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Home Insurance and Subsidence

When purchasing a home insurance policy, looking out for subsidence cover is important, how much excess you have to pay, what your insurer will cover you for and what it excludes. Comparing home insurance policies, particularly for subsidence cover, is a smart move as different terms and conditions could potentially save you thousands. But, first of all, what even is subsidence?

In this guide:

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is when your house or part of your house sinks into the ground. This can happen when the structure is damaged or when the soil is too dry, causing the house’s foundations to sink into the ground. If there’s really wet weather the ground can expand due to the moisture and then contract in the dryer, summer months, this is a particular concern if your house is built on clay soil.

If you have tree roots under your home or live in an area that used to be heavily mined, your house may be more vulnerable to subsidence. Not only will subsidence make your house lopsided, but it can create large cracks in the wall.

Is subsidence included in your insurance?

Subsidence cover is usually included with home insurance but will only cover you if your house has not experienced subsidence before. It’s therefore important to notify your insurer as soon as you notice the signs of subsidence. Your insurer will however not cover you to prevent subsidence happening again. The excess on subsidence cover is normally quite high, insurers likely will make you pay the first £1000 excess, sometimes may be higher.

A subsidence insurance policy should cover you for items that may have been damaged because of subsidence, or if you have to move out of your house while the issue is being resolved.

What is excluded in subsidence cover?

It’s not a one size fits all policy; different insurers may exclude different things. However, there are some common exclusions. For example, things outside your property, like your driveway will only be covered in your policy if your home was damaged as well.

If subsidence is caused by coastal or river erosion, structural changes to your home, bedding down (when a house is new and naturally settles down into its foundations) and water from a heating system, will most likely not be covered by your insurance.

A house with a history of subsidence can be quite hard to insure and may mean you have to go to a specialist insurer and pay an even higher premium. It’s strongly advisable to check the terms and conditions of your house insurance to be sure of what your policy covers.

How can I prevent subsidence?

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for subsidence and do something about it as soon as you see any signs. The telltale signs are large diagonal cracks, cracks that are noticeable both inside and outside your property and are close to windows and doors. If you’re buying a house make sure you check if it has a history of subsidence.

Maintain plants and shrubbery growing around your house. Anything new you plant, make sure it’s planted at least 10 metres away from your house. Additionally, get any large trees surveyed every few years. Maintain any pipes or drains under your house, if you suspect a leak contact your insurer for advice straight away.

What should I do if I have subsidence?

It’s important to call your insurer as soon as you notice signs of subsidence. They will discuss with you the next steps which will most likely be to arrange a survey to confirm if it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

If your house is sinking into the ground, you may need to have your house underpinned. This is when the foundations of your house are strengthened. It’s a timely and expensive process that involves digging underneath the house to create channels to fill with concrete. If you have your house underpinned, you’re obliged to declare it by law.

If you purchase a property and was not told it was underpinned, you have the right to sue. It’s therefore very important when you buy a house to keep a paper trail of all correspondence between you and the vendor or estate agent to prove you were misled. The costs included in taking someone to court can be covered by your house insurance, depending on your policy.