By law, all insurance policies in South Florida must have “catastrophic ground cover collapse” coverage. What exactly does this cover? Basically, it covers ground collapse damage to property that meets the following four requirements:
- There is a sudden collapse of the ground
- The collapse of the ground is visible to the naked eye
- There is structural damage to the building
- The building must be condemned by a government authority and the owners must be ordered to evacuate the building
All four of these requirements must be met in order for the catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage to take effect. This requirement pretty much means your house needs to be damaged so severely that it is unsafe to continue living in it. But what happens if the first three events occur, yet the property is still livable, from a legal standpoint? Unless you have sinkhole coverage, you may not have insurance coverage for this type of loss. This is where sinkhole coverage may provide relief.
Sinkhole coverage covers damages resulting from a sinkhole. But what exactly is a sinkhole? Under Florida law, a sinkhole is a hole or depression in the ground that is the result of water dissolving underground layers of soil and/or rock (often limestone in Florida). The sinkhole itself is not always obvious to a homeowner or visible to the naked eye. However, it can result in visible damage to a building, such as cracked walls, uneven door jambs or depressed floors. Sinkhole coverage could cover this type of damage, while catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage would not. This is because sinkhole coverage is not always visible to the naked eye or doesn’t always result in a condemned building.
What Can a Homeowner Do Before a Collapse or Sinkhole Damage in South Florida?
Contact your insurance company or agent and make sure you have sinkhole coverage. If you don’t have it, get it. Sinkholes are especially notable in South Florida. The endorsement is usually not expensive, especially in relation to the overall annual premiums. However, as discussed above, it can provide coverage in situations where there is no catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage.
What Can a Homeowner Do if they have Collapse or Sinkhole Damage in South Florida?
First, take steps to protect yourself and loved ones. If it means not staying inside your home for a period of time, it’s worth the inconvenience to ensure everyone is safe. Also, costs associated with living at an alternate location may be covered by your insurance policy. Second, contact an experienced public adjuster, such as Florida’s Best Public Adjusters. A good public adjuster can help you with your insurance claim and advise on the next steps to take and anyone else that may need to be contacted, such as local authorities (if the damage is severe enough and a threat to others). Even if you think your loss isn’t covered, contact Florida’s Best Public Adjusters. Every claim is different and there might be other policy provisions that provide at least partial coverage for collapse or sinkhole damages in South Florida. Three, if your public adjuster has not already done so, notify your insurance company or agent.