Orlando, Fla. — If you are not a native Floridian, you probably moved here inspired by the marvelous year-round weather, and that feeling of having an eternal resort life (because we live where others spend their vacations.) If that is your case, in a very short time you’ll learn about a few things you simply must accept as part of your new life. 1) Learn to protect yourself and your property from storms and hurricanes. 2) Gators smaller than five feet are considered “friendly”, which means if caught they are sent back to their habitat. Keep in mind they are still dangerous and you must stay away and protect children and pets if you live close to lakes or in areas prone to their appearance. Persons with concerns about an alligator may call our toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). Generally, an alligator may be deemed a nuisance if it is at least four feet in length and you believe it poses a threat to people, pets or property. 3) Now, the third one, is a little complicated. The unexpected ground cover collapse, or so called sinkholes.
Florida has an extensive history of sinkholes. As scary as they seem the good news is that fatalities do occur, but luckily, they’re rare. In most states, coverage for home damage due to earth movement is not required. Only Tennessee and Florida require certain kinds of coverage for earth movement.
In Florida, insurance companies are required by law to provide homeowners insurance coverage that includes damage from “catastrophic ground cover collapse.” They are also required to offer sinkhole damage coverage as an option. Ask your insurance expert for these details when you purchase your homeowners policy. There are extras that can get your structural damage covered but you must be certain that your agent is an expert and advises you correctly.
These 4 conditions must be met (Florida law) in order to get damage covered by your homeowner’s insurance:
- The sinking of the top layer of soil must occur abruptly.
- A depression in the ground cover must be clearly visible without the aid of instruments.
- There must be structural damage to the home, including the foundation itself.
- A government agency must condemn and evacuate the structure.
A sinkhole loss must include structural damage that includes the foundation. Structural damage must involve foundation movement that exceeds an acceptable variance in the building code, and it must cause the structural systems to be unable to support the loads they were designed for.
Settling or cracking of a structure does not automatically trigger coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse.
And of course, there is a two year limit for filing sinkhole damage claims. 10/4/2017 10/4/2017 12:28:26 PM
The following are some signs you must observe carefully which may represent a sinkhole threat:
- Trees or fence posts that tilt or fall
- Foundations that slant
- New small ponds that appear after rain
- Cracks in the ground
- Sudden drainage of a pond
- Rapid appearance of a hole in the ground
- Dips, depressions, slopes that appear in a yard
- Dead patches of grass or plants
- Sinkholes in the neighborhood
- Wilted vegetation in a limited area
- Well water that is discolored or contaminated with debris
- Cracking or buckling of home’s concrete slab
- Presence of odd bugs like slugs and centipedes.
- Earthy odor inside the home after rain
- New or widening cracks
- Separation between walls and ceiling or floors
- Cracks in interior walls
- Cracks around door and window frames
- Cracked grout between tiles
- Cracked tiles
- Stairstep cracks in blocks or brick
- Uneven floors, warping of hardwood, bulging or sagging sections
- Doors or windows that don’t open or close easily
- Cracks in sheetrock near doors or windows
WHAT TO DO?
If you notice signs of movement in your home, and you suspect sinkhole activity, there are a series of steps you should take to determine if sinkhole activity is actually present. Contact your homeowners insurance company. You may also ask Earth Tech to come right away to review the situation by calling us at (813) 909-8000 at any hour of the day or night.
It is important to stay calm. Major sinkholes are extremely rare, and there are many professionals available to assist you.
ENJOY LIFE RESPONSIBLY!