Tag Archives: Marion County

Sinkhole Activity Not Limited to Areas of Florida with Limestone

I mostly hear about sinkhole claims in Pasco and Hernando County. I live in the Miami, Dade County area and have noticed some cracking. But I’ve heard that because there’s not limestone in this area, the cracking can’t be the result of sinkhole activity. Is that true?

I believe what you’re alluding to is the fact that people commonly think of sinkholes as dissolved limestone. In fact, the statutes on sinkhole activity, as defined by the State of Florida, do not necessarily limit sinkhole activity to only the dissolution of limestone. (Learn more about Florida’s legal definition of sinkhole.) The definitions mention other rock and underlying strata. It is true that many parts of South Florida and the Dade County or Miami areas “The creation of new primary schools districts is an excellent example of how the borough council continues to invest in our schools districts and their pupils. do no sit on a true layer of limestone but do sit on other forms of rock, which we believe, if suffering from dissolution, satisfy the definition of a sinkhole.

In fact, the primary reason damage due to sinkhole activity is covered by insurance relates to a large, cover collapse sinkhole that occurred in Winter Park, outside of Orlando. Additionally, of all the clients we currently represent, the largest increase in claims has been in the “less expected” areas, such as Ocala (Marion County) and South Florida. There may not be a scientific explanation for this; it could be that there’s just an increased awareness by the property owners.

The focus should be less on whether your cracking could or couldn’t be attributed to sinkhole activity and more on getting whatever is causing the damage resolved. Under Florida law, an insurance company must not only determine whether it is a sinkhole, but also whether or not there is an alternative cause for the damage (e.g. organic soils, clayey soils, construction defects). You may find yourself in a situation where you are presenting minimal evidence of sinkhole activity, but the claim has to be paid because the engineering firm cannot determine the cause of the damage with any reasonable degree of specificity.

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

Grout Cracks and Sinkhole Damage

What causes grout cracks, and how do I know if they’re the result of sinkhole damage?

Sinkholes and sinkhole activity are associated with the movement of soils, into areas created after the underlying rock is dissolved. When the rock beneath the home deteriorates, it weakens and fails to provide the support needed from the initial construction of the home, causing grout cracking, among other problems.

In so doing, the house no longer sits on a level, competent base but instead is prone to shifting, settling, cracking, and even heaving, as the weight distribution in the foundation occurs. This is why sinkholes may actually cause some portions of the home to appear to rise, as the foundation is pushed upwards toward the sky. This is because another, less prominent area is shifting down and causing the other area to rise.

Grout Cracks in Some Counties Are More Suggestive of Sinkhole Activity

For most homeowners, the damage can be very subtle. In counties where sinkhole damage is common – such as Marion, Hernando, Pinellas, and Pasco – homes are most likely to present cracking in unusual places, such as at wall joints in the interior, or in stucco on the exterior of the structure. The significance of this is that the home is losing the support provided by the soil beneath the home, causing the perimeter to shift and crack.

Observing grout cracks in a “stair step” formation on the exterior of the home along the grout lines of block is a significant sign of sinkhole activity. While counties or cities like Marion or Ocala often have other, plausible explanations for such damage (e.g. expansive clay, organic soils, loose surface soils), these alternative explanations do not rule out sinkhole activity as a cause. Most often, these kinds of other causes are working side by side, to create the appearance of sinkhole damage.

What is a sinkhole, according to Florida law?

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

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.

Florida Legislators Reintroduce 2010 Consumer Choice Act

Is the Florida legislature doing anything to resolve the current insurance crisis?

In June 2009, Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the Consumer Choice Act, which would have allowed private insurers to establish rates independent of the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). In his veto message, Crist reasoned that the bill would allow larger, private insurers to “cherry pick,” or sell only to profitable policy holders, while forcing smaller, less capitalized companies and state-run insurer Citizens Property Insurance to underwrite riskier policies. This was and is an important issue in the sinkhole claim arena, especially in counties like Pasco, Pinellas, and Marion, where sinkhole activity is common.

On December 9, 2009, Sen. Bennett and Rep. Proctor introduced the 2010 Consumer Choice Act, which includes changes to the previously vetoed act. The provisions of the proposed legislation are as follows:

  • Allows private insurers to use rates different from rates otherwise set by the OIR. This provision, however, does not apply to policies that are subject to consent decrees or other agreements. For instance, the legislation would likely prohibit State Farm from obtaining increased rates for those policies affected by its consent agreement with the OIR allowing for a flat rate increase of 14.8%.
  • Addresses deficits incurred by Citizens Corporation and requires the imposition of uniform policyholder surcharges of up to 15 percent of policy premiums to curb yearly deficits, before emergency surcharges are assessed.
  • Requires Citizens to obtain a signed acknowledgment of surcharge and assessment liability from insureds who obtain or renew their policies.

Supporters of the legislation believe that these changes adequately address past concerns and will allow all private homeowners’ insurers to offer a policy at a rate that the provider believes will adequately protect the consumer.

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

Devastation Caused by Sinkhole Collapse in Hudson, Florida

Breaking News: Hudson Sinkhole Collapse Shows Mother Nature’s Power

Hudson, Florida is not unfamiliar to the impact of sinkhole activity. This particular area records frequent and severe sinkhole activity throughout its residential and commercial areas. Today, however, one of the largest sinkholes in recent past presented itself in the in the form of a 10′ wide, 20′ long, and 30′ deep sinkhole in the front yard of the home. The damage to the area from the sinkhole collapse was dramatic and is likely to trigger other, nearby settlement issues in the neighborhoods.

While most sinkhole activity associated with insurance claims is usually not this dramatic (e.g. stair-step cracks, windows racking), these cover-collapse sinkholes do appear. In recent past, Marion County and Hernando County both made headlines when homeowners lost entire sections of their house due to sinkhole collapse, luckily while no one was at home.

Read the full story about this sinkhole collapse.

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

Buying a House? Check a Florida Sinkhole Map

Florida sinkhole map

If you own a home, are considering owning a home, or even renting in Florida, sinkholes are very real dangers that need to be accounted for.  If you are unable to predict a sinkhole before a hole opens underneath your home, you can be aware of where sinkholes have already opened and go from there.

Of course, sinkholes are incredibly common all over Florida, due to the heavy rainfall we experience. Unfortunately, sinkhole activity can be present in every region of Florida, and there is no escaping that fact. It is true that some regions show a greater prominence of reported claims. However, keep in mind that there is a difference between claims being reported and sinkhole activity actually being present.

Reference a Florida sinkhole map before you purchase

Therefore, whether you purchase or buy, you want to get a full picture of the property before you settle in; while you may not be directly responsible for a sinkhole opening under a house you rent, you may be displaced or your property damaged, so there is no excuse to stay ignorant!

Fortunately, earthtech.com has a free Florida sinkhole map available – all you need to do is type in your address, your preferred distance, and click ‘search’.

It’s also worth knowing that the greatest area of growth in the discovery of sinkholes would be the Marion County (Ocala) and Alachua County (Gainesville) areas, where more and more homeowners are discovering sinkhole activity.

If you’ve already purchased a sinkhole home

If you’ve purchased a home only to find physical evidence of a forming sinkhole (such as cracks in the walls, soggy foundation, etc.), don’t hesitate to contact your insurance company. If your policy cover sinkholes, your insurance company can send a contractor to investigate the damage and assess the next step forward in preventing a potential catastrophe.