What is subsidence?
It is when the ground beneath your home moves, often causing the foundations to sink. It is commonly caused by:
Nearby trees and plants changing the moisture levels beneath your property
Old mining works under your property
Leaks from underground pipes or poor drainage adding moisture to the ground beneath your property
Properties being built on clay soil, because this is more sensitive to moisture causing it to expand when wet, and contract when dry
If your home suffers subsidence you may see cracks appear on the inside and outside of your home. You may also find doors and windows do not close properly or stick.
What about heave and landslip?
Heave and landslip are similar to subsidence:
Heave occurs when your property moves upwards rather than downwards. It is usually caused when the ground beneath your home becomes waterlogged.
Landslip is when the land under or around your property moves or slips sideways through erosion, falling or being on a slope.
What is subsidence home insurance?
It is a policy that covers you financially if your property is damaged by subsidence.
You can claim back the cost of repairing your home following subsidence damage, but not all insurers cover it.
Most policies can cover your property if it has not suffered from subsidence in the past, however many cannot if you have made a subsidence claim previously. This is because the cost of repairing subsidence damage can be very expensive.
If your home has suffered subsidence damage in the past you may need to look for a specialist policy. You can compare insurance companies that offer subsidence cover here.
It depends on the extent of the repairs needed, but some damage can be repaired easily and affordably. If the cause can be removed, for example a tree removed or a leak fixed, foundation repairs may not be needed.
If the cause cannot be fixed you may need an engineer or surveyor to underpin the foundations of your property, which can cost up to £15,000 for an average sized house.
What does it cover?
If your property is damaged by subsidence, heave or landslip, you can claim to cover the cost of the repair up to the sum insured under the buildings cover of your policy.
Most policies also cover any damage to things like solid floor slabs, outdoor swimming pools, patios, garden walls, footpaths and driveways.
You can claim to cover the cost of your contents if they are damaged as a result of your property subsiding.
Most insurers only cover damage to things outside of your property if your home has been damaged at the same time.
For example, if your driveway is damaged as a result of subsidence your insurer will only cover the cost of the claim if your home is damaged at the same time.
Your claim may also be rejected if the subsidence was caused by:
Water or oil that has escaped from fixed water or heating systems
Normal bedding down of new buildings
Coastal or river erosion
Demolition or structural changes to your home
How to get subsidence cover
If you live in an area at risk from subsidence, or have made a claim for damage before, the insurer may ask you:
When did the property suffer from subsidence?
What was the cause of the subsidence?
How was it fixed?
Was the property underpinned, and if so was it a partial or complete underpinning?
Has their been any ground movement since?
If you made a claim, how much was it for?
The subsidence insurance quote you are offered will be based on the answers you give to these questions.
Some insurers will not be able to offer you cover if your property has suffered subsidence in the past, or if the problem has not been fixed.
You may be asked to present a structure report from the surveyor that fixed your property to prove the problem has been corrected. The insurer may ask to see your:
Structural engineer reports
Structural buildings survey
Home buyers report
Certificate of structural adequacy
Some insurers may also request to see one of these documents each time you renew your policy.
Check the excess
The excess that you need to pay in the event of a subsidence claim may be much higher than the standard policy excess.
For example, if the standard policy excess is £200, the excess for a subsidence claim could be as much as £1,000.
This is because repairing subsidence damage can cost tens of thousands of pounds, so insurers set a higher excess to offset the cost, and deter you from making an expensive claim.
Get a policy without subsidence cover
If you cannot find an insurer willing to cover your property at an affordable price, you could see if you can get a policy without subsidence cover included.
This means you cannot claim for any damage caused as a result of subsidence, but you would be protected against everything else covered by a home insurance policy.
Not all insurers let you do this, but some specialist companies might so it is worth shopping around.