Will home insurance cover foundation damage?

Will your insurance pay out if you live on shaky foundations?

Thankfully foundation damage isn’t a common problem, but if it does strike you could have to pay eye-watering sums for repairs.

Fortunately, your buildings insurance should cover these fees but this isn’t always the case. In this guide, we look at when you can expect help from your insurer, as well as reasons the provider may well refuse to get involved.

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When does home insurance cover repairs to your home’s foundation?

It’s quite simple really. You can claim for foundation repairs as long as the event that caused the damage is listed in your policy.

If it’s not, you’ll have to fork out for any repair costs yourself. So it’s vital you read the small print before signing up to a policy.

Generally though, you should be covered for any sudden and/or unforeseeable issues that damage or destroy your home. Such as:

  • Fire and explosions
  • Storms
  • Subsidence
  • Water damage from a burst or leaking pipe
  • Impact from things like falling trees
  • Flooding
  • Heave
  • Landslip

What am I not protected against?

Each home insurer will have its own list of exclusions, its own set of reasons why it won’t pay out. But below are the typical reasons why your provider might refuse to help with repairing foundation damage.

Events usually not covered include:

  • Termite and vermin damage
  • Normal wear and tear
  • Pre-existing damage
  • Faulty construction
  • Damage from poor planning
  • Damage caused by restoration/repair work

Insurers generally won’t pay out for the above reasons because they are preventable risks. They will argue that you should have noticed these defects when buying the property. Or you could have stopped the damage from happening had you been more proactive.

It may seem grossly unfair. But it means it’s all the more important that you do your due diligence when purchasing a house, and to keep it in good condition once it’s in your possession.

Am I covered for foundation damage caused by tree roots or shifting soil?

Most home insurance policies will cover you for damage caused by tree roots. In fact, it’s a good idea to find a provider that will protect you for “subsidence” and “heave”.

This way you’ll be protected if tree roots cause the ground beneath your home to shrink or swell. However, if you have to make a claim due to subsidence or heave, you can expect your premiums to rise.

What if a flood caused the soil to shift?

Most insurers will pay out if flooding causes the soil to shift or swell, although it’s a good idea when buying your policy to check that it will protect against “heave”. This is when the ground swells upwards, and it can be caused by flooding.

However, insurers will generally only pay to repair any damage to the structure of the home. They crucially don’t cover any work that needs to be done to prevent the home from moving in the future.

What to do if the damage to your foundation isn’t covered

Unfortunately, if your insurance doesn’t cover the damage to your foundation, you will need to pay out of your own pocket for repairs.

However, if you think you have a claim then get a second opinion from a foundation specialist and speak to the financial ombudsmen.

Insurers will refuse to pay if they think the foundation damage was caused by an uninsured event, such as differential settlement.

But if you can prove that the damage was caused by an insured risk, then you might be able to reverse the provider’s decision.

How to prevent foundation damage

Protecting yourself against foundation damage starts with caring for your soil so that it does not shift.

Here are a couple of ways you can keep your soil from shifting:

  • Control tree and shrub growth. Keep your greenery pruned to ensure the soil under your home doesn’t dry out too much.
  • Install a root barrier. You might also consider installing an underground barrier between your trees and your house. A root barrier can be difficult to install, but could save you from having to pay for major repairs in the long run.
  • Do regular maintenance. Keep an eye out for blocked and leaking drains and check your pipes every so often for any damaging splits.
  • Keep the moisture level consistent. Varying moisture levels can cause the soil to shift, so it might be a good idea to install a drainage system that will stop your soil from absorbing too much rainwater.

Companies who specialise in surveying and structural engineering can offer advice if you think your home’s foundations are at risk.

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