does homeowners insurance cover sinkholes

does homeowners insurance cover sinkholes

Does homeowners insurance cover sinkholes

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About 40% of US Land Is at Risk for Sinkholes

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 35 to 40% of all the land in the U.S. is susceptible to sinkholes. While giant sinkholes often make news, smaller sinkholes are also exceptionally costly to homeowners. In 2009, the average sinkhole claim cost Florida insurance companies over $86,000 for cracked driveways, walls, and foundations. In that year, insurance companies paid out over $97 million.

People invest significant resources in their homes and vehicles. Mortgage companies require homeowners to protect their assets with suitable home insurance policies, but most do not require the inclusion of sinkhole insurance. Sinkholes have the potential to destroy homes and property, but because they are relatively rare, most people never consider; how real that threat could be for their family. Sinkholes are unpredictable, but you can protect your property with a sinkhole insurance policy.

  • Most sinkholes in America occur in Florida
  • Pennsylvania has the second-highest rate of sinkholes
  • The ability to purchase sinkhole insurance is guaranteed in FL and PA
  • The largest sinkhole in the U.S. is the Texas Devil’s Sinkhole in Rocksprings, TX; it has a 50-foot wide opening and drops 350 feet into the ground

Sinkholes are catastrophic phenomena that occur all over the world. They are natural depressions or holes that form in the earth’s crust. Sinkholes can result from both natural and man-made causes.

The occurance of sinkholes can be a dramatic event that swallows up cars, roadways and even homes. Sinkholes can also cause merely minor depressions in the earth’s surface, barely visible but highly destructive. Some sinkholes happen gradually over time while others are sudden and disastrous. A ground-shift of as little as a couple inches can be enough to severely damage the structure of a home or building, rendering it unsafe for habitation.

Sinkholes can have a variety of underlying causes. Some are natural and some are man-made.

  • Natural causes: Sinkholes can be caused by the after-effects of earthquakes, erosions in the earth's surface or the presence of excess groundwater. Although excessive rains and flooding can sometimes cause these disasters, there is evidence that extreme droughts can have the same effect. Natural sinkholes usually show early signs of erosion.
  • Man-made causes: Sinkholes can sometimes be precipitated by man-made forces that weaken underlying layers in the earth’s crust. Some common causes include excessive drilling, mining, construction and even lots of heavy traffic. Some suspect that hydraulic fracture mining ("fracking") may have this effect as well. Mine subsidence in abandoned coal mines over which development has occurred can also cause these catastrophes.

Many homeowners and business insurance policies offer special endorsements for sinkhole coverage. Without this additional coverage, sinkhole damage is frequently not covered. If your home or business is destroyed by a sinkhole and you do not have a sinkhole insurance policy, you will receive no compensation for your losses. This is a financial hit that most families cannot manage.

Cars need coverage, too. You can get coverage for your vehicle simply by including comprehensive coverage with your car or truck insurance policy. This coverage will provide you with compensation for loss or damage caused by sinkholes as well as other common occurrences such as fire, inclement weather, falling objects and theft.

What Does Sinkhole Insurance Cover?

Sinkhole insurance will provide compensation for damages to your business or home, outlying property and personal belongings kept inside the building if they are damaged as the result of a sinkhole on your property. Even a small shift in the earth beneath the foundation of a building can cause severe structural damage. A major sinkhole can swallow up the entire building and its contents.

Be certain to carry enough coverage to allow you to completely rebuild if your home or business is completely destroyed. This insurance will also cover necessary preventive measures, such as structural bracing, to keep an impending sinkhole from causing severe damage to your property.

Your sinkhole insurance policy may not provide coverage for damages from mine subsidence, so be sure to review your policy carefully to see if you need additional insurance.

Who Should Consider Sinkhole Insurance?

Some areas are more susceptible to sinkholes that others. These events cause the most damage Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. If you live in an area less susceptible to this damage, you may be able to purchase this additional coverage at a very low rate.

Some sinkholes occur as a result of mine subsidence. This is most likely to happen in areas that have been built over old coal mines. Old mines sometimes collapse and cause major depressions in the ground. In some cases, sinkhole insurance will not cover damages caused by mine subsidence. For that, you will need a mine subsidence insurance policy. These policies are available in most states where mine subsidence is a problem.

