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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

We are hoping to purchase a house in Avondale Road very shortly. I am attempting to arrange buildings insurance. Our Home Buyers Report notes 'historic movement consistent with most house in the area' so most of the  main insurers are refusing to quote. Even the existing insurer of the property will not quote. I've got a specialist insurer quoting £1600, which seems like a lot.

I'd appreciate any advice please or insurers who do insure known problem areas? Many thanks.

Tags for Forum Posts: building, insurance, subsidence

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That sounds a bit crazy, surely 'historic movement' means it's not moving now.

I live 2 streets over from Avondale and have never had problems with building insurance. We bought our house 10 years ago and I vaguely remember something on the survey about the house having movement in the past but not within the last 20 ish years, so it wasn't a problem.

I've just renewed my building insurance and it's about £13 per month.

£13 a month. Heck who are you with? That is £160 or so a year, half mine...

I had been paying about £35 per month for a couple of years but this time I shopped around a bit. I've just checked and it's with Esure and is actually £11.51 per month. This is just for building insurance we pay for contents separately.

We had a similar issue because the valuer mentioned possible subsidence in his report. He was just covering his back, but for us that meant no insurance cover and therefore no mortgage offer. In our case we ended up shelling out another few hundred pounds on a specialist Structural Engineer's report which told us what we already knew, that any minor building movement had occurred long in the past and was unlikely to be ongoing or progressive.

Have you tried explaining the situation to an insurance broker? It doesn't sound as if approaching the insurers directly will help in your case, and now you've highlighted the issue the house might be flagged up as a risk on the database that insurers use to share info.

Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses were usually built with fairly shallow foundations so it's no surprise that lots of them show signs of having settled a bit soon after they were built. It's common to see slightly wonky bays or window openings, where one side of the house has settled further than the other. External walls often bow outwards slightly. There's probably a hairline vertical crack in the wall at the top of the stairs where the back half of the house shifts up and down by a few millimetres with the seasons thanks to all those nice trees in the garden. Unless the movement is severe or ongoing, none of these things are likely to make your house fall down.

Things that would worry a Structural Engineer / insurer / mortgage provider are signs of recent movement, which can have many causes. They will be looking for, amongst other things, foundation movement due to water from a broken drain washing away the soil below, movement due to rotten structural timbers (e.g. the bay lintel), tapered vertical cracks between the main building and a newer extension indicating inadequate footings for the extension, diagonal cracks anywhere in the house, signs that the roof is spreading because the struts have been removed and / or there's not enough support for heavy concrete roof tiles, cracks around recent works like loft extensions, basement conversions and new openings in walls, or long vertical cracks at the joins of bay windows and flank walls, suggesting that part of the structure is slowly but surely separating from the rest...

I have quite a few "diagonal cracks" - what do they signify? Most of them are in the front downstairs room which was re-plastered four years ago - they are only thin but i don't think they are just the common new plaster hairline cracks as they have developed gradually.

Difficult to guess without seeing it and knowing what is underneath, and I'm not an expert on the subject. If the cracks are all over the room and run in random directions, it probably is just superficial damage to the new plaster. Victorian brickwork and lime plaster is slightly flexible and can cope with a degree of movement whereas modern pink gypsum plaster is hard and brittle, so re-skimming old walls often results in hairline cracks.

Diagonal cracks can suggest uneven movement in the wall beneath, for example where the foundation beneath part of the room has subsided for some reason, and the movement tends to follow the mortar joints of the brickwork in a stepped pattern. In your case if they mostly point to the same area, start at weaker points of the wall like door or window openings, appear to be getting worse, or are wider at one end than the other, it might be worth getting a builder to take a look to set your mind at ease.

Thanks very much Tris - I might call the guys who did it and ask them to come back and check.

Thanks tris for your advice. I think we are in a similar situation. Unfortunately we can't 'unring the bell'. Might try the specialist engineer route to see if we can get a better deal.
Speak to the surveyor direct...they often write things in homebuyers reports that make alarming reading but in reality amount to nothing. They're just covering themselves and automatically mention something about movement if they spot cracks in plaster...
We'll in the 13 years we've been on Avondale have heard naught about subsidence. I think Paul is right, they are covering themselves. How annoying.....

I'm a tenant in Woodlands Park Road, just round the corner from Avondale Rd. There were cracks appearing in my bedroom a couple of years ago. A surveyor attributed this to our neighbour's tree sucking moisture out of the ground. My neighbour agreed to severely cut back the tree. Cracks are now not as bad as before.  I don't known whether it's to do with subsidence or the manner of construction of the extension at the back of the flat I live in.

I note also "they" severely cut back the plane trees in Avondale Road a few years ago, I'm pleased to see they've grown back already.

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