A massive sinkhole that opened in the backyard of a Florida home has made insurers declare the house a total loss.
Sinkholes occur when the ground caves in, often in karst terrains. These cave-ins happen because acidic water slowly dissolves underground cavities, making surface sediments collapse into underground caves in the limestone bedrock. Since most of Florida’s terrains are karst, it is not unusual to hear about the formation of sinkholes.
Sinkhole Coverage Not Automatic
Although experts think that the sinkhole in question has stabilized, neighbors of the condemned house are worried, causing some to pack and leave. For example, Brian Dennis, who rents next door to the affected house, is moving out with his family. He told Chanel 13 News: “Our house hasn’t been deemed unlivable, but it is way too close to the house”.
Another neighbor, Kristin Jacobson, just moved to the house next door and spent all her savings in doing so, just to find herself without sinkhole coverage on her homeowners’ insurance policy…
Maybe Ms. Jacobson does not have sinkhole coverage in her homeowner’s insurance policy because of a common confusion between coverage for “catastrophic ground collapse” and coverage for “sinkhole damage”. Thou they may seem one and the same to the lay person, in reality they are two different things under Florida Law:
Catastrophic ground cover collapse is defined by law as geological activity that results in the abrupt collapse and clearly visible depression of the ground cover, which in turn causes structural damage to buildings and their foundations to the point that the building is condemned by the government, as happened in this story.
A sinkhole, on the other hand, is defined as “a landform created by the subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata is dissolved by groundwater”.
While insurance companies are obligated by law to include coverage for “catastrophic ground collapse” in their policies, they only have to include coverage for sinkhole related damage if the homeowner asks for it and pays an additional premium. Over the years we have found that many homeowners believe that this coverage is automatically included and therefore, do not ask for it. Please check our firm’s internet portal for Sinkhole Damage Insurance Claims to familiarize yourself with the many ways we can help you avoid having to face a situation similar to the one Ms. Jacobson is in now.
It is unknown at this point if the owner of the property directly affected by the sinkhole had the requisite coverage in his homeowner insurance policy. However, he has already announced he plans to sell. Engineers estimate that it will take about a month to make the house habitable again, as they need to place hydraulically driven underpinning steel rods into the bedrock and then bolt them into the foundation in order to stabilize the house, before they fill in the hole.
The Lawyers of Greenberg and Stone Can Help
Regardless of whether sinkhole coverage is included in your homeowners insurance or not, you should have an attorney help you review your policy and advise you on what coverage you should have and for how much. With more than 70 years of combined experience, the Miami Dade County Homeowners Insurance Claims Law Offices of Greenberg Stone and Urbano have helped thousands of homeowners all over Florida review their policies, present their claims and get the compensation owed them by their insurance carrier.
Please note that our practice has been extended with a new satellite office in Aventura to better serve clients that reside in Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Dania & Dania Beach, Miramar, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Aventura, Miami Beach, Surfside, Sunny Isles and Miami Gardens. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.