What is subsidence insurance?

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Subsidence can be a home owner’s worst nightmare, but you can protect yourself from some of the financial impact by making sure you have the right home insurance cover. It’s also worth remembering that subsidence can be fixed with the right kind of specialist help too.

Frequently Thought Questions

Unless you’re an engineer, you probably don’t fully appreciate what subsidence is - until you find your house is suffering from it. Here, we’ll look at answering some of the questions you might have about subsidence, and what you might do to protect yourself.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is defined as the downward movement of the site on which a building stands. This means there’s less support underneath part or all of the foundations of a property. This movement is not caused by the weight of the building.

Practically, this means that when the ground underneath your home begins to move or sink downwards, the foundations of your house move as well. This can cause extensive damage to your home such as large cracks which can make the building less stable.

What is the difference between subsidence and settlement?

Settlement is not subsidence. It does however mean that the soil is moving downward, but this time caused by the weight of the building. It is common in new builds, which often move for a few years while the soil is settling down. Water getting into the soil causes settlement too. Small cracks can appear in the walls, but these are normally nothing to worry about.

How do I know if I have subsidence?

Before you start looking at every minor crack in your walls suspiciously, there are certain telltale signs that you should look for.

If a crack is caused by subsidence it is likely to

  • Be thicker than the side of a 10p coin
  • Be diagonal running down your wall
  • Be visible inside and outside the property
  • Be close to windows, doors or extensions

Other signs that subsidence is at work could be:

  • Wallpaper crinkling with no sign of damp. Don’t worry, this isn’t always a sign of subsidence as this could just be cracks in the paintwork or the external render, however it’s good to keep an eye out.
  • Doors and windows sticking or frames warping

What causes subsidence?

Not all homes have the same risk of subsidence. There are a number of reasons that subsidence occurs, some of them might be through the work of nature and others simply by seasonal changes.

What can I do about subsidence?

Preventing subsidence or, catching it early is always best. If you think your property might be at risk of subsidence, the first thing to do is try and reduce the risk as much as possible.

What is subsidence insurance?

Subsidence damage to your property is usually included in your Buildings Insurance, but this normally only covers subsidence damage to the house itself.

Patios, garden walls and driveways aren’t usually covered if damage has occurs. However terms and conditions relating to subsidence vary from insurance provider to insurance provider so you should read the small print in your policy carefully to see what is and isn’t included.

Most buildings insurance policies only cover the cost of repairing the loss or damage caused by subsidence. They do not cover the cost of preventing further subsidence.

Subsidence cases are often complex - and involve expert evidence and technical data. They are among the claims that can take the longest time to resolve.

Is it expensive?

When you take out insurance you will be asked if your home has suffered from subsidence problems in the past. Don’t presume that any future subsidence issues will be covered in future though; make sure to read the T&Cs.

If you have never had a problem, then you won’t pay more for your insurance. Look at your insurance policy though because you might find you have got a policy excess, if you make a claim for home subsidence. The excess depends whether you live is a high risk area, and can be higher depending on your circumstances. Look at your policy documents though, as subsidence often carries an increased standard excess which is usually £1,000.

Where can I get more advice on subsidence?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) can provide further practical advice and can recommend a specialist if you suspect your property has subsidence.

What should I do if I think I have subsidence?

If you think you’ve spotted some signs of subsidence either inside or outside your home don’t panic. Spotting them means that you can take some action to remedy the situation.

Contact your insurance provider at the earliest opportunity. They can arrange for a full survey if necessary to confirm whether or not it’s a genuine case of subsidence.

Unfortunately, if subsidence is confirmed and even if the issue is resolved, you could still face higher insurance costs going forward.

Any further advice?

Always check the terms and conditions in your policy when taking out home insurance and read what subsidence cover you have. If you’re not sure what it means, or you want more information on it, give your insurance provider a call to discuss.

Comparing the costs of home insurance cover

We can help you find the right Buildings Insurance policy for you by comparing home insurance with us. You just need to answer a few questions and you’ll quickly have a list of insurance providers that cover your home for subsidence damage with prices. Try it today.

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