Friday, January 19, 2018
Business

New law seems to be reducing the number of unrepaired sinkhole homes

Here's a fairly scary number: 54.

That's the percentage of sinkhole-damaged homes reported in Hernando County last year that still haven't been fixed.

Not scary enough? Fifty-seven percent of homes with sinkhole damage reported in the first quarter of 2013 remain unrepaired.

In Pasco County, too, you can find reason to worry. Slightly more than half of the total number of sinkhole-damaged homes reported there are unrepaired.

Judging strictly by these numbers, it seems the so-called Great Sinkhole Lottery is still going strong.

It looks as if lots of people are still collecting Lotto-sized insurance payments to fix sinkhole damage and then not making repairs.

It appears as though they are still bleeding property value and tax revenue from these counties and adding to our unwanted, unmarketable reputation as the sinkhole capital of Florida.

It also might seem that a 2011 Florida law designed to prevent them has been a flop.

Yes, there's no doubt the law has some flaws. But look a little closer at some sinkhole statistics and you can also find signs that it's working — and maybe even that the sinkhole lottery is running its course.

In 2011, the percentage of unrepaired sinkhole homes was a whopping 71 percent, meaning the figures since actually represent an impressive improvement.

Consider also that the boon in litigation predicted for the 2011 law has, in fact, come to pass. When these prolonged cases are cleared, so will some of the claims money that can be used to fix sinkhole-damaged homes reported in the past two years.

And finally, the number of new damaged houses in Hernando has dropped from a peak of 247 in February 2012 to 27 just 13 months later; Pasco has seen a similar drop.

Maybe, as a lawyer who represents homeowners in sinkhole fights has told me, that's partly because the new law is unfairly skewed against her clients. Maybe the army of lawyers at the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has cowed homeowners from making claims, and that if the company didn't contest so many of them, more money would be available to make fixes.

And, by the way, is the term "lottery" even fair? Not completely. Plenty of the claims are legitimate, and plenty of homeowners didn't set out to get money for work that wasn't done — it's just that the total amounts of their policies weren't big enough to pay for the fixes.

But several months ago, I interviewed about two dozen people who had collected sinkhole claims. Several of them proudly told me they had pocketed insurance payments knowing their homes were just fine.

The only problem with the term "lottery," I thought then, was that it makes this whole thing sound like a gamble when, really, it's a sure thing.

If there are fewer of those people out there now — if the law is discouraging them — it's a relief to every honest property owner and insurance customer in this part of the state.

Comments
House approves government spending bill

House approves government spending bill

A divided House on Thursday passed an 11-hour plan to keep the government running. But the GOP-written measure faced gloomy prospects in the Senate, and it remained unclear whether lawmakers would be able to find a way to keep federal offices open pa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Consumer agency to spend rainy day funds

NEW YORK — The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund. In a letter to the...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tampa Bay area doesn’t make cut as Amazon second headquarter finalist

Tampa Bay area doesn’t make cut as Amazon second headquarter finalist

To no one’s surprise, Amazon on Thursday released its list of location finalists for its second headquarters, and neither Tampa nor St. Petersburg was on it."We knew it was going to be a long shot and a difficult road," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said....
Published: 01/18/18

Deal clears way for Oldsmar townhomes

OLDSMAR — The City Council voted 4-1 last month in favor of approving a development agreement for a 50-unit townhome community on a nearly 4-acre parcel on St. Petersburg Drive. According to the terms of the agreement, Oldsmar Towns LLC will build a ...
Published: 01/18/18
Here are Tampa Bay's priciest home sales in 2017

Here are Tampa Bay's priciest home sales in 2017

If there’s one word to describe the buyers of Tampa Bay’s 25 priciest homes in 2017 it’s this: eclectic. As in previous years, the group included doctors, lawyers and professional sports figures — three of the homes were purc...
Published: 01/18/18
Ace Hardware in Oldsmar has those hard to find home items

Ace Hardware in Oldsmar has those hard to find home items

When Vision ACE Hardware opened in Oldsmar last November, the very first customer came in looking for a light bulb that he couldn’t find anywhere else."We had that lightbulb," said Stone Ackroyd, marketing manager. "That’s what ACE does. We have thos...
Published: 01/18/18
Mellow Mushroom opens third locationin Wesley Chapel

Mellow Mushroom opens third locationin Wesley Chapel

LUTZ — Mellow Mushroom opened the doors to its new location this week in Wesley Chapel.This is the third location for owner Rob Johnson, who opened the Mellow Mushroom in Brandon 12 years ago, and then expanded to Clearwater.Johnson began looking at ...
Published: 01/18/18
Sweets, savories and surprises at Jules’ Place in southeast Seminole Heights

Sweets, savories and surprises at Jules’ Place in southeast Seminole Heights

Tampa native Julie Harris worked for the City of Tampa for 22 years, under four mayoral administrations, until retiring as director of communications and neighborhood liaison in 2003.Her familiarity with Southeast Seminole Heights and countless conta...
Published: 01/18/18
Popular Spanish cuisine restaurant joins Hyde Park food scene

Popular Spanish cuisine restaurant joins Hyde Park food scene

HYDE PARK—Featuring popular Spanish cuisine, Bulla Gastrobar compliments Soho and Hyde Park’s vibrant restaurant scene offering an authentic Madrid-inspired tapas dining experience to be shared among friends for brunch, lunch and dinner. "Tampa is gr...
Published: 01/18/18