If you are looking for home insurance cover, then you might want to know about subsidence. Subsidence is an issue that many people don’t think about until it becomes a problem. If your home has been affected by subsidence, then it’s time to get in touch with your insurance company and see what they can do to help protect your investment.
What is Subsidence?
Subsidence1 is a geological phenomenon where the ground sinks due to natural causes or human activity on the surface. In some cases, buildings or other structures may also sink in relation to the change in soil level. There are many things that can cause subsidence, including earthquakes, coal mining practices such as caving, underground gas storage practices such as fracking.
Did you know?
This can result in damage to the foundation of the building and lead to costly repairs and can cause problems with water drainage and sewage systems, as well as structural damage and stress cracks in walls and floors.
Subsidence Home Insurance
It’s insurance that protects you financially if your home is destroyed by subsidence. You can get reimbursed for the expense of fixing your property after it has been damaged by subsidence, but not all insurers will cover it.
Most plans will cover your property if it has never been subjected to subsidence, but many will not if you have previously filed a subsidence claim. This is because fixing subsidence damage can be rather costly.
Subsidence Home Insurance Cover
Most buildings insurance policies will cover the cost of repairing damage or loss caused by subsidence, but most will not cover prevention. This is a crucial point to remember, and it’s a common misunderstanding among those who believe their insurance policy can be utilized to take preventative actions.
To clarify, buildings insurance will often only cover the expense of fixing damage caused by subsidence, not the cost of preventing future problems. So, for example, subsidence-caused flaws in the property’s structure are insured, but the building’s future displacement is not.
Getting Subsidence Home Insurance
Most insurers would want to know about any previous subsidence concerns your property has had to assess the risk it possesses.
Typical questions insurers ask:
Let’s have a closer look:
- Is there a claim for subsidence, landslip, or heave?
- Are there any signs of damage caused by subsidence, landslides, or heave?
- Have you had your property checked for signs of subsidence, landslip, or heave?
- As a result of subsidence, landslip, or heave, has your property experienced structural movement or settlement?
Every instance of subsidence is treated as a distinct incident, and it is classified as a material fact that you must inform your insurance on.
If your home has been subjected to many subsidence events, you must answer the following questions for each one separately:
- Is there a mining history beneath or near your home?
- When did the subsidence happen, and what year was it?
- Was the main building affected?
- Where there any other properties that were impacted?
- What was the cause of the movement?
- Was the underlying cause of the movement addressed?
- Is a survey report available?
- If a survey is available, does it confirm that the movement is historic and insignificant?
- If available, is the survey report written by a qualified structural engineer?
The cost of a subsidence excess2 may be higher than the cost of a conventional house insurance policy excess. Subsidence damage can be costly to repair, so insurers levy a higher excess to try to recoup some of the cost.
If you need to file a claim, keep an eye out for higher mandatory excesses. If there is a higher subsidence excess, it will be noted in your policy paperwork.
What if You Discover Subsidence After Switching Insurance Provider?
If a fault is discovered within eight weeks of switching, your previous insurer is liable for resolving any subsidence claims, according to an agreement drafted by the Association of British Insurers.
Can I Claim for Subsidence on My Home Insurance?
This is dependent on your insurance, so read their terms and conditions carefully before taking the coverage.
How to Check for Signs of Subsidence?
If you think your property is in danger, there are some telltale signs that can help you figure out if you’re in danger. The following are some of the warning indications:
- Cracks that are quite large – Subsidence can develop cracks in both the inner and outside walls. They can appear and spread quickly, are thinner on one end, run diagonally, and can be spotted near windows and doors.
- Windows and doors unable to close or open – When doors and windows are out of line, they might become jammed, stuck, or not close properly.
- Sloping floors – Sagging or sloping floors, ceilings, and walls may be an indication that your home’s foundations aren’t level.
- Wrinkling wallpaper at wall and ceiling joints – Wrinkles in the wallpaper might be caused by hidden cracks in the walls.
- Cracks in the walls of a home addition – If you have an extension, you may see cracks where it connects to your house.
How Can I Avoid Subsidence?
Here are a few ways you can prevent subsidence:
- Planting trees or plants too close to your home is not a good idea. If you’re going to plant new trees and shrubs, be sure they’re not too close to your house.
- Plants that have already been pruned. Pruning bushes and trees should be done on a regular basis. Every few years, have large, older trees examined to see if they pose any immediate hazard to your home.
- Keep your underground pipes in good working order. If a pipe leak or a drain overflows beneath your home, the soil becomes moist and fragile, potentially creating heave and shifting your home’s foundations.
Look for signs of subsidence and cracks. If you’re buying a home, check for major diagonal cracks both inside and out, as well as whether the doors and windows close properly.
In a nutshell,
Home insurance covers a wide range of risks to your property, but subsidence is not one that you would automatically think of. Subsidence is typically covered by your property insurance. Most standard insurers will refuse to insure a house that has been identified as being prone to subsidence. This is also true for properties that have experienced sinking in the past.
On that point, if you’re planning to buy a house, read over the surveyor’s report for any history of subsidence and seek professional advice.