Subsidence is not going to be an issue for all homeowners. However, if it is something that could affect you, you might be wondering if it’s possible for your building insurance to cover it. Here is everything you need to know if you’re looking to insure a property that suffers – or could suffer – from subsidence.
What causes subsidence?
Subsidence is when the ground underneath your home or property is unstable, leading to the foundations of the building sinking into the soil. This instability can be caused by a number of factors, but is it usually seen in land with highly changeable moisture levels or other factors that make the ground extra sensitive to moisture. The most common causes are clay soil, nearby trees, shrubs and other vegetation that soak up the soil’s moisture, leaking drains, or old mining works beneath the ground on which the property is built.
Not all properties are at risk of subsidence, and subsidence is more common in certain types of buildings. Subsidence is more likely to affect properties built on clay soil, which is found more commonly in the southern and easten parts of the United Kingdom. London and the South East are the areas where buildings are most likely to be affected, but subsidence can occur in other parts of the country too.
What are the signs of subsidence?
If your house may be at risk of subsidence, it helps to know what the warning signs are so that you can spot them early. It’s not always easy to spot subsidence, but sudden cracks and damp-like signs that aren’t caused by damp can be a giveaway. Look out for doors and windows that stick for no reason, rippling wallpaper, and plaster and brickwork cracks that are larger at the top than the bottom.
How do you insure a house with subsidence?
While most standard buildings insurance policies will cover subsidence, you may not be fully covered. If your property is in a high risk area, you may need to take out additional protection on your policy. Due to the high costs involved in subsidence repairs, many insurance companies will not offer cover if you have previously made a subsidence claim. If this is the case, you may need to look for a specialist policy.
Excess fees for subsidence claims are relatively high, and generally fall around £1,000. If your home has previously been affected by subsidence, the excess may be even higher, so make sure you’re aware of this before taking out a policy.
If your property is at risk of subsidence, it is important to know what you need covered before taking out your buildings insurance policy. It also helps to be aware of what won’t be covered. Many buildings insurance policies won’t cover damage to driveways, patios or paths unless the main residence is affected. Some cover garages and outbuildings, while others do not. Each policy defines the residence differently, so make sure you are aware of exactly what will or won’t be covered when taking out your policy.
Often it will be worthwhile purchasing an insurance policy, particularly for something as complex as subsidence, through a Broker. To find a reputable Broker visit the British Insurance Brokers Association: https://www.biba.org.uk/