Subsidence Insurance FAQs

If you are a homeowner, one of the dreaded conclusions following any inspection of your property is the evidence of subsidence.

Following a string of long, hot summers and a host of factors which might be encouraging subsidence, there has been a noticeable upsurge in the number of subsidence insurance claims made by homeowners – an increase of 400%, according to some sources.

Here are some subsidence insurance Faqs.

Is subsidence covered under by home insurance policy?

There is no definitive answer, since some policies may cover the risk of subsidence, but many do not – and, if not, you may need specialist additional subsidence insurance just in case you need to claim.

Since subsidence claims may run into many tens of thousands of pounds, some policies exclude cover in order to keep the cost of premiums lower than they would otherwise need to be. Even when the risk is included, the excess payable on any subsidence claim is likely to be in the region of £1,000 – £5,000 – once again, in an attempt to reduce the cost of premiums.

In short, it is important to check whether or not subsidence is one of the risks covered in your home building and contents insurance policy.

What does subsidence insurance cover?

Policies may vary widely in just what is covered under subsidence insurance.

Repairs and reinstatement of damage to the building may be covered, for instance, but some policies might not extend to the cost of remedial works to prevent subsidence happening in the future.

In the event of serious damage from subsidence that renders the property temporarily uninhabitable, some policies may also cover the cost of alternative accommodation – subject to limits generally expressed as a percentage of the total building sum insured.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) gives a reminder that subsidence caused by past coal mining activity in the area needs to be the subject of a claim to the Coal Authority (although your own insurers need to be kept in the picture about any such claim).

What causes subsidence?

Around three-quarters of all subsidence insurance claims arise from shrinkage of the soil on which the building’s foundations are built, according to Subsidence Support.

Clay soils, for example, swell when wet and then contract and shrink when the weather becomes dry or in prolonged periods of drought. For homes built on sandy and chalky soils, the problem may stem from the supporting ground being washed away during periods of prolonged or especially heavy rain.

Trees and shrubs growing near the building line also absorb water from the ground during their growth and this may cause the surrounding soil to shrink and collapse.

Faulty rainwater goods and blocked drains may also have the effect of washing away the ground supporting the building’s foundations.

Past mining or other excavation works may also be the cause of isolated incidents of subsidence.

How can I tell if my home is subject to subsidence?

Unfortunately, there are a number of symptoms that might spell subsidence or have rather less sinister causes – such as cracks in exterior or interior walls, or warped or sticking doors or windows, for instance.

If you suspect subsidence – and have subsidence insurance – first tell your insurers and they are likely to call in expert surveyors to assess the situation.