Say the word “subsidence” and for just about any homeowner, it strikes a chord of terror. At the very worst case scenario, you could have to move in to temporary accommodation while your home is being repaired / underpinned. At the very least, it can cause you financial pain, with repair costs running in to thousands of pounds. Plus, you will need subsidence insurance in the future.
Even once your property is repaired, trying to get subsidence insurance after having made a claim is typically very difficult indeed. Many insurers will refuse to cover that element of protection at all – or charge you a hefty fee.
That is why you may need to enlist the help of a specialist subsidence insurer. But first, what are the causes of subsidence?
What causes subsidence?
In a nutshell, subsidence is the downward movement of the ground on which a property stands. This is where the soil beneath the building’s foundations is unstable and has nothing to do with the weight of the building.
There are many causes of subsidence including:
• escape of water – a long term escape of water, for example, from leaking or burst pipes, washes away parts of the underlying soil. The amount of soil underneath the property reduces and the property foundations start to subside. Also, the underlying soil can soften if there is an escape of water, reducing its ability to support the building’s weight – causing the property’s foundations to subside;
• clay shrinkage – clay consists of around 30-35% water. Soil with a high clay content can become dried out as a result of nearby shrubs and trees absorbing the water, thereby decreasing the volume of the soil and making the property’s foundations subside;
• trees and large shrubs close to the property – particularly during hot summers, when they suck up any moisture.
For a full list of causes, the Financial Ombudsman has a useful article on subsidence causes and solutions.
The Association of British Insurers also has a useful guide to subsidence here.
Check your buildings insurance policy
Subsidence can be a costly and stressful thing to repair and many people assume that apart from a policy excess (which is typically £1,000 in the event of a claim, but may be more depending on the insurer), their buildings insurance will take care of the rest.
You should never, however, assume that your property insurance automatically covers subsidence.
You may be surprised to learn that subsidence cover may not be included as a typical part of your buildings insurance. This is because the amount of claims for subsidence has risen over recent years, meaning that insurance companies are paying out more in claims. The knock on effect is that some insurers will only include cover for subsidence for an extra premium.
When buying your buildings / home insurance, ensure you know whether or not subsidence cover is included.
How we can help
Finally, at GSI Insurance, all our landlords and owner-occupied properties have subsidence insurance included as standard, so you can rest assured that you have appropriate cover.
If you have had a previous subsidence claim on your property and are looking for insurance, then please do get in touch. We have access to specialist insurers who understand about subsidence and underpinning and will price your cover accordingly.