Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sinkholes?


WRITTEN BY: Mark Romero

UPDATED: DECEMBER 27, 2022 | 2 MIN READ

Sinkholes aren’t necessarily something you have to worry about until a sinkhole collapses. No one wants to think about something like that occurring, but it does happen, and you don’t want to be in a position where it does happen and you don’t have sinkhole insurance coverage.

Sinkholes don’t happen overnight. It usually takes some time before they collapse. For a sinkhole to collapse, groundwater must slowly dissolve the rock below the land surface until it can no longer support the weight of the land surface. This causes the land surface to collapse, resulting in a hole in the ground. It can be terrifying to watch, especially if it’s happening on your property.

Sinkholes don’t often happen in the United States, but they can be catastrophic when it does. Sinkhole activity is more likely seen in Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Sinkhole insurance isn’t something that comes automatically with your coverage. Instead, you can add sinkhole insurance coverage coverage for an additional premium.

Sinkhole Homeowner’s Coverage

A standard homeowners insurance policy won’t include earth movements such as earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, and mudslides. If you live in an area with these problems, you can add sinkhole loss coverage to your policy.

This addition to your home insurance policy would include damage from sinkholes. It may provide personal property coverage for items in your dwelling at the time of the loss. The coverage may allow you to replace your personal belongings, repair your home, or rebuild up to your coverage limit. The coverage could also include repairing your home’s foundation and stabilizing the land so you won’t end up with another sinkhole.

To file your claim with your insurance provider, you must show proof that your home sustained structural damage or may collapse due to a sinkhole.

What is Sinkhole Coverage Vs. Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse Coverage?

If you live in Florida, they require you to provide “catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage” as part of your standard homeowners insurance policy. But this is different from sinkhole coverage. Certain conditions must be met by catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage.

  • Catastrophic ground cover collapse is described as geological activity that results in the following conditions:
  • A hole in the ground cover is visible to the naked eye.
  • The abrupt collapse of the ground.
  • Damage to a principal building, including the foundation of the building.
  • The building is being condemned and ordered to be vacated by a government agency authorized by law.

You could make a claim on your homeowners insurance coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse, but only if you meet all four requirements. Sinkholes would also have to meet all four conditions. Florida is the only state that requires that you have this as part of your homeowners policy.

Florida insurance companies may also require sinkhole coverage as an add-on to your policy. Still, they may require an inspection of your home. Based on that inspection, they could decline to provide you with coverage.

How Much Does Sinkhole Insurance Cost?

The cost depends on the specific details of your property and the state you live in. Sinkhole insurance isn’t cheap, but it can be invaluable if you ever find yourself in the position to experience a sinkhole.

Sinkhole insurance coverage may require a percentage deductible between 1% to 10% of your home’s coverage limit. For example, if you have coverage of $300,000 and you have a 10% deductible, you will be responsible for $30,000 of costs.

How At Risk Am I For Sinkhole Damage?

Only some states will experience sinkholes. There are plenty of natural disasters that happen more often than sinkholes. The states where sinkholes are more common include:

  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Texas
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee

What Causes A Sinkhole?

Sinkholes happen more often in areas where there is karst terrain, which includes gypsum, limestone, and dolomite. The United States makes up 20% of land surfaces that have karst. When rock dissolves, it opens up caverns underground. It takes a long time for sinkholes to develop and often go unnoticed. But when they are about to collapse, it can happen suddenly.

Three Major Types of Sinkholes

  • Cover-subsidence sinkholes: You will see these sinkholes in areas where sand covers the bedrock. When individual sand moves downward into the openings of the rock, the land surface will start to sink.
  • Dissolution sinkholes: You will see these sinkholes in areas with little vegetation or soil over the limestone. When it rains, the runoff trickles through crevices in the bedrock and dissolves it. Over time, a hole will develop.
  • Cover-collapse sinkholes: You will see these sinkholes in areas where the bedrock is covered by a significant amount of clay. The whole layer will collapse when the overlying clay can no longer support its own weight. This type of sinkhole can be catastrophic.

Natural events can cause sinkholes due to prolonged rainfalls or even periods of drought. There are also human activities that can trigger a sinkhole, such as:

  • Overpumping an Existing Water Supply Well – This causes the water table to lower and creates unsupported caverns.
  • Adding Weight Above Cavities – Construction of roadways, housing developments, and artificial ponds of water.

How Can You Spot A Sinkhole?

Sinkholes develop over time. If you live in a sinkhole-prone area, there are signs to watch out for:

  • Doors and windows that don’t open or close properly
  • Cracks develop around doors or windows
  • A circular depression in your yard
  • Deep cracks in the driveways or walkways
  • Slumping fence posts or trees
  • Interrupted electricity due to a sinkhole that damages utility lines
  • Previously buried items have now become exposed
  • Openings in the ground where rainwater disappears
  • Formation of small ponds as rainfall accumulates
  • Muddy or cloudy well water
  • Vegetation dies because water is being drawn somewhere else

FAQs

Do I need sinkhole coverage?

Tennessee and Florida are the only states where you are required to have sinkhole insurance coverage. However, it’s still on an optional basis. Florida is the only state where insurance policies include catastrophic ground cover collapse coverage.

What should I do if I have a sinkhole?

If you think that you have a sinkhole on your property, you should do the following:

  • Contact your utility company if you think that the sinkhole will affect service lines.
  • Consider consulting with a geologist or a professional land surveyor to help mitigate damage.
  • Contact your state geological survey for more guidance.

Who is responsible for sinkholes?

Water is usually the trigger for a sinkhole. In 90% of cases, water saturating the ground is the reason for the sinkhole. They happen when a layer of rock beneath the ground is dissolved by water.

Getting Help with Sinkhole Insurance Coverage

When it comes to a sinkhole can be one of the most devastating things that can happen to your property. They aren’t as common as you think, but if you happen to live in a sinkhole-prone area, it’s always best to be protected just in case. Getting insurance for these occasions is vitally essential before an incident happens.

If you think a sinkhole is developing on your property, contact the proper authorities before the sinkhole collapses and causes more damage. Fill out our online request form to review the best homeowner insurance companies and rates available in your area.