It's no laughing matter when your house cracks" up

24 January 2006 Brigitte Taim

But, due to drier conditions and the resultant increases in ground water usage, this is an issue which is becoming more prevalent, against which many homeowners are having to insure.

Caroline da Silva, Head of Commercial Underwriting at Santam says, Certain parts of the country are more affected by land subsidence than others which results from the geography of the area, soil types and large use of ground water.
Ground subsidence can cause cracking of walls and floors, rising damp, lifting of tiles and general weakening of structures, which can cost significant amounts in repair and can end up recurring.

Not everyone needs to worry about subsidence but if you believe you may be at risk,  it is worth calling your broker to check if you are situated in a higher risk area and whether it may be worth updating your policy to include this kind of cover, as this is not automatically included in household insurance. On a R1-million home this specified cover would add around R80 to monthly premiums.

Da Silva says that houses situated on steep inclines or houses in close proximity to rivers, water canals, dams, swamps or marshes are more likely to be affected by ground subsidence. Large scale use of retaining walls can also affect subsidence, so be wary when buying homes with these kinds of structures.

Santam will grant cover on houses over 10 years old, not showing any of the detrimental effects of subsidence. However, should any of these factors be present or should you live in a high risk area, you will be required to provide a geotechnical report. The results of the assessment may affect your premiums and the type of cover you are granted.

When investing in property it is advisable to check for the signs of subsidence beforehand, which could end up saving you a significant amount of money in the long term.

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