How Can I Detect a Sinkhole on My Property?

Many sinkholes develop over time. If you maintain your property and keep your eye out for changes in the ground, you'll have the best chances of avoiding damage. Those who live in sinkhole-prone areas should be constantly on the lookout for signs of shifting earth. Things to look for include:

  • Cracks developing around windows or doors
  • Windows and doors that are becoming progressively more difficult to open and close
  • Depressions in your yard or in areas surrounding your home
  • Deep cracks in outdoor walkways, driveways or the street near your home
  • Unusual sediment in your drinking water

If you suspect that there may be sinkhole activity developing, contact your insurance company. They will send someone out to investigate and will advise you on actions that can be taken to secure your property.

Where Can I Learn More About Sinkholes?

If you're concerned there could be a sinkhole on your property or nearby, your local government can help you learn more. Most states have websites for the local DNR that can help you get information about the land in your area.

When in doubt - call the professionals. Especially if you live in a state where sinkholes are common, there are likely sinkhole repair and remediation specialists that are just an online search away.

If you need insurance coverage for sinkholes, you can search online for insurance providers, or call around to local agencies. Just make sure you're choosing a highly rated agent/agency and that you're comparing a few quotes before you buy.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Landscaping?

Landscaping adds a lot to the enjoyment of your home while you live in it and the value of your home when you sell it. Good landscaping doesn’t come cheap. As spring finally approaches, if your green thumb is itching to welcome warmer weather with new plantings around the family manse, make sure your ground cover (and other landscaping) is covered by your homeowners insurance.

Are your plants covered and for how much?

Insurance for landscaping falls under Coverage C, the personal property or contents clause of your homeowner’s insurance policy. It usually amounts to 50% to 70% of your Coverage A, the part that insures your actual structure. For example, if your Coverage A is written for $300,000, your personal property including your landscaping is covered for between $150,000 and $210,000.

That doesn’t mean you’ll get 100% of the Coverage C if a windstorm uproots your specimen palm tree. Certain items including landscaping plants under Coverage C have special limits. For instance trees, plants and shrubs are usually only covered for 5% of your homeowner policy’s value, and there are also dollar limits for each individual tree, shrub and plant that typically cap at $500 apiece. And, depending on the policy you have, you may get nothing other than the removal of the dead tree and repair to any covered structure it damaged on its way down.

Homeowner’s insurance policies also spell out under what circumstances damage is covered. The standard HO-2 policy, which is what most homeowners in the U.S. have, usually covers losses and damages sustained under these situations:

  • Fire
  • Smoke
  • Lightning
  • Windstorm (unless you live in a hurricane-prone area, which requires a separate policy)
  • Hail (not always covered everywhere)
  • Explosion
  • Riots and civil commotion
  • Aircraft and things that fall from aircraft
  • Vehicles and things thrown from them
  • Vandalism
  • Malicious mischief
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Falling objects
  • Ice, snow or sleet weight
  • Flooding caused by appliances, plumbing, HVA or fire sprinkler systems
  • Glass breakage
  • Abrupt collapse (unless it can be shown it was caused by neglect on your part)

So unless you have a policy or endorsements that cover damage from floods, earthquakes, wars, nuclear accidents, landslides, mudslides, sinkholes, sewer backup, sump pump failure, ground movement and holes caused by mining, or pollution neither your home nor your landscaping will be covered in those events.

As always, read your homeowner’s insurance policy’s declaration page very carefully. If you’ve invested a lot of time and money in landscaping your home you may want to compare quotes from an insurer that covers landscaping, or add additional coverage in the form of endorsements and riders to your existing policy. Endorsements to a standard policy can increase the per item limit for each damaged plant while riders can protect against wind, storm and hail damage.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

Homeowners insurance coverage can vary from policy to policy. A standard homeowners insurance policy however typically provides coverage for the following:

  1. Dwelling Coverage- Protects your home in the event it is damaged in a covered peril
  2. Other Structures Coverage- Pays for covered damages to detached garages and/or sheds on your property
  3. Contents Coverage- Provides protection for your personal belongings in your home if they are damaged, lost or destroyed in a covered peril. This may include furniture, appliances, electronics, etc.
  4. Loss of Use Coverage- In the event your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril, your homeowners insurance covers costs for shelter, dining, etc.
  5. Personal Liability Coverage- Protects you financially in the event you are found financially responsible in a covered lawsuit where you caused damage or harm to another person or their property
  6. Medical Payment Coverage- Provides financial protection in the event that someone is injured on your property and does not file a lawsuit but deem that you are responsible for their medical bills.

