It can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, but you can protect yourself from some of the financial impact of subsidence by making sure you have the right home insurance cover. 

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is defined as the downward movement of the site on which a building stands – but the movement isn’t caused by the weight of the building.

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 – large cracks can form that make the building less stable.

What’s the difference between subsidence and settlement?

Settlement is when the soil supporting your property moves downward – this time caused by the weight of the building.

It’s more common in new builds, which often move for a few years while the soil is settling down, and water getting into the soil causes settlement too. Small cracks can appear in the walls but, usually, these are nothing to worry about.

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How do I know if I have subsidence?

There are a few tell-tale signs you should look out for. If a crack is caused by subsidence, it’s likely to be:

  • Thicker than the side of a 10p coin
  • Diagonal, running down your wall
  • Visible inside and outside the property
  • Close to windows, doors or extensions

What causes subsidence?

Broadly, subsidence can be caused by:

  • Soil type (clay soil can shrink and crack in hot weather, making the ground unstable)
  • Trees (particularly if they’re close to your home)
  • Water damage
  • The age of your home

What can I do about subsidence?

Preventing subsidence, or catching it early, is always best. It’s a good idea to:

  • Keep your external guttering and drainpipes well-maintained and without leaks.
  • Catch any surplus rainwater in water butts to prevent it running into the foundations. 
  • Keep existing plants well pruned so that they need to draw less moisture to support themselves. 
  • Avoid planting trees or shrubs close to your home. 
  • Avoid digging out any trees you think may be too close to your house’s foundations.

You could also consult a tree surgeon for specialist advice. Additionally, the Subsidence Support website has a useful map of areas at risk of subsidence.

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 they’ve been damaged – unless the main structure of your home has been damaged at the same time by the same cause.

Most buildings insurance policies only cover the cost of repairing the loss or damage caused by subsidence; they don’t cover the cost of preventing further subsidence.

Terms and conditions relating to subsidence vary among insurance providers, so you should read the small print of your policy to see what is and isn’t included.

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Is insurance for subsidence expensive?

When you take out insurance, you’ll be asked if your home has suffered from subsidence problems in the past. Great if you’ve never had a problem before, but some insurers may know areas that are prone to subsidence issues and are therefore a greater risk of suffering damage in the future which may impact your premium.

If you need to make a claim in the future, you’re likely to find that you have to pay a higher excess – this quite often is as much as £1,000. Although subsidence is usually covered as standard under most policies, you should never assume that you’re automatically covered – always make sure you read your policy’s terms and conditions.

What should I do if I think I have subsidence?

If you think you’ve spotted signs of subsidence, either inside or outside your home, don’t panic! 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.

One common solution to repair or improve the foundations of a property is through a process called ‘underpinning’, which can help prevent further damage and combat the subsidence. Unfortunately, if subsidence is confirmed and even if the issue is resolved, you could still face higher insurance premiums in the future.

Comparing the costs of home insurance cover

We can help you find the right home insurance policy for you. Just start a quote with us, answer a few questions and we’ll provide you with a list of insurance providers that could cover your home for subsidence.