So you have a sinkhole, who can help me?
By: Jeff Philbin, Helicon Marketing Director
Imagine you’re outside enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you notice cracks along the side of your lanai or even worse pooling of water around those cracks. It certainly will change the mood for the rest of the weekend.
The question now arises – will this be covered under your policy of homeowner’s insurance? One would THINK so, but not so fast.
First, you call your insurance to see if a claim could be covered under the “sinkhole loss” portion of the homeowner’s insurance policy. You may be pleasantly surprised, that changes in the sinkhole statutes enacted in Florida several years ago may make this more difficult, the claim would most likely not be covered as a “sinkhole loss”. A sinkhole loss is defined under most policies of insurance as structural damage caused to the home by sinkhole activity.
Clearly, the attached picture reflects potential sinkhole activity, but does it reflect “structural damage” (as now defined in your policy) to the residence? Because of the current legal system here in the state of Florida, in order for your home to have incurred “structural damage”, your house pretty much has to be sent to rubble (the laws have a slightly more technical definition, but you get the point). So, even though your house is clearly being affected by sinkhole activity since the damage to the house does not arise to the definition of “structural damage”; you might not initially receive an awarded claim.
WHAT ARE SOME SINKHOLE SIGNS TO BE AWARE OF
- Cracks in the walls
- Cracks around the door or window frames
- Cracks in the floor or pavement
- Cracks in and around the pool area
- Cracks in the foundation or the structure separating from the foundation
- Not being able to close doors and windows correctly
- Pooling of water on the property
- Slumping or slanting trees or sagging fencing
- Wilting vegetation in small circular areas
But there is also a portion of your insurance policy which provides coverage for Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse. It is this coverage that the insurance company lobbyists touted as being available to cover situations where an “actual” sinkhole opened up and destroyed your house. BUT – this Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse coverage only applies if ALL of the following conditions are met:
1. An open hole you can clearly see with the naked eye
2. Damage which is sudden and not gradual
3. The home must be condemned and ordered vacated by a government entity.
Well – since the subject home does not appear to be destroyed and therefore has not been condemned, all of the required elements have not been met and therefore = No Coverage!
HOW DO I FILE A SINKHOLE CLAIM
Start right away! Secure your property and take all steps necessary to protect yourself and others from danger/potential harm. Review your Insurance policy for sinkhole coverage to put in a claim. In Florida, if you have sinkhole insurance coverage, your insurance company is required by law to cover damage related to sinkhole activity (up to the limits of your policy). You can then decide to call your insurance company or agent on your own and let them know what has happened and provide some basic information where they should begin the claims process.
Your insurance company will generally send an engineer or geologist to survey the damage and to conduct sinkhole testing. Initial testing for sinkhole activity may consist of ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity studies. These tests are used to detect anomalies underground. Another test that may be conducted is called standard penetration testing, where a drilling rig is used to bore a hole into the earth. Sinkhole testing usually takes several days but may be spread out over the course of several weeks depending on the type of test(s) conducted. If sinkhole activity is detected, your insurance company will request repair estimates, which should only come from licensed contractors. If sinkhole test results are negative (no sinkhole activity is found), your insurance company will most likely deny your claim.
WHEN TO BRING IN THE BEST
Helicon is the premier geotech construction company in Florida. Based out of Tampa, FL. we are a licensed general contractor leading the industry in full-service geotech construction work.
We are experts in pre-construction, soil and structural stabilization, & sinkhole repair. As the premier provider of geotech construction services throughout the state of Florida for nearly 15 years and have developed tremendous referrals with sinkhole attorney’s where we as a team can help guide you through the process and to explain the rights you have under your insurance policy. Helicon prides itself on providing high quality service, with handling all repairs and pre-construction work for both residential and commercial projects. We strive to exceed everyone’s expectations.
Helicon has successfully completed thousands of projects in the state of Florida with a focus on the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, including the surrounding counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk, Citrus and Marion counties. Our professional Helicon Teams are trained and equipped with the tools and expertise needed to execute a flawless and professional experience using the latest technology to repair or prevent for your particular project.
We invest in our teams ensuring they remain up to date on the latest industry technology and training. Our Office Teams will answer all your questions, provide professional service, give knowledgeable advice, and execute a project that will fully satisfy our customers.