Subsidence and home insurance

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.

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.

Chris King
Home insurance expert
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Posted 16 JANUARY 2020

What is subsidence?

Subsidence can happen when the ground on which your home stands begins to move or sink downwards. The foundations of your house can move as well, causing extensive damage. Large cracks can form, making the building less stable. Subsidence isn’t caused by the weight of the building.

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.

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

What causes subsidence?

Subsidence can be caused by:

  • soil type – clay soil can shrink and crack in hot weather, making the ground unstable
  • tree roots – particularly if they’re close to your home
  • water damage – such as leaking drains that cause the underlying ground to soften
  • the age of your home – older houses tend to have shallower foundations

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
  • running down the wall in a diagonal direction
  • visible inside and outside the property
  • near to windows, doors or extensions


How can I prevent subsidence?

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

  • keep external guttering and drainpipes cleaned and well maintained to prevent leaks and blockages
  • catch surplus rainwater in water butts to prevent it running into the foundations
  • prune existing plants so they need less moisture to support themselves
  • avoid planting trees or shrubs close to your property
  • avoid digging out trees that you think may be too close to your property’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.

Does my home insurance cover subsidence?

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 vary among insurance providers, so read the small print carefully to see what is and isn’t included. Never assume that you’re automatically covered.

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. Some insurance providers may know areas that are prone to subsidence issues and are at risk of future subsidence. This could impact the cost of your premium.

If you need to make a subsidence claim, you’ll most likely have to pay a higher excess in the future – normally as much as £1,000. If your house has existing subsidence damage or a subsidence claims history, some insurance providers may insist on an excess of up to 3% of the insured sum.

What should I do if I think I have subsidence?

Contact your insurance provider immediately. 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 property’s foundations is ‘underpinning’, which can help prevent further damage and combat the subsidence. Unfortunately, even if the issue is resolved, you could still face higher premiums in the future.

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 provide you with a list of insurance providers that could cover your home for subsidence.

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

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