Lately, there has been quite a spotlight on sinkholes in Florida. It seems to be in the news daily. For those of you that don’t know what a sinkhole is let me explain it (as Wikipedia does): A sinkhole, also known as a sink, snake hole, swallow hole, swallet, doline, or cenote, is a natural depression or hole in the Earth’s surface caused by karst processes — for example, the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks or suffosion processes in sandstone. Sinkholes may vary in size from 1 to 600 meters (3.3 to 2,000 ft) both in diameter and depth, and vary in form from soil-lined bowls to bedrock-edged chasms. Sinkholes may be formed gradually or suddenly, and are found worldwide. The different terms for sinkholes are often used interchangeably
So basically water dissolves whatever type of rock (usually limestone)is beneath the land, it creates a space and then eventually the land will collapse. Here in Florida in the Central part of the state, it is common for this to occur. Determining whether or not it will occur, however, is not so easy.
I have pulled the information below from the Florida Department of Financial Services website for some information about sinkholes.
What Every Floridian Should Know
Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation. Florida law requires authorized insurers to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” but damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered by your policy.
That’s because the law defines catastrophic ground cover collapse differently from sinkholes.
Florida law defines a sinkhole as “a landform 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.”
“Catastrophic ground cover collapse” is defined as “geological activity that results in all of the following:
- The abrupt collapse of the ground cover;
- A depression in the ground cover visible to the naked eye;
- Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and
- The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”
This means that if your home is damaged by sinkhole activity, but does not meet all four criteria for catastrophic ground cover collapse – for instance, you may have foundation cracks, but the home is still livable – your insurance may not pay for the damage if you do not have sinkhole coverage.
All insurance companies licensed to do business must offer catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage. However, Sinkhole coverage is usually added as an addendum or rider to an existing policy, for an additional premium charge. It is recommended for you to attach this rider to the policy even if you live in a county not associated with sinkholes. Better to be safe than sorry.
Thinking about Purchasing a Home:
- Be sure that the house is insurable. (Call your agent!)
- Make sure that sinkhole coverage is included in your policy or a rider. Ask your agent for details about your coverage.
- Make sure you fully understand what is covered under your policy and what is not covered.
- Hire an experienced home inspector who can help you find signs of potential sinkhole activity. (Although not always foolproof.)
- Consider sinkhole testing. (Especially in questionable areas.)