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Subsidence insurance

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What does subsidence insurance cover?

Subsidence is covered by most house insurance policies, but only if your home has never suffered from subsidence in the past. A good policy will cover repairs to damage caused by subsidence, as well as replacement costs for lost items and alternative accommodation.

If your home has irregular features, or is at risk of coastal or riverbank erosion, you might need specialist insurance. This’ll offer cover for damages outside of your home too. Plus underpinning and other subsidence preventative measures.

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How much does subsidence insurance cost?

According to our research, the average cost of home insurance policies covering homes with subsidence is £309 a year.*

The cost of insuring a property with subsidence will vary depending on:

  • The type of building
  • How close trees are to your house
  • Your proximity to water

It's likely to be more expensive to insure a home with a history of subsidence than one without. Premiums are likely to be higher and you might find that less insurers are willing to offer you cover.

If you want to renew your home insurance after a subsidence claim, your existing insurer may still offer you a renewal, but they're not obliged to and you're likely to see a rise in your premium. They might also exclude subsidence cover from any future claims.

*According to GoCompare data, the average cost of home insurance policies bought through GoCompare for homes with subsidence in November 2021 was £309.09 a year.
subsidence insurance cost

Subsidence damage can be expensive to fix

Make sure you’re not stuck with the bill by finding the right subsidence insurance

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What causes subsidence?

Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath a building begins to sink. The sinking causes stress on the foundations, resulting in cracks on the inside or outside of the building.

If left untreated, subsidence can cause the building to lean to one side and become structurally unsound. It can cost a lot to repair damage caused by subsidence, so it's worth making sure your home insurance covers it.

Here are a few common causes of subsidence:

Trees and vegetation

Tree roots may disturb and dislodge the soil beneath your home causing subsidence.

The following trees are often involved in subsidence incidents:

  • Oak
  • Willow
  • Sycamore
  • Ash
  • Plane
  • Poplar

Clay soil

Homes built on clay soil will be affected more than those that aren’t, as clay soil shrinks a lot when the weather is warm. This is sometimes worsened by other factors such as trees.

Heat and drought

The soil your home is built on shrinks in dry weather, so your home could sink slightly, making it lopsided and causing major cracks in walls

Leaking water

Escape of water beneath a property could soften the underlying soil. This reduces the ground’s ability to support the weight of the building, causing it to sink.

Age and construction of property

Cracks and movement in old houses are due to the more traditional building materials that were used, such as lime, which allow the building to move more.

Poorly thought out renovations can also affect the structure, which makes subsidence more likely.

Underground mines

Homes built in an area that used to be mined can have unstable foundations, which can lead to subsidence too.

Free £250 home excess cover, only with GoCompare^

If you need to claim on your home insurance - for example, if your building is damaged by subsidence or your possessions are stolen - your free home excess cover will refund up to £250 of your excess.

There’s no hidden charge. But you won't be covered for things like accidental loss such as leaving a laptop on a train or accidental damage, such as spilling wine on your carpet or drilling through a pipe.

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^UK residents and home insurance purchases only. Excess refunded after claim settled. Excludes accidental loss or damage claims made on your home insurance. Full T&Cs apply.

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How can I avoid subsidence?

Here are a few ways you can prevent subsidence:

1. Don’t plant trees or shrubs too close to property

If you're planting new trees and shrubs, don’t put them too close to your home.

Buildings with shallow foundations are at risk of subsidence caused by trees and roots. If your house was built before 1950s, it will be particularly susceptible.

Tree roots seek water and grow towards drains which aren’t watertight. However, they’re unlikely to break through solid foundations.

2. Prune plants already there

Prune bushes and trees regularly. Have large, older trees surveyed every few years to see if they pose any immediate danger to your property.

3. Maintain underground pipes

If a pipe leaks or a drain overflows under your home, it will make the earth damp and weak, potentially causing heave and moving the foundations of your home.

You must maintain the pipes and drains under your home, even if they are difficult to access. If you suspect water’s escaped underneath your house, contact your insurer - it might put you in touch with a CCTV drainage surveyor.

4. Check for cracks and signs of subsidence

If you’re buying a house, look out for large diagonal cracks, inside and out, and check that the doors and windows shut properly.

If you can’t see any cosmetic concerns, read your homebuyers or RICS Building survey.

The latter is best for older properties because it breaks down structural issues into a traffic light, colour coded (red, amber, green) rating system, alerting you to any hidden structural red flags, not just for subsidence, and how serious the issue is.

The Homebuyer report doesn’t consider damage under floorboards or behind walls.

How to check for signs of subsidence

If you suspect your property is at risk, there are tell-tale signs that can help you identify whether you’re affected

Some of the signs are:

1. Large cracks

Cracks caused by subsidence may be found in inner and outer walls. They can appear and spread quickly, be thinner at one end, run diagonally, and be found around windows and doors.

2. Doors and windows not closing or opening

Doors and windows may become jammed, stuck or not close properly if they're out of alignment.

3. Sloping floors

Sagging or sloping floors, ceilings and walls may be an indication that your house foundations aren't straight.

4. Wallpaper wrinkling along wall and ceiling joints

Cracks in walls that are hidden beneath the wallpaper may cause it to wrinkle.

5. Cracks around a home extension

If you have an extension, you may spot cracks around where the extension joins your home.

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