How does subsidence affect my buildings insurance?

Subsidence is often a big worry for property owners. Very difficult to predict and costly to fix we all want to know it’s covered on our insurance. But what is subsidence? Is it that much of a risk? And will affected properties really be uninsurable afterwards? We look at what subsidence is and how insurance companies deal with it.

For insurance purposes ‘Subsidence’ is the name for any structural movement, be that sinking, leaning or rising. Subsidence is also the name for a specific type of movement, all of which are explained below.

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How do you fix subsidence?

The professionals, depending on what the issue is will usually underpin the property. This basically means lying, new, or more foundations to hold the structure more firmly or strengthen the ground below. If the structure is leaning or pulling apart they could also literally bolt it together with big steel staples (a term known to the professionals as girders).

Home insurance for properties without subsidence

Subsidence cover doesn’t generally cost very much if there is no history of it so, it shouldn’t raise your premium a great deal and sometimes will even be included at no extra cost. In most cases it’s quite unlikely you will suffer from any kind of subsidence, it’s worth mentioning also though if you have a mortgage it’s likely to be a requirement of your agreement with the lender. Also if you’re property is new you do face a slightly higher risk because there may be no precedence for the local area. 

Home insurance for properties with subsidence

The most important thing with a property that has or is suffering from subsidence is to have a structure report from the surveyor or engineer that did the fixing. This report must be presented to the insurer to prove the subsidence has been corrected. Thousands of people have the same issue and a specialist insurer is well qualified to access the risk on a case by case basis and make you as fairer offer as possible. You can expect it to rise in all cases though.

You are unlikely to find an insurer who will offer you protection on a house that is sinking (or that you can’t prove is no longer sinking) at any price so the next best option is to take out buildings insurance that simply doesn’t include subsidence cover. Again, a good specialist insurer can provide standard building and contents insurance but agree that they won’t pay out on any subsidence related claim.

The thing to remember with subsidence is to take it seriously. It’s a small risk with a potentially catastrophic result. Read your mortgage agreement, get any work or checks done professionally and always be up front about any issues with your insurer. Specialist insurers deal with this every day and they are looking to help you get the best deal they can but if you’re not covered and it does happen to you, your windows could become your doors!

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