The State of Florida also does not enforce any concrete rules requiring builders to test for sinkhole activity prior to new construction. The best indicators to look for as a purchaser are visible cracks to the home. Take a good look and if none are visible, the concern should be low. You may also want to check the property appraiserâ€™s website to see if any neighboring homes have had confirmed sinkhole claims although this may be a tedious project.
Because the energy behind sinkholes is water, the rise and fall of the water table often causes additional activity. As the water washes over limestone, it increases the dissolution of the rock and continues to move soil away from the location. By so doing, the limestone is more like to sink or move. During seasonal changes, the action of water then causes more of settlement.
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.
Although your insurance company may be named in your homeowners policy as an additional insured party, itâ€™s still up to you how you want a sinkhole claim to be spent.
If a sinkhole repair cannot be completed within the policy limits, the insurance company must either pay to complete the engineer’s recommended sinkhole repair or pay you the policy limits without a reduction for the repair expenses incurred.
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.