Homeowners concerned about sinkhole insurance

Published On: Mar 05 2013 03:32:12 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 05 2013 03:32:49 PM EST

Residents in a Tampa area neighborhood where a sinkhole swallowed a man and destroyed a house are worried after a second sinkhole was found nearby.

The tragedy has homeowners concerned about who will pay if their house is damaged.

What's called "sinkhole insurance" can be misleading because residents don't need it if their house is swallowed up by a sinkhole.

What homeowners need to know is if they have a policy and their house is swallowed up, they're covered under what is known as catastrophic ground collapse coverage. It used to pay for smaller damages caused by sinkholes, but at the state Capitol in 2011, lawmakers changed that.

State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-Pasco County, was one of the biggest opponents of the changes.

"If you have property insurance, then you are going to be covered because that is a catastrophic ground cover collapse," Fasano said. "However, many of those homeowners throughout the Tampa Bay area no longer have property insurance because they can't afford it."

Now if homeowners want coverage for minor damage caused by sinkholes, they need to purchase extra coverage, coverage that's getting more and more expensive.

"Many of those who want sinkhole coverage now with the 10 percent deductible, premiums going up 30 to 40 percent, if you want sinkhole coverage, homeowners just can't afford that," Fasano said. "There's no way our senior citizens, our working families can afford to come up with that kind of money."

Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation, which means insurance issues surrounding the coverage will remain a hot topic in Tallahassee for years to come.

The extra sinkhole coverage fluctuates depending on where residents live. There was an outcry last year when Citizens Insurance explored raising sinkhole insurance rates more than 100 percent in some areas.


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