Tag Archives: Disclose Sinkhole Claim

Sinkhole Claims and Public Information

My insurance company recently told me they are going to file a copy of my sinkhole report, where they found sinkhole activity, with the county.  Can they do this?

Pursuant to “any insurer that has paid a claim for sinkhole loss shall file a copy of the report with the clerk of court”, each county has its own clerk of court, where the information is then cataloged.  Note, the language of the statute only permits this to be done with “paid” sinkhole losses, not claims where the insurance company’s engineering firm fails to find sinkhole activity.

During the 2005 legislative session, A wide variety of new were adopted.  Before you think this change was to protect home buyers, it was not.  Instead, it was designed to mark homes with sinkhole damage, so that no future insurance company would insure it unless the proper repairs could be documented.

Sinkhole Houses Being Sold “As Is”

One issue they were dealing with was the fact that people were being paid for sinkhole claims, not repairing their houses, and then selling them “as is.”  Later, the insureds would have to file new sinkhole claims, which the insurance companies would have to pay again.

The “denied” claims are not to be filed.  I will tell you as a practical matter that many insurance companies are slow to file these reports, as it actually costs them money to do so.  Plus, the failure to file them is not a basis to sue them.  Meaning, if you buy a house with undisclosed sinkhole activity, you cannot sue the insurance company for failing to file a confirmed report.

As we counsel realtors on sinkholes, it is always a good idea to do a document search at the county before you buy a home, and to review your home’s file with the building department.  These materials are public record and can provide you important information when purchasing a house.

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

Seller’s Property Disclosure in Florida: What’s Required

Seller’s Property Disclosure in Florida

When dealing with the process of purchasing a home or other types of property, you may be understandably nervous about the potential of sinkholes. Even if the inspection goes through with no symptoms of sinkholes, it can be difficult to know the history of a property. This is where a Seller’s Property Disclosure comes in. While a Seller’s Property Disclosure in Florida is not required by law, the educated buyer can still use this tool to be confident in the security of a property.

What the seller is obligated to tell you

According to the Supreme Court in the case of Johnson v. Davis, “where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer”.

In other words, if the seller knows about damages or repairs that have been done to the home that aren’t clear to you, whether they occurred under their ownership or a prior owner’s, they must tell you. The Seller’s Property Disclosure is a great way to accomplish this without confrontation – if they refuse, take that as a sign that you should look elsewhere!

Do keep in mind that because this documentation is not a requirement, it is your responsibility to pursue it. If you have a realtor, feel free to approach this subject with them. They may also be able to answer any questions you may have about this subject.

If the seller never lived in the house

If the particular house that you are interested in purchasing is not being sold by a person who lives there by a bank or investment company, be aware that they’re not going to be as knowledgeable about the property. If the house was foreclosed on, for example, the bank will likely not be a good resource for you; the only information they might have would be an inspection, which they are not obligated to share with you, being that it’s a confidential document!

In this case, while I would still advise you have the seller fill out a Seller’s Property Disclosure form, don’t put all your confidence in this documentation. Instead, it is in your best interest to invest in an inspection yourself or even attempt to contact the neighbors who may have some knowledge to share.