What is subsidence and how does it affect insurance?

A guide to spotting the signs and protecting your property


What is subsidence?

Subsidence is a serious issue that no homeowner wants to experience. And while you can’t prevent it completely, there are steps you can take to minimise your risk and cover your home if it does cause costly problems.

Subsidence is when the ground beneath your property sinks, pulling the foundations of your home down with it. It often occurs gradually over time, meaning most people don’t notice it until it’s too late.

It can cause your walls and floors to shift, leaving your home unbalanced and destabilised. If it isn’t resolved, you could face potential safety risks, leading to costly repairs.

In worst case scenarios, you may need to add extra support to your home’s foundations. This could cost around £1,500 to £2,600 per metre squared. If you’re able to spot the problem early, you can make sure you have subsidence insurance in place to protect your property and your pocket.

Signs of subsidence in a house

The most obvious sign of subsidence is cracks in your walls. Subsidence cracks are not to be confused with cracks caused by natural shrinkage, swelling or settling.

Typically, a subsidence crack is:

  • Wider at the top than the bottom and usually diagonal
  • More than 3mm thick (around the thickness of a 10p coin)
  • Visible both internally and externally.

They often appear near windows and doors, which can become ill-fitting or stuck as a result of subsidence. Another possible sign is rippling wallpaper where the wall meets the ceiling.

What causes subsidence?

Subsidence can be caused by a range of issues, including:

  • Tree roots and shrubs
  • Clay soil shrinkage
  • Leaks, often caused by faulty drains
  • Property age and construction
  • Mining
  • Poor groundworks

What to do if you think your house has subsidence

1. Contact your buildings insurer

Before you take any action, it’s important to get in touch with your buildings insurer. They’ll usually send over a structural engineer to check the severity of your issue. This could take a while if your property needs to be monitored over time.

If you’re found to have subsidence, they can advise you on the best course of action. You can then check if your current insurance covers you for any subsidence claims.

It’s important to note that if you don’t declare any subsidence activity to your insurer (whether it happened historically or now) it could invalidate any future claims.

2. Assess potential fixes

Depending on the outcome of the survey, you may need to pay out for a few fixes. This could include:

  • Underpinning your house to add support to the foundations
  • Making cosmetic repairs (plastering cracks, replacing wallpaper, etc.)
  • Remedying the cause of subsidence (removing problem trees, fixing leaks, etc.)

All of these fixes could require a significant amount of time and money. They may be covered under your home insurance policy if this is your first instance of subsidence. If this is a recurring case, you may need to have a specialist policy that covers subsidence or pay out of your own pocket.

In some instances, you may need to vacate your home while your property is being repaired. If you have alternative accommodation cover included in your home insurance, you may be able to claim for this. You’ll need to check that subsidence is classed as an insured event on your policy.

Does home insurance cover subsidence?

Most policies allow you to make a subsidence claim for damage to the structure of your main property and outbuildings. However, you could end up paying a higher excess as a result of any claims you make. Excess typically starts at £1,000 and can jump up by thousands for a subsidence claim.

There’s also a chance that your home insurer will refuse to continue your policy at renewal once you’ve confirmed subsidence. If they do decide to continue your cover, this could come with significantly higher premiums and excess or the inability to make future subsidence claims.

You may also struggle to find a new policy with other standard home insurers, as you’re now seen as a greater risk. This is where specialist insurers can help with insurance designed for homes with subsidence.

What is subsidence insurance?

Subsidence insurance is a type of home insurance designed for homes that are affected by subsidence. It covers properties:

  • at risk of subsidence (this could be from neighbouring subsidence)
  • currently suffering from subsidence (whether you’ve made a claim or not)
  • with a history of subsidence (whether this happened before or after you bought the property)

As all properties are different, you can tailor you policy to suit your needs. Like a standard home insurance policy, you can cover your buildings and optionally your contents. In addition, it covers any repairs or rebuilding you need to make to your property, including the cost of underpinning to prevent further sinkage.

How do I get subsidence insurance?

As subsidence cover is a specialist type of insurance, it can be useful to get advice before you purchase a policy. Working with an advised broker is one way to ensure you have the right level of cover for your needs.

At Wesleyan Financial Services, we work with a range of specialist insurers, meaning you’ll have options to choose from. It also means that we’ll do the hard work for you, advising based on your needs and comparing cover based on your specific requirements.

And if you’re a member of Wesleyan, you can get an exclusive 20% discount on your subsidence insurance policy.

How much does subsidence insurance cost?

Like all home insurance policies, the price you pay for your policy depends on a few factors. The main factor is the policy and level of cover you choose.

When you get a quote, insurers will provide a quote based on the details you provide. This includes:

  • The rebuild value of your property (how much it would cost to rebuild your property from scratch today)
  • Your subsidence risk (closeness to trees and water)
  • Your subsidence history (a longer history of subsidence could indicate that you’ll make further claims)

Get insured and informed

Subsidence insurance

Get insurance for your home with a history of subsidence, to protect your property against heave, landslides and more.

Home insurance with adverse claims history

Has your claims history made it difficult for you to find cover? Speak to our team to see if we can find you home insurance from our panel of leading insurers.

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