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Is Your Home Protected from Sinkhole Damage?

Florida Property Insurance - Florida Sinkhole Insurance

You’ve probably seen news coverage of sinkholes swallowing houses and you may be wondering if your home would be covered if a sinkhole causes damage. Property in Florida is especially susceptible; while the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 35 – 40 percent of the land in the United States is at risk for sinkholes, Florida has significantly higher risk than any other state.

Sinkholes are gaps in the surface of the earth. They most often occur when water gets trapped underground and dissolves the rock underneath the surface. This forms a hole in which the land above sinks. Naturally-forming sinkholes require copious amounts of water and carbonate rock layers that hold the water. This explains why Florida has more sinkholes than any other area of the country. Florida has some of the worst hurricanes and heaviest rainfall, and much of the land is formed over limestone, which is a type of rock that stores water and breaks apart easily.

Sinkholes are viewed as being in the same category as earthquakes. Any incident where damage is caused by “ground movement” is not usually covered by your standard homeowner’s insurance policy. You may be able to request an optional “add-on” sinkhole insurance policy either through your existing insurer or a separate insurer, which can often be found through your state’s department of insurance.

Home insurers are required by law to offer Florida residents “catastrophic ground cover collapse.” Just be aware that sinkholes don’t always fall under that category, so but sure to have a frank discussion with your insurance agent if you aren’t sure whether your property is covered. While unfortunately there are usually no warning signs, sometimes there are red flags that a sinkhole is about to collapse. Be wary if you see any of these conditions on your property.

  • A crack in the foundations or fresh fault lines running up the walls of your home or other buildings.
  • Slanted doorway that doesn’t feel right when you shut the door. Check the doorframes to see if they look angled.
  • Leaning trees can be a sign of unstable ground below. Keep your distance and call an expert to check it out.
  • Unexplained pools of water, cracks or voids on the property.

Call a professional to inspect your property if you notice any of the above conditions.

There are a few things you can do to help prevent sinkholes on your property.

  • Construction sites can lead to sinkholes if the natural process of water soaking into the ground is disrupted. Make sure your general contractor makes provisions so that water doesn’t pool in one spot under the ground.
  • Water drains should be routed away from your house or other buildings on your property. Set up receptacles below your gutters to collect rainwater so it doesn’t pool beneath the surface.

Sinkhole coverage is not mandatory in Florida; many Floridians mistakenly think that their homeowners’ insurance will cover them in the event of sinkhole damage. The best thing you can do is to call your insurance agent and review your policy with him or her. If you are not covered, ask for a quote. If you feel you can’t afford the rate, consider securing a policy with a higher deductible to offset the cost. Most of us couldn’t afford to pay for damages if we were to suffer the loss from a sinkhole, making a separate insurance endorsement well worth the investment. At least you will have the peace of mind knowing that you will be covered if you sustain damages due to a sinkhole.

For more information about sinkhole insurance as well as many other types of risk protection coverage, please contact the experts at Lanier Upshaw.