Because the subsidence is located on private property, homeowners must file claims with their insurance companies.
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Land subsidence and sinkholes have been common in certain parts of Florida for decades. But is seems as though we’re hearing more about the sudden development of depressions and holes as Florida’s population increases and the rate of new construction increases.
An association-governed community in New Port Richey, River Ridge, is the most recently reported site of a 20-foot deep “depression” that may be up to 100 feet wide. The hole opened up on Tuesday between two homes, undermining the foundation and paver patio of one of the homes. Residents of both homes have been evacuated, and advised not to return, while geotechnical engineers working for insurance companies evaluate the cause of the subsidence.
According to a report by Spectrum Bay News 9, as of yesterday, crews have begun pumping concrete into the large void.
Crews stabilizing, monitoring depression under New Port Richey homes
By Sarah Blazonis | September 7, 2018 @12:30 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — For a fourth day in a row, engineering crews are at the site of a large depression in a New Port Richey neighborhood.
Engineering crews pumping concrete into depression; monitoring situation
Depression opened between homes in River Ridge neighborhood Tuesday
No other homes in danger right now
One of the two homeowners whose home is threatened by the hole said Friday that work is underway to stabilize the home, at least temporarily.
Pasco County officials have marked two homes in the 11400 Dorian Court block of the River Ridge Subdivision unsafe for entry after a depression at least 40 feet across and 20 feet deep opened between them on Tuesday.
Crews continued pumping concrete into the depression on Friday. They also are using special equipment to get a look at what’s happening underground to determine if in fact the depression is a sinkhole.
Video coverage of the depression — officials aren’t calling it a sinkhole at this point — can be viewed in the following reports:
Depression near New Port Richey homes is ‘purely an insurance issue,’ officials say (Channel 10 News, Tampa) (This report includes helpful links to County databases to search the sinkhole history of a home site or neighborhood.)
20-Foot-Deep Depression Opens In River Ridge Subdivision (New Port Richey Patch)
What do we know about sinkholes?
Unfortunately, not much.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s “Sinkhole FAQ” provides some basic educational information that all current and prospective property owners should read.
According the FDEP:
Probable triggering mechanisms for sinkhole collapse may include drought, new construction, blasting, heavy ground loading, heavy rainfall and heavy groundwater pumpage. Private lawn wells are typically not sufficient to impact the water table enough to cause sinkholes.
The DEP also explains that standard homeowner’s insurance policies provide limited coverage for sudden and catastrophic collapse sinkholes, but no coverage for property damage related to the sinkhole. There’s generally no coverage for non-catastrophic sinkholes and “depressions” under standard homeowner policies.
In this case, owners of the two home in River Ridge must pay for repair of the large hole and any associated property damage to their respective homes.
(If a sinkhole were to up on common property, the HOA would have to assess all of its members pay for any repair not covered by insurance.)
What can a homeowner do to minimize financial risk of a sinkhole? Maybe not much.
Some homeowners might be able to purchase a separate sinkhole insurance policy, if their property is not located in an area with a documented history of sinkholes. Ironically, there’s probably no sinkhole insurance available for the homes at highest risk for damage.
Bottom line: if you purchase or own a home in Florida (or any other state), and a sinkhole causes property damage, it will be entirely up to you to pay for geological evaluation and either filling or “grouting” the hole, or adding underground support posts beneath the home’s foundation. That can cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars without insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no reliable method for predicting where and when a sinkhole will open up.
In addition to potentially expensive property damage, sinkholes also pose risks to personal safety.
However, the state of Florida maintains records of sinkhole reports and repairs. So land developers and local planning officials are well aware of high risk sinkhole locations with karst soil.
But instead of simply avoiding new construction and development in high risk “sinkhole alley,” policymakers have opted to allow more and more new construction, requiring seller disclosure that notifies a buyer that the home and community might be at risk for land subsidence, depressions, and sinkholes.
Not that there’s much a housing consumer can do with the information, other than walk away from a home purchase.
Yet another Buyer Beware message.