Miami-Dade County may have its share of windstorms and hurricanes, but sinkholes are extremely rare in this part of Florida. That may be a selling point for one Marion County family looking to relocate after losing their home to two sinkholes. If there is any good news, it could be that this happened before Citizens' new premiums go into effect -- families with sinkhole insurance could be paying hundreds of dollars more in premiums after the first of the year.
The board of directors of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. approved new rates this week. Though much less than the state-backed insurer originally proposed, the increases average 32.8 percent for sinkhole coverage and 6 percent for standard policies. In September, the board approved a 50 percent cap on sinkhole premium increases that was later rejected by state regulators.
The Marion County family woke up early Monday morning to heavy rains and a large sinkhole in their driveway. After swallowing the family car, the hole stopped just shy of the children's bedroom. As they were leaving on Tuesday, another sinkhole collapsed in their yard.
The family of six watched the second hole open. The mother said that seeing and hearing it was especially alarming -- the sinkhole was in the exact spot where the four kids played every day.
As they wait to hear from their insurance agent, the parents are trying to help their children understand why they won't be going home. The city says the house is unsafe.
They bought the house about 18 months ago, knowing that a sinkhole had opened there before. The parents say they didn't think it would ever be this bad. Now, they hope their insurance company will foot the bill for temporary housing.
Their home was not the only one affected. A neighbor reported having new sinkholes in her yard and new cracks in her house. The neighbor is a single mother whose elderly parents live with her. She isn't sure what she'll do.
Three area schools also found new sinkholes this week. The worst is in an elementary school's bus loop; the others are close to retainer ponds. All have been roped off.
ClickOrlando.com, "Sinkholes Form At Marion Schools, Home," Oct. 11, 2011
Businessweek, "Property insurer's board ratifies rate increases," Oct. 12, 2011