub-letting his flat to Airbnb guests, reported the Independent newspaper on the 30th of July 2019.

Following on from this news, another local authority is to investigate whether its tenants are abusing the opportunities presented by Airbnb and other short-let internet platforms to make illegal income from subletting their accommodation – offences which may be likely to invalidate any Airbnb insurance, landlord or home insurance which might have been arranged.

Letting Agent Today on the 30th of July reported that Belfast City Council has launched the investigation following a 40% increase in lettings in Northern Ireland inspired by these online platforms and in response to concerns about the impact on the housing stock in the Province.

Landlord fined £14,500 for unlicensed HMO

Wychavon District Council in Worcestershire has handed down fines totalling £14,500 to the landlord of an HMO who was illegally letting the premises without the necessary licence, reported Landlord Today on the 29th of July.

Not only was the HMO unlicensed, but the landlord had also allowed it to become overcrowded – as the home to eleven individuals – the fire alarms barely worked, there were no fire doors, the kitchen had no oven and the general layout of the property was poor.

At Cover4LetProperty, our landlords and holiday home insurance policies include £2m property owner’s liability (POL) insurance as standard – with the option to increase the cover up to £5m if required.

So, what is liability insurance and why is it so important?

Landlords liability insurance is designed to protect you against the financial ramifications of someone making a successful claim against you for damages caused to them while in or on your property.

What happens if…

For example, if someone slips on a stair carpet that is not fitted correctly, and they injure themselves, potentially, they could try and make a claim against you. If the court agrees that this was down to your negligence (and remember, this is a hypothetical example), then you could face a compensation bill, plus court costs, which could run in to thousands of pounds.

As you can see from the above example, it also protects the person claiming, should negligence on your part be proved. Any court awards made to them are designed to compensate them for injury and / or loss of earnings, plus suffering, mental trauma etc.

Without liability insurance and in the event of a successful claim being made against you, you would have to find the costs yourself – this could potentially bankrupt you.

Not having insurance and a claim being made against you may also damage your reputation – not ideal, particularly if you own a number of properties.

How do I get landlords liability insurance?

In some – but not all – cases, landlords liability cover often forms a standard part of a landlord insurance policy, with the upper claim amount varying depending on the provider.

Check your let property insurance policy or speak to your provider to make you sure you have enough cover

Is employers’ liability included as part of my landlord insurance policy?

No, it is not. Employers liability insurance is typically regarded as an entirely separate line of insurance protection and may not be included as part of your landlord’s POL cover.

Employers’ liability insurance protects the people working for you on your premises, such as cleaners, letting agents or decorators, in the event that they need to make a claim against you (because they have suffered injury, loss or damage). It also, of course, protects you too, as it you won’t need to find all the court costs and any compensation awarded yourself.

In many situations where you are employing people, the law will require that you have employers’ liability insurance cover in place. It is not, as such, negotiable in these cases.

Where you may need to be cautious though is in deciding just who is or is not one of your employees.

At one time, this might have been relatively simple and based around the idea that in order to be counted as an employee, an individual would need to have a formal contract of employment in place.

You should note though that this is no longer necessarily the case. For a large number of reasons, including the rise of significant numbers of people nationally working on a self-employed basis, the authorities may interpret people performing work for you to be your employees even though you do not.

Should they form such a view of anyone doing work for you, including perhaps cleaners or odd-job people, you may find yourself potentially in breach of the law in terms of failing to provide employers’ liability cover.

It is well worth noting that in some cases, even family and friends who are working for you on a voluntary basis could be assessed as being your employees.

As you can see, ensuring you have the most appropriate type of cover may be very important. In today’s particularly litigious society, you may feel you wish to protect yourself and your business as much as you can. Having liability insurance in place is also part and parcel of being a responsible landlord.

If you have any questions relating to property owner’s liability insurance, please give us a call on 01702 606301- we are here to help.

Below are a number of tips as to how you can help make your property eco-friendlier.  They apply to any property, whether it is let, owner-occupied or anything in between.

These are very practical minor tips that you can do something about without needing a budget the size of NASA’s in order to install things such as solar panels and heat exchangers.  They may be small but they’re also effective and every little bit helps both to keep your bills down and to save the planet.

Fix doors and windows

A huge amount of heating energy is wasted thanks to draughts originating in unevenly fitted doors or windows etc.

A few minutes DIY with a plane, some wood filler and draught excluder, can fix most of those at a cost of a pound or two.

Insulate your loft

Most modern property should already have such insulation but if yours is an older one without it, do something.  This is not a vast building job in most cases and it’s going to save you huge amounts of otherwise wasted energy for not a particularly large outlay – and for some types of insulation, you may be able to obtain government grant assistance.

Re-use your slightly soiled water

Much of the water we pour down the sink is, by many definitions, perfectly clean.  Examples include after we have rinsed our hands, washed some fruit or vegetables or perhaps done some light washing up.

