A Winterhaven homeowner has been unsuccessfully battling his insurance company for months in the hope that they will pay for the repairs of damages that a sinkhole in his front yard has caused to his house. According to newschief.com, Gene Albritton’s house has been shifting into a depression on his front yard and as a result his walls and floors have been cracking.
Mr. Albritton’s house was built in 1956 in an area with soft ground that can be prone to sinkholes. In order to make the area suitable for building, the developer covered the mucky soil with two feet of dirt. However, the developer did not use only dirt: they also used tree stumps, debris and many other stuff that in time tend to rot, thus making the soil lose the consistency that compacting initially gave it.
As a result, the whole area suffers from similar problems: Mr. Albritton’s neighbors from across the street, Lynn and Brent Fogel, discovered similar damages in their house in 2009. However, their insurance company paid the maximum damage, allowing them to repair all damages. Similarly, Polk County authorities had to deal with similar issues caused by the same gelatinous soil under Avenue O, which runs about 30 feet from Mr. Albritton’s property. As a result, county workers had to dig out and remove that layer mucky soft soil which ran 8 to 10 feet deep in order to repair and repave the road. To do that work, heavy machinery was used and the commotion caused by the operation of such heavy equipment may have caused further damage to Mr. Albritton’s house.
Insurance Company Refuses To Pay
Yet, despite the obvious damages to the house, Mr. Albritton’s insurance company refuses to pay for the repairs. Why? Because of the way Mr. Albritton’s policy is worded…
Mr. Albritton was insured in 2010 by a company called National Risk Solutions and its associated company, GeoVera Insurance, with a policy that included sinkhole coverage. However, when the policy was renewed a year later, it was amended to exclude sinkhole coverage, although catastrophic ground cover collapse was included. The problem with Mr. Albritton’s case is that the new coverage requires a hole at least 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide to be appreciable and despite the damage to his house, there is no visible hole on the ground.
For your information, Florida Law requires homeowner insurance policies to cover catastrophic ground cover collapse, while sinkhole coverage has to be purchased separately. Please note that while a catastrophic ground collapse is defined by law as “a 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”, a sinkhole is defined as “a landform created by the subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata is dissolved by groundwater”.
We have frequently found homeowners that thought they were covered for sinkhole coverage when in fact, they were not.
Continue reading →