brier May 7, 2014 No Comments

It is becoming very common in Florida, particularly the Tampa Bay Area, to hear about a sinkhole on the news. This morning in Plant City a sinkhole opened up in a back yard on Trapnell Grove. It is not affecting any structures and at this time it is 8 feet wide and 6 feet deep. This is one of many in the past year.

What causes sinkholes?

When slightly acidic groundwater dissolves limestone or similar rock that is beneath the soil cavities will form. This makes it so the overlying ceiling no longer has the ability to support the weight of the soil and what lies on top of the soil. The earth and anything over that area will collapse into the cavity leaving a large hole.

Why is this happening so much in central Florida lately?

The limestone and rock that is located under central Florida is more vulnerable to sinkholes than most other places. Sinkholes are not a new occurrence. Hearing about them has just recently became widespread news due to recent events. Sinkholes can range from 100 feet deep and several hundred feet to very small and shallow.

“A very small percentage of sinkholes that form actually have some adverse effect on human life and infrastructure,” Jonathan Arthur, director of the Florida Geological Survey, told NBC News. “However, it is those that make the news, whether it is under a roadway or a home.”

Will others open nearby?

No. Having one open is not an indication that there will be more to come.

Does my homeowners insurance policy cover sinkholes?

There is a difference between sinkhole coverage and catastrophic ground coverage. According to Florida law, a sinkhole is “a land form created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution (the dissolving) of limestone or dolostone or by the subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”

If your home were damaged by a sinkhole and you carry the sinkhole endorsement on your homeowners policy then this would be considered a covered loss.

The other related coverage, which is included on most Florida homeowners policies, is known as “catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage.” For a catastrophic ground cover collapse to be covered, the insured must demonstrate that:

  1. There is a visible depression;
  2. There is structural damage to the home or other insured structure; and
  3. The home or other insured structure must be condemned.

If the insured’s home does not meet all three requirements (and they do not carry sinkhole coverage) then the loss would not be covered.