Tag Archives: Foundation Repair Company

Sinkhole Damage and Structural Issues

What qualifies as “sinkhole damage”?

Question: My home has confirmed sinkhole activity. However, my insurance company denied my claim because they said the damage was not “severe enough.” They indicated to me that unless there is damage that constitutes “structural damage,” it is not covered by my policy. Is this correct?

Coverage for structure and the land

No, it is not. Under Florida law, an insurance company must provide coverage to repair the “structure and the land.” The definition of what constitutes “structural damage” is not defined in the statute. As such, its definition is subject to interpretation by courts, who must determine when structural damage has been met.

The dispute is pretty simple to parse out between the parties. The insurance companies want to take a very narrow interpretation of the word “structure” to mean that it must meet an engineering definition. That definition, from an engineering standpoint, would mean that the sinkhole activity caused a loss of support to the load-bearing walls.

This definition, however, flies in the face of the actual context of the law, which simply states that the insurance company must pay for repairs to stabilize the structure and the land. It does not say, as suggested, that the damage is only covered if it is structural.

Courts denying insurance company arguments

At least one judge in Central Florida looked at this and threw out the insurance company’s arguments. We are working through several of these right now, and I think these arguments will go away once enough courts hear about it.

My bigger concern is that there is also discussion between many insurers that the definition in the law and in their policies should be limited to covering only structural damage. In that case, you could have a home with a large, open sinkhole in the yard, but they disclaim the coverage because of this.

Sinkhole Insurance Coverage and Florida Insurance Lobbyists

Potential changes to sinkhole insurance coverage

Our ears are abuzz with rumors the insurance industry is making plans for an active season of lobbying our legislature, either to limit or even extinguish sinkhole coverage for property owners.

I understand recently, as many as a dozen representatives from insurance companies met at a local restaurant to share ideas, fears, or just vent about the payments they must make under their insurance policies.

While I can understand, given the financial affairs of much smaller, poorly run insurance companies, I also see this as a threat to the interest of homeowners, mortgage companies, and others who are interested in protecting the value of Florida real estate.

What to prepare for

Homeowners should be prepared for a variety of new attempts to limit their insurance coverage, without making any reduction in premiums you pay.  While many insurance companies worked with the Florida legislature on bills to automatically delete sinkhole coverage in Hernando and Pasco counties, most of the people in those communities are now experiencing skyrocketing premiums, with increases as much as 30, 40, and 50 percent over the previous year.

If, as they claim, sinkhole losses were the problem, I query how they could justify both the loss of important coverage like sinkholes, while at the same time increasing premiums.  Note, the trick that was pulled 2 years ago was that they deleted sinkhole coverage in these two counties, and only added it back if you asked.

Furthermore, if you didn’t ask, they make you pay for a sinkhole investigation to determine if sinkhole activity is present.  They only did this because most people who actually read the alternative insurance coverage (catastrophic insurance coverage) figured out it provides no value anyway.

Gear up for a battle

Bottom line, is that homeowners are likely to have a battle next year over protecting their homes, and need to help the legislators who are looking out for their interests and not the insurance lobby.

How to Choose Foundation Repair Companies

How to choose foundation repair companies

When it comes to having your house repaired after the presence of a sinkhole, it may be daunting to search for foundation repair companies that will do the job well.  How can you tell the good companies from the bad? How do you find a foundation repair company that you can trust with your home?

Choosing your foundation repair company

When shopping for foundation repair companies, the first thing you’ll do is put them against each other. Seek out several bids or quotes from different companies to see what situation you’re looking at. For each company that bids, ensure they are licensed and fully insured.

Another great way to feel more confident about the process is asking for references. A good quality repair company will helpfully provide you with contact information for past clients, and provide you with any other kinds of information you request in order to feel confident in them. If they shy away from helping you feel comfortable, feel free to take another direction.

Also, check if they’re accredited by the Better Business Bureau. You might also look up public records to see if the company has ever been sued. All this information is readily available to the public, so don’t get stumped by a company with a record!

If you’re having a hard time finding a repair company you trust, ask your engineer (you will require an engineer to supervise the work) if they have any contacts with companies they trust. You can ask them for recommendations, or you may approach them with a company you’ve chosen and see if your engineer has any experience working with them.

After you make your choice

Once you’ve chosen a foundation repair company that you feel confident is, don’t be afraid to be present while the work is being performed. While you may not necessarily know exactly what’s going on, or what a quality job looks like, your presence at the work site may help to make sure the work is done properly – we all stand a little straighter when our boss is watching!

Throughout this process, remember that just because your home was repaired does not mean you will never be faced with sinkhole activity again. Not only is the possibility ever present, but a home with a history of sinkhole activity is more difficult to get insurance coverage for, and even an insured home may not be very well covered if sinkhole activity persisted.

With this in mind, it is incredibly important that the repairs are done properly to prevent another, bigger headache.