This water can be trapped (through a bit of minor plumbing under sinks) and reused for things such as watering the plants.  In Japan, many handbasins and sinks have outflows that feed into WC cisterns where it is re-used for flushing – which seems an excellent idea with another bit of relatively minor plumbing.

Install appliance timer switches and use off-peak electricity rates

There is nothing new about this idea – it has been around for decades but there are still many properties that are not taking advantage of it.

True, this is more about personal economy in your pocket than overall energy consumption reductions but it is still worth considering in terms of helping to reduce overall demand at peak times.

Make more use of indoor and outdoor plants

Plants typically take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen.  That’s great news for the environment.

So, if you have an unimaginative grass-only patch of garden, put some plants into it and do likewise inside your property.

Clean your electrical appliances

If an appliance is dirty or dusty anywhere around its electrical or moving parts, then it is probably running inefficiently and burning more electricity than necessary.

Top appliances to clean with a brush or vacuum cleaner:

  • your refrigerator’s coils;
  • the dust filter on your dryer;
  • the air intake on your PC and other high-tech devices.

Turn down the domestic water temperature on your boiler

It’s amazing how many people heat their domestic water supply until it comes out of the taps far too hot to even touch. To solve the problem, they then add cold water to it to cool it back down again for practical use.

This is clearly madness and an appalling waste of both electricity and money.  So, turn your temperature down to a level that is sufficiently hot for domestic purposes and one where you can wash your hands in a hot stream alone or likewise use it exclusively in your shower without needing to run cold water at the same time.

Plan the distribution of your mirrors

If you find you are having to put on electrical lighting even during daytime in order to illuminate dark room corners, try and achieve the same effect without burning electricity by positioning mirrors near doors and windows, aiming to reflect light falling on them into the further reaches of your room.

These ideas and others like them will mean you are paying your part in helping protect the environment.

Visit the Energy Saving Trust and British Gas for more eco-friendly money saving tips.

Stamp duty (more correctly, the Stamp Duty Land Tax or SDLT) is essentially a tax on property purchases.

Like it or not, it will apply in most situations where you are purchasing property – with this one caveat – while this information is correct at the time of writing (17th July 2019) there have been reports in the media that if Boris Johnson becomes PM, he is looking to switch the tax from the buyer to the seller – so, watch this space!

In what follows, the current position relating to England and Northern Ireland is described. The rules and terminologies are different in Scotland and Wales.

Note that different rules and taxation levels also apply in cases where the property or land is not residential or is mixed-use.  The situation outlined below relates exclusively to residential property and land.

Paying the tax

If you have a stamp tax liability, technically you have 30 days from completion within which to pay it to HMRC. However, typically your solicitor will deal with the appropriate payments as part of the services they provide.

There may be fines and interest payable in situations where, for whatever reason, you have not paid your stamp duty on time.

Tariffs – freehold single property owners and first-time buyers

The current bands and the amounts payable are as follows, by property purchase price:

  • first-time buyers only – no tax payable up to the first £300,000 of the price. Sums falling between £300,001 and £500,000 will be taxable at 5%. If your first-ever purchase is over £500,000, then you will fall into the standard tariffs as outlined below;
  • up to £125,000, no tax payable;
  • sums between £125,001 and £250,000 will be subject to 2%;
  • for a purchase between £250,001 and £925,000 – the tax is 5% (that’s 5% of the £250,001-£925,000 and 2% of the amount £125,001-£250,000);
  • for sums between £925,001 to £1.5 million, 10% – calculated on the same basis;
  • any amount over £1.5 million – 12%.

If you are slightly confused, the government provides a helpful calculator which will allow you to estimate the amount of stamp duty that will be payable on a pending property purchase.  There is also considerable additional information available from the same source.

Excluded options

There are very few exceptions to the above rules.  One might apply in cases where a divorce results in a redistribution of property and outright purchases related to that.  Another might be in certain circumstances where a trust is involved.

These though are unusual and if you feel you may be in a qualifying situation, you should discuss the matter in advance with your solicitor or HMRC.

Second property owners/purchasers

In situations where you already own a property or properties and are looking to purchase another, the following percentages will typically apply:

  • up to £125,000, 3% of the purchase price;
  • sums between £125,001 and £250,000 will be subject to 5% (that’s 5% of the £125,000-£250,000 and 3% of the amount below £125,001);
  • for the portion between £250,001 and £925,000 – the tax is 8%;
  • for sums between £925,001 to £1.5 million, 13%;
  • any amount over £1.5 million – 15%.

Leasehold properties

In the majority of cases, you will be paying the figures as outlined above.

In situations where this is an entirely new lease situation, the stamp duty rates may be higher.  Confirm that with your solicitor and/or HMRC.

The double property ownership trap

In some situations, you may find that you are completing on the purchase of another property before your own property has been sold.  Therefore, technically, the new home you have just purchased is your second rather than single property.

That means that typically you will be charged stamp duty at the higher rates for your property purchase because you’re technically a second property buyer.

