Tag Archives: Hernando County

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.

Don’t Be Fooled: Catastrophic Coverage is NOT the Same as Sinkhole Coverage

I just discovered that my sinkhole coverage is going to lapse unless I contact my agent and put it back in. I live in Hernando County and understand they are automatically removing sinkhole coverage unless you ask for it. What should I do?

If you want sinkhole coverage, you should immediately contact your agent, in writing, and tell them to put it back into your policy. Under a law that went into effect in January, all people in problems and have it replaced with catastrophic coverage. Suffice to say, the catastrophic coverage provide coverage only if your home literally, and I mean literally, falls into a hole. The reason this is unfair is that the vast majority of sinkhole claims do not involve damage of this nature. Instead, the home experiences subsidence, of varying degrees, but never “falls” into the hole.

The problem is that if people permit a lapse in their sinkhole coverage, it is nearly impossible to get it back later. In fact, most insurance companies will require you to retain the services of an engineering firm (at your cost, at about $8,000), to exclude sinkhole activity before they will sell you the coverage back. But, think about it: what if you actually went through the cost of having an engineering firm do this, only to find out you DID have sinkhole problems? Now, not only can you not get insurance coverage, your house would be worth almost nothing unless you expend your own money to fix it.

Given the overall savings in premium, and I recognize it may be significant, I would recommend you retain your sinkhole coverage. Sure, it could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands in premiums over the years. But, losing the total value of your home over this is just too risky.

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

You Might Lose Sinkhole Coverage in Florida

Sinkhole coverage in Florida

You’ve purchased a home in Florida. You’ve been recommended a couple insurance policies, you’ve looked them over, and chosen one that you’re happy with. You shouldn’t have to worry about your coverage as long as you pay your premiums on time, right? Unfortunately not. As of January 1, 2010, you may lose your sinkhole coverage in Florida if you don’t pay attention.

Keep an eye on renewals

Homeowners insurance policies are annual policies that renew from the annual date you purchased them. Most of the time the process is without incident as homeowners usually pay their insurance through the escrow with their mortgage company.

When the policy renews, you will receive a notice from the insurance company about 45 days before the new period with changes noted in a large stack of endorsements, which are specific changes that will be made to the policy.

These are usually accompanied by a list of endorsements that apply as well. You can peruse these, and then decide whether or not you want to change the coverage. Of course, it’s generally advised that a homeowner looks over their policy even if they don’t wish to change it, but many don’t.

Don’t get tricked

For homeowners in Pinellas and Hernando Counties, a very significant thing occurred as of January 1, 2010. Due to a new law signed, there will be an automatic change to all homeowners policies in these counties. Under the new law, you will automatically lose your sinkhole coverage, unless you request that it be included into your policy.

Unlike other perils, such as fire or hurricane, the State of Florida is playing a game of cat and mouse – but only with the homeowners in these two counties. This was arguably because Citizens Property Insurance used their lobby to get the Florida Legislature to see how many homeowners they could catch who do not read their annual renewal notices.

It begs the question why they did this in two of the most common areas where sinkhole activity is found. Of course, they did it so that Citizens and other insurance companies can avoid their legal responsibility to offer sinkhole insurance coverage.

If you lose your sinkhole coverage in Florida

If you fail to notify your agent before your coverage lapses, you’re stuck in a pickle. Most companies are requiring that any insureds who allow a lapse in their sinkhole coverage can only get it back by paying for a cost-prohibitive sinkhole investigation. These cost between $8,000 and $12,000.

However, if you do one, in the hopes of getting coverage back, and the investigation finds some evidence of sinkhole activity of which you had no prior knowledge, you are most definitely going to be denied coverage. As you can see, insurance companies are handing you a double-edged sword if you don’t watch out.

Bill 742 Removes Sinkhole Coverage from Homeowners

Recent legislative action is bad news for Pasco and Hernando Counties

In most of the posts on this blog, I try and remain as neutral as I can, given the fact that people are on the site to gain well-rounded information, not just my perspective on things associated with sinkhole activity.

However, I must break from this for this particular post. Bill 742, signed into law by Florida Governor Crist, is playing a game of hide and seek with the citizens of Pasco and Hernando counties with sinkhole insurance coverage.

A recent history of sinkhole legislature

In 2007, the Florida legislature decided to allow insurance companies to offer an alternative to sinkhole insurance coverage. Instead of having sinkhole coverage, you can, if you wish, purchase “catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage”.

This alternative was designed to offer coverage for sinkhole activity, but only the damage of an immediate magnitude to cause the home to be condemned.

The false premise of the 2007 alternative, though, was the reality that large, open cavern sinkholes occur in less than one percent of the actual sinkholes. Because of this, most homeowners in areas with the most sinkhole claims (e.g. Hernando, Pasco, Marion, and Pinellas counties) elected to keep their coverage “as is” and reject the alternative.

What is Bill 742

Because so few people accepted it, Bill 742 pops its head again. Among other things, Bill 742 deletes “standard” sinkhole insurance coverage and inserts the alternate, catastrophic coverage. Then, if homeowners want to add sinkhole coverage back into their policy, they must notify their agent within 90 days of the renewal period.

Once the sinkhole coverage is gone, you cannot recover it. In essence, the Florida Legislature is trying to “catch homeowners asleep” after they rejected the new alternative. Frankly, this is pathetic.

Taking out important, standard sinkhole coverage, with the hope that people won’t notice, is no way to protect the interests of the people of Florida. Senator Fasono and Governor Crist, shame on you.

Protect yourself

Make sure you understand your insurance policy. It’s incredibly important that you have standard sinkhole coverage – otherwise, you may find yourself in a sticky situation.

If you’re unsure, contact your insurance carrier directly and discuss your concerns.

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.

Florida Sinkhole Laws in Flux

Will the sinkhole laws in Florida change anymore in the next couple of years?

This is the question everyone is asking, and while I can’t be completely certain, my guess is that sinkhole laws will continue to change for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, as State Farm will continue to insure Florida residents, we will see some stability; if they had left, those residents would have been left to Citizens Property Insurance, a state-funded entity and the last resort.

Why changing laws are good

While we would never suggest a homeowner opt for a Citizens Insurance policy, the more Citizens is affected, the better the chance the government will make some changes – Citizens is funded by the state, so these changes directly impact the wallet of Florida’s government.

The sinkhole laws in Florida seem to morph every other year or so, and they will probably continue to do so. There is no perfect answer to the sinkhole problem in Florida, so we will simply try to make the best of it and adapt accordingly.

My recommendation is that, as a member of the community, you contact your legislator as sinkhole laws morph and insist that they protect our rights and choices as consumers. (Search for your legislators by zip code.) A lot of legislative activity in the past two years has not been “honest”, and the fact that these laws are not set in stone means there is an opportunity for positive change.

Why homeowners need to fight back

For example, Bill 742 reversed the sinkhole coverage for Hernando and Pasco counties. I say “reversed” because it was automatically taken out of your policy, and you had to request to have it reinstated. (Read more about this legerdemain in my post, Bill 742 Removes Sinkhole Coverage from Homeowners.)

Many homeowners in those counties will be caught unaware, which I think is unfair. As with most consumer issues, it is important to understand your rights and to contact your agent to discuss your coverage for sinkhole activity.

In addition, it’s important to contact your legislator and make your voice heard. Demand fair and reasonable sinkhole coverage for your home while you can!

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.