Tag Archives: Plant City Sinkholes

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.

Sinkholes and Solutions for Property Owners

As a homeowner, is there is solution to the sinkhole problems and damage we read so much about?

The most any property owner in Florida can do about sinkholes is about as muchFlorida Sinkhole Problems and Solutions as a California property owner can do about earthquakes. While there are things we can do as communities to avoid creating these problems, the individual homeowners must focus on gathering as much sinkhole information as possible so they can protect their investments. Certainly, the news was flooded with reports about Plant City sinkholes caused by the over-pumping of water near strawberry fields, which triggered a lot of damage. We are also aware of homes being impacted by neighborhoods known for sinkhole activity, most of which is now a matter of public record.

Sinkhole Information is Key

In the end, people can find a sinkhole solution by making informed decisions about the homes they purchase, and the insurance they buy. Right now, there are rumblings among insurance companies that there will be significant changes to the sinkhole laws during the next legislative session. Most of these changes are not designed to offer solutions to the sinkhole problem but instead are focused on economic and politic problems most homeowners just do not care about. Although a lot of people want to talk about the sinkhole “problem” being the claims, I do not think this is the issue.

It’s the Home, Not the Homeowner

If we were to really focus on the how this problem began, it would have been decades ago when most of the construction occurred. While most of the community developers were aware they were building homes in areas where sinkhole problems were likely, they built the homes without doing any pre-construction testing, nor did they even consider modifying the foundations to try and avoid settlement damage. Now, homeowners are buying those houses, and are relying upon the insurance they purchased to recover their losses. This does not make the claims “bogus,” as many are suggesting. Instead, it simply means that insurance companies are making considerably less money than they always have, and must now pay claims.

Be forewarned, that there will be change next year, and we will be watching from here. Visit us frequently so you can have your input into the new laws.

Read our tips on filling out a sinkhole claim.

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

Sinkhole Damage Grants

County commissioners in Hillsborough County recently voted to provide grants for Hillsborough County residents who were affected by sinkhole activity during the winter freeze of this past year. The grants may be worth up to $3,000 per individual homeowner. Though the sinkhole grant program is aimed at the freeze event causing sinkhole activity in Dover and Plant City, the money will be available to any county resident who had sinkhole damage in those specified months, as long as they prove the sinkhole opened during that time and provide a repair estimate from a licensed contractor.

Hillsborough County Sinkhole Grant Budget

Hillsborough County intends on budgeting $500,000 for the grants and once that money is paid out, the grants will no longer be available so homeowners are encouraged to keep close tabs on this program and apply as soon as it becomes officially available. As we all know, $3,000 is little conciliation for a homeowner who has suffered sinkhole damage.

Generally, sinkhole repairs will cost between $30,000 and $300,000 so this grant will do little to help homeowners repair the damage, but every little bit helps considering insurance benefits rarely take loss of value of the home, increased insurance premiums or time missed from work when issuing benefits.

Apply Before the Budget Runs Out

If you are a homeowner in Hillsborough County and believe you meet the criteria to qualify, it would probably behoove you to get your engineering reports confirming sinkhole activity and contractor estimates to repair the above and below ground damage together now to better ensure you can get in before the budget runs out.

If you have a situation requiring legal representation for a sinkhole damage claim, contact Morgan Barfield at Barfield Law Group, 813-251-1285.

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

Life After Sinkhole: Plant City Students Return to School

Plant City Students finally able to return to Trapnell Elementary

In a story that developed about three months ago, Trapnell Elementary was closed due to unstable soil conditions believed to be sinkhole related. The Tampa Tribune is reporting that the students will return to their own campus April 19. Crews hired by the district pumped grout underground to fill the void.

The work recently passed inspection and the district decided to schedule the students’ return to the campus at 1605 W. Trapnell Road with the end of spring break.

While their campus was under repair, third, fourth and fifth graders were moved to Strawberry Crest High.

Trapnell’s students in Head Start, kindergarten and first and second grades moved to Bailey Elementary.

The city cleared up the situation and was cautious in moving the children out of the area while the work was being performed. We are thankful no one was injured.

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

Plant City Sinkhole Debate Rages On

The Plant City sinkhole debate

In a story we have been following and actively involved in for about a year now, the Plant City sinkhole debate rages on. To recap the previous controversy, over a hundred sinkholes appeared during a very short period of time over the winter this year. The numbers in the article state that 140 sinkholes appeared and about 760 wells were dried.

The cause of the sinkhole activity has been linked to the local farmers who in fear of a freeze, pumped water constantly on the crop to avoid losing their livelihood. Recently Swiftmud (Southwest Florida Water Management District) has traced approximately 85% of the water consumption to one particular farm.

How to fix the problem

Since the sinkhole infestation, a debate has raged on about how we can avoid this problem in the future. The crux at the center of the debate is simple: do we hurt the farmers or homeowners?

A large group has backed legislation that would place a cap on how much water farmers could pump, in theory leaving the local aquifers full and not activating sinkhole conditions. The corresponding problem is of course that the farmers will be at risk during freezes without the ability to protect their crops with 24-hour pumping. As grower Carl Grooms stated recently at a hearing, “berry farmers built this town”.

When decisions will be made

Another public meeting is scheduled for September 28th but still will not be prepared for a vote yet. It seems this legislation may take some time to draft and is unlikely to have any impact for the winter of 2011.

What do you think?  If you have a situation requiring legal representation for a sinkhole damage claim, contact Morgan Barfield at Barfield Law Group, 813-251-1285.