What is tree subsidence and how to deal with it

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What is tree Subsidence - Home Guide Expert
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What is tree subsidence and how to deal with it

When a tree is planted too close to your property it can potentially cause Tree Subsidence to your home and property depending on the type of tree.  So what is tree subsidence and how to deal with it?

Trees that are planted in your garden, your neighbours garden, on public footways and on public land can cause tree subsidence depending on how close they are planted to a property.  This guide will walk you through how to deal with each one.

Known tress that can cause subsidence if planted too close to your property are:

  • Willow
  • Poplar
  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Any tree can cause damage to a building or structure if planted too close to it
  • Some ornamental trees can be planted between 15-20 feet from your property but always seek advice from a tree surgeon or qualified arborist before planting

The placement of trees on your land (and your neighbour’s land) is important as they can cause serious damage to your property without you knowing.

If you or your neighbour has a tall tree or has recently planted a tree, you should educate yourself on what type of tree it is and where it should be planted to avoid potential subsidence issues.
You may not be refused home insurance, however, if you have a tall tree close to your property regardless of whether it is on your own land or your neighbours, you need to let your home insurance provider know.  Trees can be deemed an insurance risk which can ultimately increase your insurance premiums but if you don’t divulge this information you may not be covered.
Your insurer can advise you to remove a tree if it is likely to cause damage and if you do not comply with this, you may not be covered.  If it is your neighbour’s tree or a tree on a public footway or public land, you will still need to deal with this.

The key things to remember:

  • Do not plant any form of tree too close to your own property or your neighbour’s property.
  • A tree can be planted, however, it should be planted at least the mature height of the tree away from any structure or building.
  • If it is a 20-metre tree when mature, it should be planted 20 metres away from your property.
  • Take into consideration the size of the trunk of the tree.  If when mature it grows very wide, you should not plant it near any boundaries or structures.
  • If you have a large tree and do not want to cut it down, it is your obligation to keep it trimmed to a manageable height so that it does not cause any damage.  However, the roots can still reach far underground so the best practice is to follow the advice above.

How to deal with Tree Subsidence if the tree is planted in your own garden:

  1. Keep it trimmed.
  2. NEVER remove the tree yourself.  The tree may be protected and the removal of the tree could cause heave to your property.  If the tree is protected, get in touch with your local council to report the issue.  They should be able to give you guidance on how to deal with it.
  3. If you see newly formed cracks inside or outside your property contact your buildings insurance provider straight away.  Your insurer will send a representative (usually a loss adjuster) to your property to assess the damage.  You will have to pay the first part of any claim (usually £1,000).
  4. If subsidence is suspected, the cracks will need to be monitored over a period of time by a qualified structural engineer before they can be repaired.  You have the option of finding one yourself or your insurance company can recommend one to you.
  5. Once any works have been decided by the structural engineer you will need to find a contractor to carry out remedial works or you can use your insurer’s contractors.

How to deal with Tree Subsidence if the tree is planted in your neighbours garden:

If you believe the subsidence is caused by a tree planted too close to your property, speak to a tree surgeon, qualified arborist or a structural engineer.

Follow this guide:

  1. Ask the neighbour to keep it trimmed in writing.  If you have any concerns about the tree, now is the time to put it in writing to the neighbour.  Ask them to have the tree verified by a surveyor to confirm it is safe and not causing any damage.
  2. If you see newly formed cracks inside or outside your property contact your buildings insurance provider straight away.  You will still need to claim on your own insurance policy (however if you have proof that you have written to your neighbour with concerns about the tree, you should give this information to your insurer when you call as this can prove negligence on the neighbours part if they ignored your concerns).
  3. Your insurer will send a representative (usually a loss adjuster) to your property to assess the damage.  You will have to pay the first part of any claim (usually £1,000).
  4. If subsidence is suspected, the cracks will need to be monitored over a period of time by a qualified structural engineer before they can be repaired.
  5. Write to the neighbour advising them of the situation and ask them to have the tree removed under the guidance of a structural engineer.  Keep all copies of correspondence between you and the neighbour.
  6. If the neighbour does not comply with removing the tree, get in touch with your Local Authority to ask for assistance in getting the tree assessed and removed.
  7. If your neighbour becomes aggressive or difficult, click here.
  8. If your neighbour requires access to your land to carry out the works, click here for guidance.
  9. If you previously informed the neighbour in writing about their tree and they did not act appropriately, you have the option of claiming your costs back through a small claims court.
  10. Once the works have been decided by the structural engineer you will need to find a contractor to carry out remedial works or you can use your insurer’s contractors.

How to deal with Tree Subsidence if the tree is planted on a public footway:

  1. Contact your buildings insurance provider straight away.  Your insurer will send a representative (usually a loss adjuster) to your property to assess the damage.  You will have to pay the first part of any claim (usually £1,000).
  2. If subsidence is suspected, the cracks will need to be monitored over a period of time by a qualified structural engineer before they can be repaired.  You have the option of finding one yourself or your insurance company can recommend one to you.
  3. Speak with your neighbours to see if they are being affected by the tree and if they have contacted the council about the issue themselves.  Ask for copies of their correspondence to the council (advise them you would like to give the Local Authority copies of this correspondence and whether they are happy for you to do so).  If you can, get the neighbour to email you with their concerns.  Local Authorities tend to deal with it much quicker if they have documentation to support the concerns of neighbours as well as yourself.
  4. Write to your local authority advising them that you are concerned about the tree that is causing tree subsidence to your property.  If you can, get an email address for the relevant department of your local authority and also post a copy of the letter using a trackable postal service.  To find the email address of your local authority, click here.  Include copies of all correspondence that you have been given from your neighbours about the tree.
  5. Once any works have been decided by the structural engineer you will need to find a contractor to carry out remedial works or you can use your insurers contractors.
  6. Continually chase your local authority if the tree is not removed straight away.  Write/email/call them at least once a week until they deal with the issue.  Some Local Authorities do not act quickly when this kind of issue arises, so keep contacting them until the tree is removed.
  7. When the tree subsidence issue has been resolved and your property has been repaired, there should be no risk of subsidence happening again.
  8. Your local Authority should offer you compensation if the tree was found to be causing the subsidence and should pay your insurance excess.

If your property has been underpinned, you may expect to pay a higher amount for your buildings insurance.

If you are buying a property for the first time or buying and selling a property at the same time, check whether subsidence is a common problem in the area.  What soil is your property built on?

If you need to make an insurance claim, click here.

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