Subsidence is when there is building movement due to ground conditions.
Settlement is when the movement is due to the weight of the building itself.
Both subsidence and settlement may be reflected by evidence of cracks, misalignments and damage to building - this is what is looked for during a survey via non-invasive inspection.
Both a HomeBuyer Survey and Building Survey will seek to identify for this as a matter of priority and provide further advice, so there is no difference in this is regard when considering this as a factor in choosing a survey.
In the South East of England there are large areas of Clay Subsoil and it is the movement of this that is the main cause of subsidence in the location.
Subsidence can occur at any time, whereas settlement is more common in newer buildings. If the property is a newly built building, the construction workers may be contracted to return in a few months to check for settlement cracks. Settlement usually stops after a short while, so longer term settlement can be considered as subsidence.
There are numerous ways to treat subsidence, depending on the cause. Although underpinning often comes to mind when mentioning subsidence, around 70% of cases are caused by tree roots, so the problem may be solved by simply removing the roots.
It is important to differentiate between whether it is subsidence or settlement affecting your property, as most insurance policies are unlikely to cover settlement, whereas subsidence is commonly covered under property defects.
If you are concerned about subsidence in your prospective property it is always advised to commission the advice and expert knowledge of a RICS Chartered Surveyor.
We also have an article outlining the facts of subsidence in London, what it is and how to determine whether it is affecting your property.
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