Tag Archives: Bill 1447

Tips Dealing with Insurance Companies on Sinkhole Repairs

My insurance company is currently working with a local contractor to repair confirmed sinkhole activity at my house.  During the process, the damages appear to be getting worse, and I am hearing the contractor raise concerns that the repair may not be taking as they had expected.  Any suggestions?

Repairing sinkhole activity, speaking as a sinkhole lawyer, can be complicated, and most certainly is frustrating.

The process takes a long time, often causes even more damage, and there is no guarantee that the sinkhole repair will work.  Most of the time, property owners feel as though they are alone in the process, as the insurance company acts more like a bank than providing good sinkhole insurance for repairs.

First suggestion:  Document the entire process, either by photos or by video. As the process begins, and progresses, you should monitor the process either with a still camera or a video.  I have found that the most common question relates to whether the subsurface repairs are actually causing the damages to worsen, which does occur.  By recording the repairs, you will be able to get a sense of “before and after.”

Second suggestion:  Always raise your concerns with the insurance company in writing, both to your claims adjuster and your insurance agent. Many times, insurance claim representatives have a difficult time separating what is a “problem” versus what is just common frustrations of an insured.  If you submit your concerns in writing, and tell them exactly what you want them to do, it makes it clear you have defined your expectations.  That way, you will both know if the issue has been resolved.

Third suggestion:  Consider hiring your own contractor or consultant to monitor the success of the project. The reason is that the insurance company will almost always have someone there to monitor the project to assure it is being done according to the plans set up by the engineer.  Even if it does cost you some money out of pocket, you will have a better feel if you know an independent party is present to assure the work is being done correctly.

In the end, document the entire process, put your concerns in writing, and hiring a third party consultant will serve you well.  Best of luck to you.

Read our tips on filing a sinkhole claim.

Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Changes in Sinkhole Laws Impacting Policyholder Rights – Part 1

Can you explain pending legislative initiatives by Florida insurance companies to limit policyholder rights under common homeowner policies?

New Legislation would remove the rights of homeowners to participate in the selection of the methods to be used to repair their properties. Under current law, prior to the commencement of a repair method to resolve sinkhole problems, insurance companies are obligated to consult with the homeowner regarding the manner in which the home will be fixed. This would seem intuitive (it’s your home – shouldn’t you have a say as to how it is fixed?). This is preserved under current law, in . The pending bill on this issue, House Bill 447 would strip this from the law, and permit insurance companies and the engineering firms they retain to determine how your home is fixed. Instead of requiring some form of input from you, the insurance company need only “provide notice” to you regarding how the home will be repaired.

This process removes the homeowner from being provided an opportunity to select the methods to be used in repairing the home. In fact, if the insurance company was to suggest one method, but you retained an expert who would suggest another, they can ignore your request. There would appear to be no real reason to do this, given that the allegation of “fraud” we often hear about people filing sinkhole claims relates to people filing “bogus” sinkhole claims. If, however, we have a home where sinkhole activity has been confirmed, it was clearly not bogus. Instead, the issue is how to fix a home where sinkhole activity has been found. More than anything, this portion of the bill is more punitive than anything else, and removes homeowners from the process. In fact, what if the insured wanted to follow a less expensive method, but wants to do so because of the potential impact particular repairs will have on your home? In the end, I would urge anyone who is interested to ask that this bill stop in its tracks. Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Florida Representative Bryan Nelson Sponsors Anti-Consumer Choice Bill on Sinkhole Insurance

Fact-checking Bryan Nelson

We hear a variety of claims from politicians, and it can be difficult to dissect which statements are true, or even mostly true. Representative Bryan Nelson has made a few statements that have stood out to me, and I feel obligated to discuss a few facts.

Access to quality, affordable insurance

On his website, Representative Nelson lists “access to quality, affordable insurance” as his first objective as an elected official. He uses the word “quality,” while at the same time sponsors House Bill 1447, which seeks to destroy important consumer options to protect homes from sinkholes and sinkhole activity.

I do not know whether Representative Nelson knows what causes sinkholes, but he lives in an area that is not known for the frequency of sinkhole activity found elsewhere around the state. As such, it would appear that he is more interested in protecting the premiums of his insurance contracts, as he does sell property insurance as an insurance agent.

While we acknowledge the issues with the availability of property insurance in the state, this bill is not the answer.


Representative Nelson was honored last October 2009 by speaking with the GFWC Apopka Woman’s Club, at the First United Methodist Church. While I am sure he touted himself as being “pro-family” and other issues important to the women attending this conference, I suspect he was not completely honest about where his loyalties were.

Specifically, he may not have mentioned that for at least many of the homeowners in Central Florida, sinkhole damage is a significant problem. Seeking now to save his insurance contacts’ money by gutting the insurance coverage probably did not come up either.

Facilitating transparency ins our government

Note, too, that Representative Nelson associates himself with freedomspeaks.com, an organization with its stated goal of “facilitating transparency in our government.”

If Representative Nelson is true to the values of Freedomspeaks.com, then he should come clean about his intentions with House Bill 1447 because, if he wants to limit coverage for sinkhole damage to only 25 percent of the insurance coverage provided, he is essentially gutting the coverage.

