Subsidence insurance


Is there a big crack in an exterior wall of your house? It is very likely that the property is subject to subsidence. If you know your property has suffered subsidence or has been underpinned, Computerquote Insurance has property insurance specially designed with this in mind.

What is subsidence?

Subsidence can be caused by clay shrinkage around the foundations.  Clay has 30% to 35% water, so, which can dry out from local vegetation absorbing the water, especially in hot summers. There will usually be a noticeable by a shift in the property alignment and distinctive cracks in the main structure of the building. 

"Subsidence is the downward movement of the site on which a building stands -where the soil beneath the building's foundations is unstable. The movement is not caused by the weight of the building". Financial Ombudsman Service, Online technical resources

Properties in the UK can be subject to subsidence, due to the wet and dry nature of the seasons. Subsidence typically occurs when the ground surface absorbs large amounts of rainwater, expanding the ground. If this is followed by high temperatures, the ground will shrink back due to the water evaporating. This can cause the earth below the property to shift or subside, which occurs over long periods of time. Therefore, subsidence may not be very noticeable in the early stages, until the property has shifted significantly and therefore 

If either of these issues is neglected, the liveability and - in more serious cases - safety of a premises can be compromised. However, the slow onset of these issues means that they can easily go unnoticed.

Less common, but similar ground movement problems

Land heave: This is where the ground swells from oversaturation, causing upward movement of the ground. This commonly occurs when trees and roots are removed from the surrounding area, and the ground rehydrates. This increase in moisture content and retention will cause the ground to swell. This process can take years and can be very problematic to reverse. 

Settlement: This is the downward movement of the ground beneath the property, within 10 years of construction. This is the natural settling of the building, commonly occurring in new or relatively new buildings.

View the Financial Ombudsmen Technical Resource for more information

Signs of subsidence

  • Cracks suddenly appearing in the plasterwork and bricks
  • Cracks appearing after a long spell of hot, dry weather
  • Cracks that are tapered
  • Doors and windows becoming slightly more difficult to open/close

Preventative action

  • Do not plant trees or large shrubs close to the property
  • Only remove trees that fall within the safe distance that were planted after house was built
  • Do not remove trees that were planted before the property was built
  • Do not remove trees that fall under the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) without approval
  • If you’re unsure, seek expert advice from a tree surgeon or similar professional

View Association of British Insurers: Protecting your Home from Subsidence Damage

Why is subsidence and ground movement categorised under specialist home insurance?

Structural movement occurs all the time and is usually in small increments that it is unnoticeable. However, if the subsidence, heave or settlement threatens the future safety of the building, action will need to be taken. Cracking in the walls is a sign of serious subsidence, where the foundations do not have the support required. Repair work of this kind of work requires specialist contractors, time and labour to make the property secure, therefore can quickly become very expensive.

If you are concerned that your property may be subject to subsidence or land heave, it is best to seek expert advice from a qualified registered property surveyor. It is best to identify and remedy the problem sooner rather than later.

Specialist home insurance for subsidence or land heave

Computerquote Insurance provide specialist home insurance for properties that have subsidence, land heave, ground movement or are underpinned. Speak to our home insurance advisors will go through the specialist insurance details to ensure you have the right cover.

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