Tag Archives: sinkhole disclosure

Changes in Sinkhole Laws Impacting Policyholder Rights – Part 2

New legislation would put higher burden on insured homeowner, not the insurance company, to determine whether sinkhole activity is present.

One of the most material changes proposed in FL House Bill 447 relates to who has to prove the existence of or non-existence of sinkhole activity.  Under current law, the homeowner is entitled to file an insurance claim to determine whether the damages present at the home are covered by the policy.  This is true for all claims, whether sinkhole related or not.

Once the claim is received, the insurance company is required to retain an expert, who provides an opinion regarding the presence of sinkhole activity and provides specific recommendations regarding how to fix the sinkhole property. Note, the insurance company’s engineer can investigate as they see fit, within their professional discretion, and is not obligated to conduct any particular tests, and they are permitted to interpret the information however they want.

The Problem with the New Bill

It simply places a huge monkey on the back of a policyholder.  Specifically, if you, as a homeowner, want to dispute the findings of the original engineering firm, you can hire your own expert.  Even if your expert does more advance testing, provides a more cohesive explanation for the damage, the insurance company gets the benefit of the doubt.  This is because under the proposed statute, any findings of the original engineering firm are “presumed correct.”  Meaning, if the case were to go to a jury, the jury would be told that they must “presume” that the findings of the original engineering firm are correct, even if there are material, significant discrepancies in their findings.

And, if that were not enough, the jury would also place a higher standard of proof on the homeowner, by requiring a higher evidentiary standard for the homeowner.  Rather than spend a bunch of type on this issue, it means that at trial, a homeowner and an insurance company are not treated equally.

Instead, the insurance company is permitted certain presumptions, none of which are available to a homeowner, who must prove their case to a higher degree than the company would under the same situation.  It is simply unfair, and I hope this bill never makes it to the Governor”™s desk.

Please share with us your thoughts on this bill.  Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Should I Buy a Repaired Sinkhole Home?

Is it a bad idea to buy a repaired sinkhole home?

So you’ve fallen in love with a house and your realtor informs you that it’s a repaired sinkhole home. If you’re thinking about panicking, don’t. This one statement doesn’t mean the home is doomed to sinkholes, and the fact that your realtor advised you of this fact just means that you have a good realtor that can help you make good decisions based on well-researched facts, as opposed to committing to a situation and being blind-sided.

Your realtor is your greatest tool

If your realtor has proven their worth by not only discovering the house you’re interested in is a sinkhole repaired home, but also being transparent about it, therefore leaving you and your family the space to make your own decision about the matter, keep them! You’ve been fortunate enough to find a good realtor. The benefits of a good realtor don’t stop there, either.

If you want to continue your research on this home, your realtor may suggest hiring an engineer to examine the house. A professional engineer will run you a couple hundred dollars, and depending on the situation (for example, if the seller is desperate to sell the home), you may be able to get your seller to cover this cost. If you go this route, make sure there is testing on the repaired sinkhole home itself and the house next door; a lack of testing between the houses means you may have incomplete information. For example, a sinkhole could open underneath several homes, but only express symptoms in one of them prior to opening.

Another tool your realtor could utilize for you is the neighbors. If they’ve lived in the neighborhood for a considerable period of time, they’re the most informed about any sinkhole activity happening in the area, as they might have gotten their homes tested as well. Your realtor may be comfortable approaching them on your behalf – while some people may not be so helpful, you don’t want to miss crucial information about potential sinkholes just because you didn’t ask!

Some sinkhole repaired homes are great investments

Don’t judge a home based on a sinkhole history. While sinkholes can be huge and destructive, sinkhole repairs could just reference a sinkhole spotted before it opened and repaired appropriately, which results in minimal damage and strong defenses against future sinkholes

As always, gather as much information as you can. This means information like whether or not a sinkhole actually opened or if the home just had cracks in the wall, what kinds of repairs were actually utilized (which can reflect the seriousness of the sinkhole activity, or whether or not the repairs will prove effective in the long run), how long ago these repairs occurred, the sinkhole history of the surrounding area, etc. The more educated you are about your repaired sinkhole home, the more confident you can be in purchasing the home of your dreams.