Will Subsidence Impact on My Home Insurance?
Caeva O'Callaghan | January 5th, 2023
Can I Get Home Insurance If There Has Been Subsidence on My Property Previously?
Subsidence is a huge problem in certain areas of Ireland. But will you be able to get home insurance if it’s already happened?
Yes, but your cover will most likely exclude subsidence. This is because subsidence is an incredibly expensive and difficult problem to fix. But once you claim for subsidence, the problem should be fixed for good.
If there has been a previous case of subsidence on your property, it’s a good idea to ask a broker – such as QuoteMe.ie – to shop around for you.
In this article, we’ll cover questions like:
- What is subsidence?
- Does my home insurance cover subsidence?
- Will subsidence on my property increase insurance premiums?
Subsidence won’t stop you getting home insurance. But it will probably affect your monthly premium.
What is subsidence?
Subsidence occurs when the earth underneath a property sinks or lowers. As the ground moves, concrete foundations shift. You should hope it all sinks at once – big problems occur when parts of the foundations sink at different rates, causing warping.
Ground heave is a similar risk, with the opposite effect. This happens when the ground under your house is pushed upwards, shifting your foundations out of alignment. Again, uneven movement causes the most potential risk.
Meanwhile, a landslide or landslip happens when the ground your home was built on is unstable for any reason, and washes down a slope. This is a very serious problem, but only coastal areas are badly affected.
An important note to make is that all these problems are different to settling. If you buy a brand new house, you may see hairline cracks in the plaster or find doors and windows sticking. In normal conditions, in an older house, these are symptoms of subsidence or ground heave. But if you have a new home, settling is nothing to worry about. It simply occurs as a result of the soil under a house compressing under its weight. It happens to all brand new houses, and will even out about a decade after construction.
It’s important to keep an eye on settling, as most standard home insurance policies don’t cover it. It’s an after-effect of the construction process. If settlement is causing significant damage, get legal advice as you may have to take it up with whoever built the home.
If your property has previous subsidence
When you obtain an insurance quote from a broker, they will ask for your home address. This isn’t just to send you marketing materials – it’s to check your house’s previous claims history. Insurance companies will also check the local area for any claims, big or small.
The sad truth is that the more claims occur in an area, the bigger the risk. Fewer but more serious claims – such as subsidence – will raise it just as much. For this reason, it’s important to do some research before you buy a home. Ask neighbours and locals if subsidence is a local problem.
Beware if you live in Cork, or if you’re looking to buy property in the area. This part of Ireland has an unfortunate history of subsidence. House sales fall through as home buyers discover they cannot get home insurance on their property. Even getting insurance for properties outside trouble spots is proving problematic, as many companies seem to be operating a blanket policy of refusal for homes throughout Cork.
Without full house insurance the banks won’t release funds. This is essential knowledge: most home buyers don’t realise there’s a problem until they need to draw down their mortgage, leaving them no option but to cancel the purchase.
Look out for the warning signs
When you’re viewing a property, or evaluating your own risk of subsidence, there are some warning signs to look out for.
Check there are no trees very close to your home. Roots disrupt the soil and can bulldoze foundations under the ground. At minimum, you should plant trees at their maximum growth height away from the home.
Secondly, look for the presence of excess water in the soil. If your soil is waterlogged, you need to minimise the effect. Avoid it happening by using water butts to collect rainfall. Distribute it evenly around the garden later. In addition, keep your guttering, pipes and plumbing well-maintained to avoid leaks.
Mindful landscaping can also decrease the risk of subsidence. While large trees dehydrate the soil and their roots can shift your foundations, large shrubs and a balance of thirsty versus drought-loving plants will stabilise the soil with their roots and help regulate water levels.