As with all homeowners insurance policies, it is best to direct questions about specific coverage to your insurance agent. This is because the above coverage only applies in the event of a covered peril. A covered peril would be listed on your policy and may include wind, hail, fire, theft, etc. Flood damage, however, is not covered along with earthquakes and some other natural disasters that require their own policy.

Does a Home Insurance Policy Cover Sinkholes?

If you live in an area where sinkholes can occur, your Homeowners Insurance policy may cover the cost of replacing your home and your living expenses until you can return to the property.

While sinkholes are not a common occurrence, you should be aware of this type of hazard and take appropriate steps to make sure that your investment is protected against sinkhole damage. Home insurance is very important but who wants to overpay?

Sinkhole Coverage Included with Homeowners Policy

Your homeowners policy may cover loss due to a sinkhole, but you shouldn't assume that this is one of the hazards that you are protected against. Residents of Florida, who may be at risk for sinkhole damage, should make a point of reviewing their homeowners insurance policy carefully to find out what kinds of hazards are covered.

In a case where the policy language is unclear, contact the insurance company or your agent to get this matter clarified. You may even want to call or e-mail the insurer even if sinkhole damage is mentioned on the policy to make sure you understand how this part of the policy works. The last thing you want is to find out after a loss is that you don’t have coverage.

Sinkhole Coverage Under a Separate Policy

If your homeowners policy doesn't offer sinkhole coverage as a standard part of your coverage, you can consider buying a separate policy to provide you with protection you need. This option will likely be more expensive than if you bought a homeowners policy that included this type of coverage.

Before making a decision about whether to buy a separate policy for this purpose, you will need to consider your options. Part of doing so involves gathering information about the likelihood that a sinkhole will occur in your area. Not all parts of Florida have the same level of risk for this hazard. That doesn't mean that you should necessarily discount the possibility that a sinkhole will occur, either.

In a case where, after careful thought, you don’t want to have sinkhole coverage included in the terms of your homeowners insurance policy, you can find an insurance company that offers a sinkhole insurance exclusion to its customers.

Choosing this option will probably save you some money on the cost of your homeowners insurance coverage. You will want to take the time to ask questions to make sure that you understand the consequences of not having sinkhole protection on your home. Some companies will still provide coverage for a catastrophic loss due to a sinkhole, even for customers who choose this type of exclusion.

As with all matters connected with homeowners insurance, you need to make sure that you understand exactly what you are buying. It’s a far better choice to ask questions from the outset and make sure that your understanding of what your policy covers and the actual protection you are getting are the same before you need to make a claim against your policy.

When you are shopping for homeowners insurance, you can ask about whether this particular peril is covered. Discuss it with the company directly or contact your agent to find out which companies can provide it as part of a standard homeowners’ policy. It should be one of the factors that you consider before making a final decision about which company you should buy your policy from. If having sinkhole coverage in place is an important consideration for you, focus your search for coverage on companies that can provide it.

You can choose to put it at the top of your list when considering different coverage options if you decide that having sinkhole coverage is a major consideration for you. When you get quotes from different companies, check for this provision first and weed out the companies that don’t give you this type of protection. Then you can go through and consider the companies based on other factors, like price and the level of customer service they provide.

Sinkhole Home Insurance Quotes

Finding out for sure whether you are protected against sinkholes is especially important if you are thinking of or have recently changed insurance companies. If you currently have this protection, you will want to be sure that you are still protected. Not all insurance providers give you the same level of protection, and you need to make sure that you understand your policy coverage properly.

Greene & Associates Insurance provides Insurance Quotes, Rates and Policies online for Home, Auto and Business Insurance for the entire State of Florida including Lake City Fl, Jacksonville Fl, Gainesville Fl, Alachua Fl, Live Oak Fl, Ft White Fl, Branford Fl, Ocala Fl, Middleburg F, Greene Cove Springs Fl & St Augustine Fl

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