This is going to mislead a lot of homeowners, who will confirm the presence of sinkhole coverage, only to discover later that they paid higher premiums for worthless coverage.

Habitat for Humanity

Lastly, Representative Nelson likes to list himself among supporters of Habitat for Humanity. While he wants to support a person’s right to own their own home, he acts at the same time to imperil their property. He’d rather give support to insurance companies, who accept millions of annual premiums and on some policies he even is paid a commission as an insurance agent.

To read more about the ill-conceived bill, read my post, New Florida House Bill Seeks to Gut Sinkhole Insurance. Then, read about what you can do to speak out against Bill 1447.

Write to Representative Bryan Nelson and tell him to Withdraw House Bill 1447

Bryan Nelson’s plans for Florida sinkhole insurance

Representative Bryan Nelson has sponsored House Bill 1447, which seeks – among other things – to limit sinkhole insurance coverage to 25 percent of the limits provided for in a policy. For example, if the coverage is $150,000, you would only be provided $37,500 for the repair of a confirmed sinkhole at your home.

This is an obvious attempt to permit insurers to continue to collect premiums for sinkhole losses, while at the same time offering them virtually nothing by way of real money to fix your home. This is tantamount to telling someone who bought a car that their car insurance will only cover 25 percent of the actual value in the event the car is in an accident.

What should happen

Representative Nelson does not live in a community where sinkholes and sinkhole activity are a threat to the value of his home. For other communities like those in Pinellas, Hernando, Pasco, and Marion, this bill not only exposes homeowners to significant, uninsured losses but also violates our freedom to contract with an insurance company.

If I want to buy the insurance and the insurance company wants to sell it, Representative Nelson and the other pro-insurance lobby representatives should stay out of the way.

How to speak up

I would encourage people to write to their own representatives, and tell them to vote against House Bill 1447. (Search for your representative by address.) Additionally, I would write to Representative Nelson and tell him to stay out of our business in the other counties where sinkholes are a significant problem. If you want, just print out this page and mail it to him.

Send your letter to:

Representative Bryan Nelson
214 House Office Building
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300

The purpose of this move is to take money out of the wallets of homeowners and line the pockets of insurance companies and their constituents. Raise your voice and protect your insurance coverage from this change.

New Florida House Bill Seeks to Gut Sinkhole Insurance

What is Bill 1447

Bill 1447 is an insurance-backed bill designed to completely gut sinkhole insurance. While couched as a bill designed to reduce consumer insurance fraud, its contents are focused, among other things, in essentially ridding itself of sinkhole coverage for Florida homeowners, regardless of how much they want it.

The details: coverage

First, the bill does not expressly eliminate sinkhole coverage in property insurance policies. If it did that, the insurance company would be precluded from taking premiums for it. Instead, the bill seeks to limit coverage to twenty-five percent of the total coverage available.

Meaning, if your insurance coverage is $200,000, you would not be covered or more than $50,000 for the loss, regardless of how severe it may be. This renders sinkhole insurance coverage meaningless because virtually all confirmed sinkholes cost considerably more than this amount to repair.

Obviously, the larger the home (and the coverage), the more expensive the repair is. Even the most modest home with sinkhole coverage would not be able to be repaired for such a modest amount of the coverage.

Our insurance rights

Second, as we hear so much about keeping government out of our personal business, the bill patently interferes with our rights to buy and sell insurance. If an insurance company wants to sell insurance to me, for a premium, and I want to pay it, I should be entitled to do it. The insurance company sets their rates based upon their risks and accepts responsibility for it.

What right does the State of Florida have to preclude me from buying the insurance I believe is necessary to protect my home, which is my family’s largest investment?

The argument

Of course, the argument will be that Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the “insurer of last resort” needs the break from covering sinkhole losses. If that is the reason for this bill, then Representative Bryan Nelson (who is an insurance agent) should be honest about the bill and call it what it is: an attempt to get rid of sinkhole coverage.

However, doing that would require him to make an honest statement about his intentions, where consumers could be misled into believing that twenty-five percent of the coverage would ever cover a sinkhole loss because it just would not.

Question for Representative Nelson: How many reported sinkhole losses would be fixable with less than twenty-five percent of the coverage? Answer: none.

Shame on you, Representative Nelson. House Bill 1447 is a rip off.

Sinkhole Attorney Morgan Barfield Appears on Channel 10 News To Discuss New Legislation Designed to Limit Sinkhole Coverage

I spoke last week to a reporter at Channel 10, discussing the new Bill 1447 by Representative Bryan Nelson and why I think it is bad for Florida homeowners. Under the new legislation, residents will automatically lose their sinkhole coverage, unless they request that it be included into their policy.

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To learn more about how Bill 1447 will hurt residents in Pinellas and Hernando Counties, read my posts, Florida Representative Bryan Nelson Sponsors Anti-Consumer Choice Bill on Sinkhole Insurance and Renewal Alert for Homeowners in Pinellas and Hernando County.

Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.