This can occasionally catch some people out but the additional sums you paid in tax can typically be reclaimed once your own property is finally sold.  For details of these situations and how to handle them, yet again speak to your solicitor.

It is a well-known fact that the roots from trees may cause subsidence in houses. In the battle between nature and the man-made environment where does your allegiance lie? Though most people are likely to say they love to see trees growing, it might be an entirely different situation if it is your own home or let property under threat.

The facts

In December 2018, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) revealed that more than 10,000 households made claims worth a total of £64 million to deal with the impact of subsidence in just three months of the year, suggesting that subsidence claims have quadrupled to highest level in more than a decade.

The hot summer of 2018 – where some UK regions experienced the driest months on record – was part of the cause of these claims.  

The problem

The conflict between trees and property lies mainly in the roots of the former. As they grow – spreading out a considerable distance from the trunk – the roots take up water, causing the soil around them to dry out.

The problems are especially prevalent on clay soils where trees are typically extremely efficient in absorbing moisture and quickly shrinking the clay as it dries out, especially in dry weather and periods of sustained drought.

When there is a particularly dry summer, or a drought, therefore, the soil is likely to collapse and if it is ground supporting the foundations of a building they may be disturbed. Disturbance to the foundations may then cause the building to subside.

Living together

Paradoxically perhaps, trees have a very important role to play in our urban – and rural – environments. Tree planting is widely seen as one of the ways of combatting some of the effects of climate change by helping to regulate the forecast increases in ambient temperatures.

It is widely believed that trees have a very important – and increasing – role to play in safeguarding the environment.

The quest, therefore, is in finding ways that trees and buildings are able to live together. According to a report on the Subsidence Forum, for example, it has been found that not all trees are responsible for causing subsidence. The problem, however, is that it may prove extremely difficult determining which of them might end up causing subsidence problems for nearby buildings.

The Forum mentions advice from certain experts who advise that one of the ways of preventing or limiting the disruptive effect of root growth is to keep trees near buildings regularly pruned. In this way, the reduction in foliage may limit the amount of water taken up from the soil, preventing it from drying out and therefore reducing the risk of collapsing ground and the subsidence of property built upon it.

The future

Most people are likely to find it a much poorer world if city streets were totally denuded of trees because of the potential threat they pose to the buildings on either side.

The damage caused by trees may need to be controlled – and homeowners and buy to let landlords may need to continue to protect their properties with insurance against subsidence – but the longer term solution appears to lie in finding the most appropriate harmonious balance between nature and the demands of the built environment.

Is subsidence covered under my buildings insurance policy?

The answer depends upon who provided your policy.

At Cover4LetProperty, all our policies include subsidence cover as standard for all properties built after 1849 (up to set limits which will be outlined in your policy).

Unfortunately, the policies offered by some other providers might not do so, therefore, it would be in your best interests to check your policy carefully if you purchased it elsewhere.

Some policyholders occasionally express surprise that subsidence isn’t automatically included in all policies. Here is a little history to explain that position.

At the risk of generalising, at one time cover for subsidence would have been typically included automatically in most if not all property cover. It is a fact though that over recent decades, subsidence claims have soared and they have proven to be a major problem for some sections of the insurance industry.

The reason for the increasing claims is not entirely clear. Some suggest:

  • it is due to climate change having a knock-on effect on the geology our properties are built on;
  • properties in the past may have been built with scant regard for foundations;
  • a greater awareness of what subsidence is may have led to an increased tendency to make claims for problems that previous generations would simply have lived with or not noticed.

Whatever the reality is, some buildings insurance providers no longer consider this to be a standard risk – and that might apply just as much to owner-occupier policies as it does to landlords insurance.

The potentially massive costs associated with subsidence might even be of the magnitude of needing to completely demolish the property and rebuild it from scratch. As a result, it might not be a good idea to take subsidence insurance lightly.

If you are not already clear, it might be advisable to check in the very near future just what your current policy is providing.

My property has a history of subsidence – can you provide cover for it?

Our buildings insurance policies can cater for many historic issues your property may have – typically even, in some cases, subsidence.

Should you require a property insurance quotation from us for a property which has previously suffered from a subsidence claim we will ask you for some additional information including:

  • date of claim;
  • cost of claim;
  • full explanation of the cause of the claim;
  • full breakdown of the work undertaken to rectify the problem;
  • current/recent surveyors report following the completion of works.

If you are currently going through the progress of making a subsidence claim against your existing insurance we will always suggest you remain with your current insurer as these risks are almost impossible to replace during the early stages of a claim.

We do understand how stressful having had to make a subsidence claim has been for you and we will do our utmost to find you a competitive landlords insurance quote.

Please note that if you are unable to provide us with any of the above information, then we will not be able to provide terms to you.

The team here at Cover4LetProperty are here to help, contact us and ask away as it is our job to deal with your queries and concerns regarding your property insurance.