SINKHOLES. A somewhat frightening word for many Floridians. Over the years, Florida has experienced fires, hurricanes, and NOW – sinkholes. Initially the West coast of Florida and Central Florida were the most predominately affected areas in the state; however, the effect of sinkholes has become a growing issue spanning the entire state of Florida. Sinkholes are common where limestone, carbonate rock, salt beds or rocks naturally dissolved by ground water, exist below the land surface. Most people believe any soil problem resulting in a loss of soil is a sinkhole, when in fact there a multitude of common causes of foundations failure, the most common of which are: activity of shrink-swell clay, buried debris, vegetation, settlement due to foundation pressure, organic and other deleterious materials, and change in groundwater levels. Common signs of sinkholes include the following: cracks in interior joint areas, windows or doors, cracks in your exterior block or stucco, windows and doors become harder to close properly, depressions in your yard, other yards near you or the street, deep cracks and separation of paved concrete walks and drives, circular patches of wilting plants, sediment in your water, neighbors with confirmed sinkhole activity, observation of an actual cavity beginning to open.
Many Florida homeowners dropped sinkhole coverage from their insurance policy when state legislation removed mandatory coverage in 2008. It is important to note, that a sinkhole differs from “catastrophic ground cover collapse.” In order for a claim to be covered as a “sinkhole loss,” there must be “actual physical damage to the property covered arising out of or caused by sudden settlement or collapse of the earth supporting such property only when such settlements or collapse results from subterranean voids created by the action of water on a limestone or similar rock formation.” More simply stated, not all direct collapses from settlement problems fall within sinkhole coverage. It is advised that you discuss your policy with your insurance agent to confirm that “sinkhole” coverage is included on your current policy.
If you are to experience the devastation of such an occurrence, it is advised that you first mark and secure the area to keep children and pets away. If the hole is directly impacting a building it is best to stay outside of the structure. After securing the area and insuring your safety, immediately contact your insurance agent to report the occurrence.