Your House is Sitting Over a Mine – What do you do?

You’ve recently discovered that your house is sitting on top of a mine; or you’ve known all along but you’ve never really been concerned about it, but now, your house is starting to sink – what do you do? Sadly, this isn’t just the stuff of nightmares, this is something many people have had to face and will have to face in the future. With so many mines in use and disused across the UK (171,000 coal entries are recorded, but it is thought that there could be more), houses are sinking all the time, but would you know if this was happening to you and what can you do?

It might seem like one of those stories you hear on the news that you think is dreadful but you never give it a second thought and you certainly don’t think it’ll happen to you; but did you know that approximately 7.7million homes are situated on top of mines? What’s more, the Coal Authority have revealed that they estimate 2million of these houses may be at risk of structural problems due to the mining that has taken place underneath their property before.

The South West area, Cornwall in particular, has been rife for these problems as copper and tin was intensively mined there. Problems have then occurred when homes have been built on top of these, sometimes unknowingly, as a mineshaft created many years ago could have just been covered up with no records of it ever existing.

Subsidence can then occur as the old timber caps that were keeping the mines in place begin to rot and collapse with age. As these begin to collapse, the foundations of the homes that are situated above these could also start sinking, leading to serious problems.

What are the warning signs?

One of the first things you may notice is cracks in your walls, which could also indicate a whole host of other issues, so don’t jump to any conclusions straight away. Seek professional advice from a surveyor of structural engineer, and always look for these to be part of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or Institution of Structural Engineers. They will be able to identify just what is causing the structural issues you have seen in your home and will then be able to point you in the right direction for getting the problem sorted or for further advice. You will also need to inform your mortgage lender and insurance company.

How do I know if my home is at risk?

There are a few simple ways to find out if your home may be at risk of subsidence due to mining, and if you are concerned that your home could be; then it’s a good idea to look into it so you can either put your mind at ease or prepare for the worst case scenario.

  • Contact the Coal Authority. They are continuing to carry out inspections on mine entries, with 99% of those that have already been visited deemed safe and in need of no further attention. If they have found an issue in the area you live in you may have already been contacted by them. However, if you are aware of a mineshaft that is underneath or nearby to your property you can contact them directly on 0845 762 6848 to arrange an appointment.
  • Look at the Coal Mining Report. If you visit you can use your postcode to find out if there is any risk to your property.
  • If you are thinking of buying a property that is located within an area that is known for its mines, then it is recommended that you have a Mine Search Report or an Archival Mining Report conducted. This will indicate whether there has been any mining carried out underneath or near to your property and you may find that your mortgage company requests that you have one carried out.

Investigations at your home.

If it is found that there has been a mine underneath your home or there is one suspected to be beneath it,

then a specialist company will need to come out to investigate the ground your home is built on. This will entail them drilling holes into the ground beneath your home to see how firm the ground is. Equally, for more information on just what is underneath your home, a full structural mining report can be conducted.

In the majority of cases the problems can be fixed without too much stress to you or your home and once this has been carried out your home will need to be mortgaged and insured again.

Can I build near a mineshaft?

If you are thinking of building near to or above a mineshaft, then it is vital that you seek professional advice before doing so. Consult the Coal Authority for their advice and also ensure you gain permission from the relevant departments as any disturbance caused to disused mines can be incredibly dangerous.

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