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How does subsidence affect your home insurance?

Subsidence is often mentioned in relation to home insurance but unless it’s something you’ve experienced, it’s not always clear what it is. To help you make informed decisions about the cover you need when choosing a home insurance company, we take a look at subsidence in more detail, and how it can affect your policy.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is when the ground under your home sinks or collapses. Needless to say, if that starts to happen, it can have serious and devastating consequences for your house.

While subsidence can be resolved, ignoring it can lead to severe structural issues and leave your home unstable.

What causes subsidence?

Subsidence can be caused by a number of factors – some man-made and some natural, including:

  • Type of soil – some soil types are particularly vulnerable to subsidence. For example, clay soils tend to shrink and crack during dry spells which can cause the ground to move and shift.
  • Trees and shrubbery – roots can also pose problems which can be worse for clay soils. As roots absorb more water, the clay shrinks even more.
  • Water – underground leaks can erode and wash away soil (especially sandy soil) which can cause instability.
  • Construction – building work can cause subsidence if it isn’t properly planned. Depending on the materials used, older homes can also be at greater risk of movement.
  • Mines – subsidence can affect homes close to old mines. Even if mines have been filled-in, they can be put at risk if the ground moves.

Does insurance cover subsidence?

Generally speaking, yes. Subsidence is a standard ‘risk’ that is covered by most home insurance policies. Remember that insurers set their own terms and conditions, so you’ll need to check exactly what your policy says about subsidence. Some policies will only provide cover for your home and exclude outbuildings like a garage, shed or garden office.

If your home has suffered problems with subsidence before, you must let your insurer know. In these instances, you’re likely to pay a higher premium which reflects the risk of subsidence happening again. In a handful of cases, you might have to search for an insurer that specialises in properties with subsidence.

Subsidence and excess

Subsidence claims typically come with a high excess (the amount you pay towards a claim). The exact amount will vary by insurer but it’s usually around £1,000.

How do I spot subsidence?

Hopefully your home won’t ever suffer from subsidence, but if it does, it’s important to recognise it quickly. Tell-tale signs include:

  • Cracks that appear suddenly rather than develop over time.
  • Wide cracks (usually 3mm or more) that can be seen inside and outside of the house.
  • Diagonal cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom.
  • Cracks appear near doors and windows.
  • Creases in wallpaper not caused by damp.

Can you fix subsidence?

Yes, subsidence can usually be fixed. Naturally, the earlier you spot it, the easier it is likely to be for an engineer to identify the cause and resolve it.

In more serious cases, your home will need to be underpinned so that it’s structurally sound. While this is undoubtedly a good thing for your property, it can mean paying a slightly higher than average premium because of the perceived risk of a future claim.

How can I tell if a house has subsidence?

If you’re buying a home, the seller should be able to tell you if subsidence has been a problem. If you’re concerned, your surveyor should also be able to advise if you have a level two or level three survey done.

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It’s worth knowing that unless a property comes with all the relevant paperwork, it can be hard to tell if a house has been underpinned just by looking at it. Surveyors will have their own methods of assessing a property, but finding a definitive answer could mean having to dig an area near the foundations to find out.

How much does it cost to insure a house with subsidence?

Home insurance premiums are influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • How old your home is, and the type of materials used to build it.
  • Whether there are any trees near your house (if there are, you might be asked about proximity).
  • How close you are to water.
  • Any other relevant features, for example, if your home is built close to an old mine).
  • Whether your home has had any issues with subsidence in the past.

This is on top of all the other information that insurers will ask you – such as postcode, number of bedrooms and rebuild cost. Insurers use all this information to calculate the probability of risk – the greater the risk of a claim, the more you’re likely to pay. So, if your home has had subsidence, you can expect premiums to be higher than for homes that haven’t.

Search for affordable home insurance without compromise

Any home insurance policy you choose should accurately reflect your needs. Comparing a wide range of quotes can help you do that while also ensuring you get value for money.

Cheap Home Insurance in Your Area

Home insurance comparison panel includes dozens of insurance providers.

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