1 million houses at risk of subsidence - and insurance won’t pay

1 million houses at risk of subsidence - and insurance won’t pay

One million houses across the Netherlands are at risk of subsidence over the coming 30 years - and insurers have warned they won’t pay out if your house collapses. 

Houses across the Netherlands are collapsing

It is expected that the damage caused by low groundwater levels and rot between now and 2050 could lead to one million houses collapsing. Independent research institute Deltares has calculated that this damage could rack up bills of between 5 and 39 billion euros - if not more. 

Many houses built before the 1970s were built on foundations of wooden posts. These foundations are susceptible to damage as a result of low groundwater levels, as it leads to the wood drying up and potentially rotting. Climate change means that groundwater levels across the country are dropping, and the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam are particularly vulnerable.

Old houses are most at risk, and around 80 percent of homeowners have started to save money, getting ready for the day they’ll have to take action against their sinking house. However, the work required could cost up to 120.000 euros - significantly more than the 500 to 5.000 that most people have saved. 

Insurance coverage for subsidence

Now, to make an already stressful situation even worse for many, insurers have said they will not foot the bill for costs incurred by a subsiding house. They say they do not cover the damage caused to foundations as a result of droughts, because it is not seen as an unforeseen event. 

Insurance expert Eelko van Dijk from insurance company Independer confirms this, saying: “There is no sudden event that precedes [subsidence]. Wear and tear are also not covered.” There is, luckily, a Sustainable Foundation Repair Fund available for those who are affected by subsidence but cannot afford to cover the costs. 

The Dutch Association of Insurers is asking for action to be taken to permanently raise the water level, so that further damage can be limited, and for more research to be carried out into the reasons why the groundwater level continues to drop. “The low groundwater level is not only caused by dry summers,” Ernst Moeksis, spokesperson for the Association, says, “but is affected [by] farmers…[and] groundwater is also sometimes artificially lowered for the construction of new neighbourhoods. ”

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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