Bill 408 has added a ton of deadlines that Florida homeowners need to be aware of. Keep in mind that the deadlines are meant to do two things 1) scare homeowners out of filing claims and 2) scare homeowners away from challenging claims. The first deadline homeowners need to be aware of is found in 627.706(5) and states that homeowners must file any sinkhole claims within two years from when the homeowner knew or reasonably should have known of the damage. This includes initial and re-opended claims. The tricky part here is that if an insurance company can prove the homeowner knew of the sinkhole related damage more than two years prior to filing the claim, they can deny it. Essentially homeowners who have forgone filing a claim can be punished. The moral here is don’t wait. If you think you have sinkhole related damages, you need to file your claim immediately to avoid this pitfall.
The second new deadline kicks in to place after a sinkhole claim is filed and after the insurance company denies it because their is no evidence of “structural damage”. Statute 627.707(4)(b)(1) states that if a homeowner wants the insurance carrier to perform a sinkhole investigation and not just a structural evaluation, they only have sixty days to request the testing. The next post-claim deadline is found in 627.707(5)(b) and states that if the insurance company actually confirms sinkhole activity at your property (yeah right!) then the homeowner only has ninety days to sign a contract to begin the repairs. Of course, the only repairs they will pay for are those that the insurance experts recommended. The Bill continues on to say that after a homeowner signs a contract to begin repairs, the repairs must be completed within a year. You can see that these last three deadlines are meant to put as much pressure on insureds as they can hoping that they either go away or just accept what they tell them and don’t fight back. As we stated with other portions of Bill 408, don’t be scared of these provisions. The insurance adjusters will go out of their way to scare homeowners with these deadlines and threats. You do not have to do what they say. Homeowners have rights under their policies, under Florida statutes and through our legal system.