The notion of the ground opening up and swallowing your home used to be the stuff of bad movies, but the increased level of sinkhole activity in Florida in recent years has made this a risk homeowners need to consider.
Sinkhole Activity Not Covered by Florida Standard Homeowner’s Policies
Our state has more sinkholes than any other state in the U.S. While a recent change in Florida law requires an insurer to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse”, this legislation provides no relief to homeowners whose residences are damaged by a sinkhole. Sinkholes are not necessarily included within the definition of catastrophic ground loss. The definition of each under Florida law is provided below:
Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse: “Geological activity that results in the following: (1) The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; (2) A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; (3) Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and (4) The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”
Sinkhole: “A land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”
When these two definitions are taken together, the result is that a sinkhole does not qualify as catastrophic ground cover collapse unless it meets all four of the statutory requirements. When the foundation of a home develops cracks, for example, the sinkhole will not qualify for coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy if the home is still livable.
Florida insurance companies all offer sinkhole coverage as a rider or addendum, but there will be an additional cost for such coverage. However, the insurance company can and typically will inspect the property before providing sinkhole coverage. If sinkhole activity is already present on the premises or the immediate vicinity, the insurer might deny such coverage.
How Homeowner’s Can Obtain Financial Protection for Sinkhole Activity
Although sinkhole coverage is not standard, the State of Florida suggests a number of steps that homeowners in Florida can take to protect their investment in a family residence:
- When you obtain financing to purchase a home, your lender will require an inspection. Home buyers should ask whether sinkhole activity is included in the inspection process.
- Ensure that your home can be insured.
- Hire an inspector who can investigate and indicate whether your property is affected by sinkhole activity.
- Consider the possibility of conducting sinkhole testing.
- Ask your insurance agent about adding sinkhole coverage.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].