main menu page title feature menus content footer
My Florida C F O

CFO's Initiatives

Stay Connected

Follow the
Department of
Financial Services

Sign up for the CFO's
weekly newsletter!

Press Release

News   RSS RSS   Press Office   Archive

Sinkholes: What Homeowners Need to Know

11/7/2003

CONTACT: Tami Torres or Justin Glover
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE—Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is advising homeowners to be aware of the potential hazards associated with sinkholes. Gallagher also urged homebuyers to make sure they have the appropriate insurance coverage, especially those who live in the greater Tampa Bay area or West Central Florida.

"Unfortunately, sinkholes do occur in Florida," Gallagher said. "Homeowners should take steps to protect their home and family from these natural disasters."

Gallagher advised that if a sinkhole has appeared on your property or a portion of your home has shifted or sunk, take these steps immediately:

· If you or your family are in danger, evacuate immediately. Secure or remove valuables only if you can do so safely.

· Mark the sinkhole with fencing, rope or tape to warn others of the danger. You could be held liable if someone is injured in the sinkhole.

· Notify your insurance company or agent.

· Notify your city or county building inspection department.

If you decide to file an insurance claim for sinkhole damage, your insurance company will probably order a geological report that will establish the cause of the damage. If the testing confirms that a sinkhole was the cause, your insurance company should pay for the testing and repairs, less any applicable deductibles. Homeowners should be aware that other natural phenomena, such as shifting due to a soft clay foundation, can mimic damage caused by sinkholes. If testing proves that the damage was not caused by a sinkhole, you may be held responsible for a portion of the cost.

For potential homebuyers, sinkholes should be a consideration when purchasing homeowners insurance. Make sure this coverage is included in your policy or in a rider attached to the policy. Authorized or licensed insurance companies in Florida are required by law to make this coverage available. Surplus lines carriers aren't required to offer it, but many do.

Other steps you should take when buying a home:

· Hire a home inspector who can help you find signs of potential sinkhole activity, including cracks in the foundation or exterior walls.

· Consider sinkhole testing. While it can be very expensive, it will determine definitively if a sinkhole is present. However, it can't guarantee that a sinkhole won't appear in the future. In addition, an insurance company should not require you to have this testing done prior to granting coverage.

Ask your agent for more information on sinkhole insurance coverage or call the Florida Department of Financial Services' toll-free helpline at 1-800-342-2762.