Our Renovation Works Caused A Crack In Our Neighbour’s Wall – Will Our Home Insurance Cover This?

Caeva O'Callaghan | September 15th, 2020

Will my home insurance cover cracks in walls when doing renovations?

A home extension is a big, messy job. But if it causes cracks in your neighbour’s wall, will your home insurance cover this nightmare scenario?

If you’ve done everything right, your neighbour’s wall will be covered, but not by your home insurance policy. If your builder is at fault, they will need to involve their own insurance to pay for repairs.

However, your neighbour will have to prove the damage is as a direct result of the building works. This isn’t always easy, and your relationship with your neighbour may be put under more strain than you would expect.

In this article, we’ll cover questions such as:

  • How does a house extension affect my home insurance?
  • Am I covered for damage to my neighbour’s property?
  • What happens if my builder damages my neighbour’s house?

Ultimately, if your builder is at fault, they should rectify what’s gone wrong. But when you’re shopping around for a tradesman, it’s your responsibility to make sure they have the right insurance.

Make sure all works are done properly

Accidents happen, even to professionals. That said, it’s entirely your own responsibility to hire competent tradesmen. Do not give a big, messy, serious job such as a house extension to a cash-in-hand cowboy off the street. It’s very unlikely they have the proper insurance they will need if the worst should happen.

If your tradesman hasn’t got the proper builder’s liability insurance and your neighbour’s property suffers damage in the process, there is nowhere for repair money to come from. Your builder will have to pay out of pocket, but good luck getting them to do so. It’s much more likely that whatever happens, a messy legal struggle will ensue and your relationship with your neighbour will suffer beyond repair.

Any professional worth their salt will have good builder’s insurance. If it was their negligence that caused problems, the tradesman will need to have Professional Indemnity Insurance to help cover it.

This will cover the professional against failures to provide good advice to you regarding the care and maintenance of their work, failures of service such as incorrect installation, and failures of design such as making a window too large.

But it may not be their fault after all. Product Liability Insurance protects tradesmen (and their customers) from faulty materials. So, for example, if they bought warped joists from their supplier and didn’t notice until your neighbour reported a crack on their adjoining wall, this will cover the claim.

And here’s the good news: the burden of proof is on your neighbour

If your neighbour suspects that building work on your home is to blame for a crack, it’s up to them to prove it.

With all the noise and commotion next door, they may be more vigilant than usual. This can lead to them spotting faults they may not have noticed. Mean-spirited neighbours may even try and blame issues arising from their negligence on the building works.

If your builder doesn’t own up to the damage, the onus is on your neighbour to investigate the cause. You can reach a peaceful resolution if your neighbour hires a building or roof surveyor to come out and inspect the damage.

A professional eye would be able to tell whether or not the cracks are down to your house extension. Your neighbour would be able to claim for the costs of this survey on their home insurance.

If the surveyor’s findings prove that your builder was negligent and their professional insurance doesn’t cover it, you have a couple of options. You can then either agree to pay for the damage to your neighbour’s roof, or you can hire your own surveyor for a second opinion.

In cases where two surveyors may have different opinions, you can agree to split the costs of repairing the damage with your neighbour. As an alternative, you can appoint a third and final surveyor to break the stalemate.

Remember, cracks in walls do happen naturally

Ground heave and subsidence can cause cracks in exterior and interior walls overnight, just like building works. But this kind of damage is usually easy to spot for its diagonal, jagged appearance. These cracks are thicker than the hairline cracks other factors cause, and they will appear in the plaster indoors as well as outdoors. Subsidence cracks tend to be thicker at the top.

Your neighbour’s standard home insurance policy will cover subsidence, landslip or ground heave of the site. This type of event is not usually easy to predict, and therefore is an insurable risk.

However, some areas of Ireland are more stable than others. For example, home insurance won’t cover you or your neighbour for subsidence if you live in or near Cork City. This is because this part of the country is more susceptible, and therefore the risk is more predictable.

If you want to make absolutely sure your home insurance will cover you before you embark on a house extension, give us a call. We can advise you on these matters, and how to make sure your tradesmen are suitably insured. We are available by phone between 8.30am and 5.30pm each weekday on 0818 224433 or 042 9359051.