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Subsidence insurance

Subsidence can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, but you can protect yourself from a financial hit by making sure you have the right home insurance in place.

Subsidence can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, but you can protect yourself from a financial hit by making sure you have the right home insurance in place.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
25 NOVEMBER 2022
5 min read
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What is subsidence?

Subsidence is when the ground beneath your home sinks, causing your foundations to move with it. Subsidence can cause the building to shift, making it unstable and creating large cracks in the walls.  

Read our guide to subsidence and find out if insurance for subsidence is included as standard in your home insurance policy.

Does my home insurance cover subsidence?

Most buildings insurance policies include subsidence insurance as standard, but only if your home has never suffered from subsidence before. Your buildings insurance will typically cover repairs for damage caused by subsidence – it won’t cover the cost of preventing it happening again. Some policies also cover replacement costs for lost and damaged items due to subsidence, and alternative accommodation if you need to move out while your house is being repaired. 

Patios, garden walls and driveways aren’t usually covered by home insurance for subsidence, unless the main structure of your home is also damaged.

Never assume that you’re automatically covered for subsidence. Insurance providers have different terms and conditions, so read the policy small print to see what’s included. And check the excess you’ll need to pay towards a subsidence claim – it’s typically around £1,000. 

Is subsidence insurance expensive?

The cost of home insurance for a property with subsidence can vary, depending on:

  • The type of building it is
  • How close trees are to the property
  • How close the property is to water.

When you take out insurance, you’ll be asked if your home has had subsidence problems in the past. Insurance providers know that some areas are at risk of subsidence issues and if you live in one of these, if could affect the cost of your premium. 

If you make a subsidence claim, it’s likely you’ll pay more for your home insurance when it comes to renewal. You might also find that subsidence cover will be excluded from any future claims with the same provider.  

Will I have to pay a higher subsidence excess?

If you make a subsidence claim, it’s likely you’ll have to pay a higher excess in future. If your house has subsidence damage or a subsidence claims history, some insurance providers may insist on a higher excess. You may also have difficulty getting standard home insurance, in which case you’ll need to look for a specialist provider.

What causes subsidence?

There’s a few possible reasons for subsidence. These include:

  • Clay soil shrinking and cracking in hot weather, making the ground unstable 
  • Trees growing too close to your home’s foundations 
  • Water leakage causing the ground to soften 
  • Your building’s age – older houses tend to have shallower foundations  
  • Climate change – longer heatwaves can cause the ground to dry out and shrink 
  • Underpinning – properties with subsidence are often underpinned. However, if you’ve had subsidence before, there’s a risk it might come back 
  • Underground caverns – soil erosion can cause caverns to form underground, affecting your building’s foundations 
  • Unused mines – in some cases, deserted mines can cause the ground above to collapse.

Subsidence isn’t caused by the weight of the building. 

Did you know?

According to climate data from the British Geological Survey, subsidence is one of the most damaging geohazards in Britain and has cost the economy around £3 billion in financial losses over the past decade. It’s also projected that the effects of climate change – resulting in hotter, drier summers – could see subsidence risks increase by a third by 2030.

How can I tell if I have subsidence?

The most obvious sign of subsidence is cracks in your property. If these are caused by subsidence, they’re likely to be: 

  • Thicker than the side of a 10p coin
  • Running diagonally down the wall 
  • Visible both inside and outside the property
  • Close to windows, doors or extensions.

How can I prevent subsidence?

It’s good to catch subsidence early or,  better still, prevent it altogether. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Keep guttering and drainpipes clean and well maintained to prevent leaks and blockages 
  • Catch surplus rainwater in water butts to prevent it running into the foundations
  • Prune plants so they need less water to support themselves
  • Avoid planting trees or shrubs close to your property
  • Don’t remove trees that you think are too close to your property’s foundations yourself. Consult a tree surgeon for professional advice.  

What’s the difference between subsidence and settlement?

People often get subsidence and settlement confused. Settlement is when the weight of your building causes the soil supporting it to move downwards.

Settlement is fairly common in new builds. When a house is built, it can move slightly for a few years while the soil is settling down or water penetrates the soil. This can cause small cracks to appear in the walls but, in most cases, this is nothing to worry about. 

What should I do if I think I have subsidence?

If you think you have subsidence, contact your insurance provider immediately. They can arrange for a full survey to confirm whether you have an issue. 

How is subsidence fixed?

One common solution to subsidence is ‘underpinning’, which can combat the problem and prevent further damage. This involves strengthening the property’s foundations, and adding support beams and concrete reinforcement if needed.

Unfortunately, even if the issue is resolved, you could face higher premiums in future.

Find out more about underpinning and the impact it might have on your home insurance.  

Comparing the costs of home insurance cover

We can help you find the right home insurance policy for you. Just answer a few questions and we’ll give you a list of insurance providers who could cover your home for subsidence. 

Compare home insurance quotes with us today and see if you can start saving. 

Frequently asked questions

How do I find out if my area has subsidence?

You’ll find a number of online maps detailing subsidence hotspots and areas that may be at risk. It’s worth spending a few minutes searching these to find out if yours is one of them. 

Can new-build properties get subsidence?

All properties can get subsidence, depending on the type of soil they’re built on. However, new properties are more likely to suffer from settlement, which is where the ground moves to take the weight of the house. In some cases, settlement can cause serious problems, so it’s worth investigating if you think you have a problem. 

What’s the difference between subsidence and heave?

Heave is the opposite of subsidence and the chances of it occurring are much rarer. Ground heave happens when the soil under and around a house becomes waterlogged and expands, often after a flood or in freezing winter temperatures. As the ground swells, it gradually pushes up the foundations of a property.   

What’s the difference between subsidence and landslip?

Landslip is when the ground under or around a property slides down a slope or is washed away.  

How common is subsidence?

Subsidence is relatively common in the UK because of our heavy clay soil. It’s thought to be a particular problem in London, where some sources say that up to one in 50 houses has suffered from subsidence. 

Should I buy a house with a history of subsidence?

Subsidence can be dealt with, so needn’t always be a deal-breaker. But if you’re looking at buying a house with a history of subsidence, check what the seller has done to deal with the issue. If the subsidence is a live issue, you may have trouble getting a mortgage on the property. 

Anna McEntee - Insurance expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

Learn more about Anna

Rachel Lacey - Insurance and money expert

Rachel’s a self-confessed money nerd who’s been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She spent 17 years writing for Moneywise, including a few years as Editor, and likes making complicated subjects like insurance, pensions, investing and tax, easy for people to understand.

Learn more about Rachel

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