Florida lawmaker files controversial sinkhole insurance bill

When Florida homeowners begin to observe signs of sinkhole damage on their properties, it can be critical to have repair work done as soon as possible. However, prompt and adequate repairs are often not possible because homeowners struggle to get their insurers to honor claims. Just two months ago, a Dundedin man’s two-year battle with an insurer over sinkhole coverage culminated when his home was suddenly swallowed by a sinkhole.

Unfortunately, this chain of events is not uncommon. Many Florida residents go back and forth with their insurers over sinkhole claims for years, and in the meantime the sinkholes on their properties become more damaging and dangerous. A Florida State Senator from Pasco County is working to pass a law that might prevent such sinkhole repair delays.

Under Sen. Wilton Simpon’s bill, homeowners who have Citizens policies would be able to simply select a contractor from a state-approved list for sinkhole repairs. Contractors on the list would be required to provide five-year warranties for their work.

Supporters of the bill say this would help homeowners have sufficient and timely sinkhole repair work done. Others argue that it gives far too much control to Citizens, a Florida-state backed insurer, and that it creates a dangerous conflict of interest for sinkhole contractors. The insurer, which is motivated to control its costs, would pre-select and pre-approve sinkhole contractors and engineers; in order to remain a Citizens-approved sinkhole repair company, contractors might cut corners to keep prices low.

As it stands, insurance companies often push for cheap, insufficient sinkhole repair methods, and many worry that this bill would make it more difficult for homeowners to dispute questionable repair methods recommended by their insurance companies.

The future of this controversial legislation remains to be seen. For now, it remains very important for Florida homeowners to seek legal counsel when seeking compensation to repair sinkhole damage and minimize sinkhole activity.

Source: ABC Action News, “State senator says proposal would aid homeowners filing Citizens sinkhole claims,” Francis Gilpin, Jan. 2, 2014