A person’s home and/or property are usually their biggest investment. The thought of having your home or business labeled a “sinkhole property” is terrifying for most. Thankfully, many of you will never need to deal with selling a sinkhole property. Under Florida law if a property has sinkhole activity you must disclose this information when you sell the property.
There are a number of warning signs that sinkhole activity may be taking place on a property, but these warning signs can vary depending upon the type of sinkhole formation. There are three basic types of sinkholes, all of which occur in Florida: solution sinkholes, subsidence sinkholes and collapse sinkholes. Collapse sinkholes, thought to be the most common type in Florida, usually happen abruptly and are most often triggered by constant fluctuations in the water-table.
- Cracks appearing in exterior walls (block or stucco); usually stair-step type cracking of exterior walls.
- Cracks appearing in outside walls or other ground surface areas such as sidewalks.
- Cracks appearing in the building’s foundation.
- Cracks appearing in interior areas such as walls, floors and/or ceilings; especially along joints and around windows and/or doors.
- Windows, doors and/or cabinets become harder to open or close.
- Cracks appearing in driveways and pool and/or patio decks.
- Separation of walls from floors and/or ceilings.
- Sloping or uneven floors, decks and/or building foundations.
- Sediment or discoloration of well water or tap water.
- Unusually high water bills and/or frequent, recurring plumbing problems.
- New ground water accumulation/retention.
- Wilting and/or dying vegetation.
- Sinking, slumping, tilting or falling trees, fence posts, utility posts.
- Ground depression(s) forming in your yard or nearby areas.
- Safety first! Cautiously fence or rope off the area as best you can. You can use rope, caution tape, traffic cones, etc. Where possible place warning sign(s) in clear view of the hole or depression warning people of the danger. Keep children away!
- Carefully remove any nearby items (i.e., cars, boats, etc.), but under no circumstances should you endanger your life to protect property.
- Contact your local water management district.
- Contact your homeowners insurance company.
- Consider contacting an attorney who handles sinkhole claims. Many sinkhole attorneys offer free consultations and may even come out to your property to view the damage and answer your questions.
When it comes to the sale of your sinkhole property there are two options. You can sell the property “as is”, often at great financial loss. If a confirmed sinkhole property is not repaired, it is almost always sells far below market value of comparable properties (without sinkhole involvement). The other option is to repair the sinkhole damage and then sell the property. If you decide to repair your property (home or business) we can assist in selecting reputable, licensed contractors and repair companies. We can also review any work or sales contracts and/or documents.