Dishonest Sinkhole Repair Companies Prey on Florida Homeowners

Headlines recently featured the arrest of a Tampa engineer, the latest in a two-year investigation of fraud perpetrated by the engineer and a sinkhole repair company. He and the company owners allegedly colluded to bilk property owners and insurance companies of thousands of dollars charged for work they never did. Similar scams have been operating in the state for years, as sinkholes are a persistent problem and repairing them is a growing enterprise.

With all its advantages, living in Florida carries a fundamental risk: the ground beneath a person’s feet can literally give way. This is because of the state’s geology. Underlying the whole of the Sunshine State is limestone bedrock, which can be exposed at the surface or covered with soil. Over time, limestone dissolves as rain and groundwater seeps below the surface, forming various-sized underground cavities. Sinkholes develop as the covering over an underground cavity collapses, which can happen gradually or suddenly.

The resulting depression can be a headache for a homeowner. Some sinkholes threaten the stability of buildings. Deep holes are dangerous for people and livestock. While some small sinkholes far from structures can be repaired with simply a shovel and fill material, larger ones require professional help.

Companies that fill sinkholes generally work with an engineer or geologist to analyze the terrain and recommend how to proceed. Work on major sinkholes has to be done below ground level, injecting a cement mixture to stabilize a hole, or even drilling and inserting large steel pins to hold a building in place. Because such work is not visible on the surface, it is possible for a disreputable contractor to claim it was done while actually doing little or nothing.

Sinkholes are a fact of life in Florida and will keep happening. Homeowners will do well to become educated about them. A state agency, the Florida Geological Survey, maintains an informative website and is available to answer questions about sinkholes. Those who suspect they may be victims of a fraudulent sinkhole repair company can report their concerns to local law enforcement.

Source: “Local engineer arrested in sinkhole fraud scheme,” abcactionnews.com, 2/3/12