Sinkhole Repair to be Mandatory

TALLAHASSEE-- Too many home owners are taking the money and running after settling a claim for sink hole damage with the state run Citizens Insurance. The checks for damage may soon no longer be in the mail.

For every dollar Citizens takes in for sinkhole coverage, it pays out four in damage claims. Even then, many homes are left unrepaired, sold, and sold again to unsuspecting buyers.

But not for much longer if state Representative Jake Rayburn gets his way.

"We're going to fix the sinkhole and not be left in a situation where potentially someone could get a check and then walk away from the home," Rayburn said.

New Port Richey realtor Greg Armstrong says whole neighborhoods suffer when damage isn’t fixed.

"And today I see so many homes that are unrepaired. It's driving our property values down," Armstrong said. "We're also significantly hurting people."

The legislation allows citizens to get homeowners a list of approved contractors. They'll have 90 days to pick one, but they won't see a check. That'll go right to the contractor.

Suzanne Winfield told lawmakers she didn’t know what to do when she had sinkhole damage. Friends suggested a public adjuster. By the time the fees and expenses were paid, her $160,000 settlement was down to just $70.

"Not enough to put anything under the ground to stabilize it barely enough to do the cosmetic repairs," Winfield said.

Everyone agrees the legislation won’t change the four to one loss ratio for citizens, but the insurer of last resort says at least damage will get fixed.

"We tried to write checks. It didn't work. Homes weren't getting repaired. We want to fix homes."

The change would apply to claims filed after July 1st.

The legislation also allows policyholders to buy lower deductible policies. Right now only a ten percent deductible is offered. If the legislation becomes law, two percent and five percent deductibles would also be offered.

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