Subsidence can be a nightmare for homeowners, but finding the right insurance policy can give you peace of mind.
Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath your home moves, often causing the foundations to sink. If your home suffers subsidence, you may see cracks appear on the inside and outside of the building. You may also find doors and windows do not close properly or stick.
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 that add extra moisture to the ground beneath your property
Clay soil, which moves more than other types of earth in response to moisture - it expands more when wet and contracts more when dry
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.
Subsidence home insurance will foot the repair bill 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 standard buildings insurance policies will cover your property if it has not suffered from subsidence in the past, but many will refuse cover if it has. . This is because the cost of repairing subsidence damage can be very expensive, with the bill for underpinning a property likely to be up to £2,600 per square metre.
If your home has suffered subsidence damage in the past you may need to look for a specialist policy. You can compare subsidence home insurance here.
You can find out more about home insurance with our What is home insurance? guide.
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 also put in a claim for 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 has also been damaged. Your claim may also be rejected if the subsidence was caused by:
Water or oil escaping from fixed water or heating systems
The normal bedding down of new buildings
Coastal or river erosion
Demolition or structural changes to your home
If you live in an area at risk from subsidence, or have made a claim for damage before, the insurer may ask you:
When the property suffered from subsidence
The cause of the subsidence
How it was fixed
Whether it was all or partially underpinned
Whether there has been any movement since repairs were carried out
The cost of any previous claims
The subsidence insurance quote you are offered will be based on the answers you give to these questions.
Some insurers will not cover your property if it has suffered subsidence in the past, or if the problem has not been fixed.
You may be asked 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.
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.
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 standard home insurance policy.
Not all insurers let you do this, but some specialist companies might so it is worth shopping around.