Florida homeowners face myriad issues when it comes to protecting their homes and insuring them against potential disasters. Thanks to Florida’s humid climate and swampy terrain, sinkholes are a serious concern for many Florida homeowners. It’s vital for homeowners to understand the dangers posed by sinkholes and what to do in the event a sinkhole damages a home or property. Though many residents have heard the term before, few know the signs that indicate a sinkhole.
A sinkhole forms when the bedrock under the surface soil dissolves. This bedrock supports the soil and substances above it, and many homes depend on bedrock for the stability of their foundations. When the bedrock dissolves, a depression forms in the land above, and this phenomenon can happen frighteningly fast.
Some sinkholes appear overnight, damaging homes, businesses, and any other structures nearby. While Florida’s natural geography is a contributing factor to sinkholes in the area, some unnatural causes may be to blame as well, particularly from human interference with the land.
Unfortunately for Florida homeowners, the odds of encountering a sinkhole near your home or business are rather high. If you notice any of the early warning signs of a sinkhole, report your concerns to a professional immediately.
Warning Signs of Sinkholes
You may notice a sinkhole from signs inside or outside of your home. Some of the signs you may notice inside include:
- Doors and windows suddenly fail to shut properly. The frames may appear distorted or disjointed.
- Water pooling. If you regularly notice water pooling in a basement or garage, take note of the usual spots where it collects. If you suddenly notice the water pooling in other areas or trickling, it could be an indication the foundation of your house is shifting.
- Separation between ceilings and walls. This should be a major red flag that your home’s structure is no longer stable
Hopefully, if you do encounter a sinkhole on your property, it will be outside your home and nowhere near your foundation. Some of the signs of a sinkhole include:
- Plants dying in specific spots. Typically, if you see circular areas of dead plants, it indicates a sinkhole.
- Leaning structures. If you have a swing set for your kids, fences, or other permanent or semi-permanent structures on your property, take note if any of them appear slanted or leaning. This could indicate the ground below has given way due to a sinkhole.
- Newly visible tree roots, fence posts, or the foundation of your home or other structures. If you notice you can see the bottoms of such structures as if they’ve lifted out of the ground, it more than likely means the ground is dropping below them.
Insurance Issues With Sinkholes
It’s important for Florida homeowners to understand the state’s laws concerning sinkholes and sinkhole insurance. If you report a sinkhole claim to your insurer, expect the insurance company to send an investigator to validate the claim and determine your eligibility for coverage.
Due to Florida’s natural terrain and high likelihood of sinkhole formation, Florida law requires every insurer to provide coverage for “catastrophic ground cover collapse that results in the property being condemned and uninhabitable.” Basically, if a sinkhole destroys your home to the point that the home is no longer habitable, your insurance should cover the damage. For minor sinkholes, don’t expect coverage.
If you believe an insurer has not processed a sinkhole claim in good faith or you feel as though an insurer unjustly denied your claim, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A qualified attorney will be able to represent your case and help manage difficult insurance agents.