As long as there is a â€œgood faithâ€ basis for filing a claim, you cannot be held responsible for the costs associated with your claim. Under Florida law, Section 627.707(7), there could be liability if the investigation was filed without a sufficient reason to have done so. The home insurance company bears the burden of proof in showing that property damage did not result from the presence of sinkholes.
The most common presentation of this issue is when the insured is told that â€œsinkhole activity can be excluded, but that conditions of paleosink or â€˜karst environmentâ€™ have been found.â€ Sometimes the reports will state whether or not the property is in a â€œstate of reactivation.â€ Sometimes, rather than call these paleosinks, you will see them referred to as â€œrelic sinkholes,â€ which is a lot easier to understand. The idea here is that the property was built on a lot where a sinkhole condition had existed some time ago, some times even tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago.
As with any professional group, there are going to be engineering firms that will tend to favor one side of the issue over the other. The balance engineering firms must achieve is that they must investigate claims competently â€” not biased one way or the other â€” because if they do not, the insurance company is likely to get sued (and then blame the engineer).
After reading this, I called a geologist who I know has done a lot of work throughout North America. His comment about Canada is that it has much of the same overall geology as we find in areas in the United States where sinkholes are present. You are going to look for shallow limestone and a rising and falling water table.
The larger the building or lot, the more testing is required. If you have a condominium complex where a sinkhole investigation is being completed, the investigation should relate in some way to the size of the building. Ordinarily, most engineering firms will conduct 3 standard penetration tests on a standard home site. Using this as a baseline, while not an exact comparison, I would expect a larger condo property to have considerably more borings on the property.
Just to show you that Floridians are not the only ones with sinkhole concerns, in West Plains Missouri a 15 foot sinkhole swallowed a horse while out on a ride. The horse, named Big Boy, galloped around as though nothing happened after being pulled from the hole hours later. By the way, the rider was uninjured as well.
My suggestion would be for you to make some kind of record of the damage, either through photographing the damage along side a ruler, and noting the date. Go back to the same damage weeks later, with the same ruler and photograph the damage again. This will provide you a basis to fully understand the nature of the damage, and whether it is active.
I would suggest going to the county of a home where you are interested and obtaining a copy of the building department file, and search the building permits. While you are at it, you may want to do the same thing for the homes on the lots adjacent to the home, to see if there has been any damage. Sinkhole problems are very common in Central Florida, and it is worth taking these additional steps before you commit to buying a home.