2004 will be another subsidence event year, and 2005 will be worse. This was the stark warning from Capita Insurance Services director of building services Tony Boobier.

Speaking at the Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors (ASUC plus) conference last week, Boobier said: "2004 will be worse than 2003. Claims event years come in pairs. This will mean that 2005 will be a terrible year, as there will be a backlog of claims. There will be the legacy of 2003 coupled with 2004."

Boobier also said that the reopening of old claims - due to the recurrence of damage - would also be a major problem for insurers. "These claims cost three or four times the cost of a new claim. It will be a big issue."

Zurich subsidence claims manager John Parvin called on the industry to ensure that contingency plans were in place to meet the increase in claims.

"Insurers need to ensure that their loss adjusters have plans in place to cope with a claims surge."

Other speakers highlighted the slow progress of repairs. ASUC plus chairman Vic Handley said: "The industry has not dealt with claims from previous years yet. If there is another long, hot, dry summer, there will be a major problem in the future in sorting the claims out."

Ellipta chief executive Geoff Davies said: "We are on the brink of the wheel coming off. If 2004 is as bad as 2003 we are in trouble. Five months past the 2003 surge suppliers are already missing deadlines. Time costs money."