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   We received a call this morning from an existing client that started simply enough. They asked us if they had "sinkhole coverage" on their existing homeowners insurance policy. They told us that they had heard that there aren't any insurance companies in the state that are covering homes for sinkhole damage any longer. The client was fortunate enough to have still been covered; thats not the case for everyone.

   Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation. A recent change in Florida law requires authorized insurers to cover “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” but damage caused by a sinkhole may not be covered by your policy. Florida law defines a sinkhole as “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 sinkhole coverage is included in your policy take it, without question. If you are told that you are in an area where you have to get an inspection you might want to think about passing on the inspection and the large cost, odds are against you passing (especially on older homes). 

   Insurers today seem to have taken away "preventive care" when it comes to sinkhole coverage with the state requiring "catastrophic ground collapse coverage".  We had one of our marketing representatives in our office a couple of days ago and she told us that she had been speaking to a marketing rep from another company here in Florida. He told her that they had sixty-three claims in one five day period in one county. "Preventative care" would have taken care of repairing cracks in walls or the foundation; unfortunately for the insurers and the insured both it generally costs somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy five hundred dollars to have a geological engineer come out to determine if the damage was caused by a sinkhole. These costs inevitably get past along to the insureds.
 
   The alternative to having your home insured for sinkhole coverage with an authorized insurer is having the state mandated "catastrophic ground collapse coverage". The downside is that you lose the opportunity to receive  any early diagnosis and treatment option that might have been covered by your homeowners insurance policy in the past. Other than the ground opening up and swallowing your home repair expenses are now the responsibility of the insured.

   The state of Florida and the insurers have been at odds over policy premiums and what the insurers can charge for years. We have had many companies appear to use our state as a market with a revolving door; writing business in our state and then leaving as fast as they came in. We have sinkholes and sunshine, the rest of the nation has snow.
Yes it's frustrating to everyone involved but at this point and until a better solution comes along that everyone can agree on, it's all that we have. For more information, call our office (Birchell Insurance Agency) 800-978-8813 or visit us on the web at " ht
tp://www.birchellins.com ".

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