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Is Climate Change Causing a Huge Surge in UK Subsidence Claims?

Last year’s summer heatwave and surge in subsidence claims are a harsh reminder of just how damaging the effects of hot weather can be for residential properties.

The Met Office previously stated that climate change is making heatwaves more likely.

2022 will be the highest annual subsidence payout in 16 years, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), with ABI members expecting to pay £219 million in subsidence claims. Of the 23,000 subsidence claims made during the year, 18,000 were made following the summer heatwave.

Since our last article in July 2022, in which we asked whether record-breaking temperatures could result in more subsidence claims, Allianz Commercial reported such claims were 140% higher in September than in the same month last year.

Allianz cited parched clay soils as the main contributing factor to this surge in claims, with summer 2022 being both the hottest and driest season England has experienced since Met Office records began.

The Met Office has directly attributed the increasingly warm summers in the UK to human-induced climate change, with four of the five warmest summers on record for England occurring since 2003. New Year’s Day 2022 was the warmest on record, July brought a record-breaking temperature of 40.3°C, and October was unseasonably warm. The Met Office also previously stated that climate statistics over time reveal an “undeniable warming trend for the UK” and that climate change is making heatwaves more likely.

Prolonged periods of hot and dry weather are a major contributing factor to subsidence, in which the ground beneath a property loses moisture and sinks, causing severe structural problems and property damage.
Houses built on shrink-swell clay soil are the most likely to produce claims for subsidence damage, with over 70 percent of domestic subsidence claims estimated to be from clay shrinkage. Large areas of these soils can be found in England and Wales.

Being situated in areas of shrink-swell clays is not the only cause of subsidence, and other factors such as rainfall, vegetation, property characteristics, and historical claims must also be considered.

Verisk’s Subsidence Insight uses property data together with detailed vegetation and tree data, geology, long-term climate data, and claims history to model the level of subsidence, heave, and other ground movement risk at a postcode or address level. Subsidence Insight is also available in real-time via our Data Insight Hub for use at the point of quote.

The effects of climate change are likely to result in increasingly volatile claim volumes. With this in mind, it is critical for insurers to use mapping technologies and external data models to better understand their exposure to a worst-case subsidence scenario.

Alex Croydon

Alex Croydon is managing director, general insurance UK, at Verisk. She can be contacted at

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