09 Mar 2015

A question about : Advice on Land Subsidence

Hi guys,

Would appreciate anyone with knowledge on home insurance giving me some advice with the following;

Our neighbours backyard backs directly on to ours. Last summer after they had some work done to their back, they began to remove a fence dividing our gardens (they mentioned this to us in advance). Their back is about 3 feet higher than ours. We noticed however that they removed most of the fence, but not the posts, but then actually built a fence 2 foot inside their back, and left the skeleton of the old fence there. Not long after, when cutting down 2 dead fir trees just in front of the fence they partially removed, I noticed quite a lot of it (the lower part of the fence) had rotted away, and where you would imagine a retaining wall should have been, there was only some breeze blocks, and 2 foot of soil which had began to seep into our back garden. Just above this is their oil tank, so with 3 kids at home, you can imagine the H&S implications.

We asked them to come and have a look, and the neighbour returned a week later with a coc-and-bull story about our previous home owner having 'lowered' the level of our back, thereby creating the 3 foot bank of land which was now falling into ours (We have since learnt this to be untrue). We called our insurer (Sainsburys Insurance) towards the end of last year, who were very quick to deny liability, stating that because the land slide was not effecting our actual home, they would not be liable!! We are now in a position were we want to improve our own backgarden but 2 builders we asked out said they wouldn't touch it with a barge pole in case any alterations cause a landslide!! We are in a very tricky position as a result.

The section in our insurance policy pertinent to this is as follows;

You are covered for:
Subsidence or heave of the site on
which your home stands, or landslip

I think Sainsburys are using a loophole in that because it is our neighbours back subsiding into ours, they are not liable and are not interested in even discussing options!! (they were quite abrupt in the call)

Any help or info would be much appreciated. We are terrified of big legal bills and litigation to resolve this!

Best answers:

  • Why have your neigbours voluntarily lost 2' of their garden?
    Clause C of the exceptions is your issue:
  • We believe they intended to replace the fence in the original location, but the builders they used would have seen the issues I outlined and advised against this. This is pure speculation I admit, but it's very probable. That clause could cost me an arm and a leg!
  • This isn't an issue for insurance but it could be an issue for small claims.
    As their land is higher, they have a duty to prevent their land falling into yours.
  • If you have Legal Expenses on your home insurance they may be able to assist you, at least in the first place with general advice on if there is likely to any liability