If sinkhole rates surge, many of us will not be able to afford the insurance. And rate increases are not the only negative results for homeowners in the 2011 insurance law changes. These changes were promoted and in some cases written by the lobby for the insurance industry.
The law reduces sinkhole coverage to the "principal building." If your pool, driveway or any additions sink into the ground — sorry. The definition of sinkhole damage was redefined from "physical damage" to "structural damage." Wall cracks, no matter how large — sorry. Floor tiles buckled — sorry.
Then "structural damage" was defined as damage "that prevents the structural members or primary structural systems from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support." If your home collapses, your claim is good — congratulations.
The insurance industry claims these changes will address sinkhole claims fraud. Yet where are the arrests and prosecutions in Florida for sinkhole fraud?
The insurance law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature is another example of representatives putting the interests of big business before the interests of the electorate.
Lynn W. Lindeman, Hudson
When we moved here in 2000, there was one prominent billboard on Little Road in Pasco County advertising lawyers' services to represent homeowners with claims. Now we see numerous billboards, newspaper ads and television commercials touting "sinkhole" repair lawyers and repair firms. These companies have sprouted up all over Florida's west coast. It seems that many "sinkhole remediation" firms are self-generators of claims. Much of the work they propose is cosmetic.
I had two brick homes in Virginia that over the years developed cracks in plaster walls, creaks in wood floors, and doors that might stick. My homes were built on red clay with a reinforced concrete slab poured on a bed of compacted gravel. There was settlement and movement over the years. Our Florida houses were built with a four-inch concrete slab on a bed of sand. We must expect that there will be movement.
In many cases, the remediation firms do not say there is definitely a sinkhole but that there are some underground anomalies that could be addressed. Next thing you know a public advocate is there to assist the homeowner, and he makes 10 percent of the insurance settlement. There are many cases where the recommended repairs are never done and the settlement money is pocketed by the homeowner.
Dale Gottschalk, Hudson
Monitor the claims
It is difficult to understand how the Legislature passed SB 408 without realizing the cost to Citizens Property Insurance policyholders. State Sen. Mike Bennett was quoted as being amazed by the massive increases but saying that perhaps they were necessary.
Officials claimed part of the problem was fraudulent claims to Citizens. What about the employees who were overseeing the claims? Weren't they doing their jobs?
If policyholders drop their sinkhole coverage and can't afford to pay for a repair, they will walk away, leaving another foreclosed, empty home in Florida. Just what we need.
Ellen Ward, Weeki Wachee
What is the state trying to do to Pasco and Hernando counties — make them ghost towns? Who would be crazy enough to pay $5,000 to $6,000 for "sinkhole insurance" in addition to their homeowners insurance to live here? There is no way people can afford this type of increase living on Social Security or the wages employers pay in this area.
The only option is to drop sinkhole coverage and lose the home if there is a sinkhole. This isn't fair to the honest people who did not file "fake sinkhole claims" that the insurance companies have been approving.
Stopping the fraudulent claims is the only answer. Don't officials understand that the homeowners who filed bad claims are laughing at them by getting driveways and pools resurfaced, tile replaced and houses painted?
Denny Balaskas, Weeki Wachee
They are wealth creators
We do a serious disservice when we characterize business owners as "job creators" instead of "wealth creators."
They are concerned about workers only to the extent that the labor of those workers generates profits. The wealth creators are concerned about government only to the extent that it might reduce their profits. This is not because wealth creators are evil; it is because they are human.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote A Theory of Human Motivation. In it, he outlined a hierarchy human needs. For wealth creators, one of the highest needs is to maximize net profits for themselves. Until some minimum levels of wealth and continued profits are achieved, the wealth creators will pay little attention to the needs of others, or the nation.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
A helping hand
It has been my experience that if you ask a man who has only a dollar to his name for a dime, he will give it to you. And if you ask a person who makes under a $100,000 a year for $100 to help a child with cancer, you will get it.
But ask a millionaire to pay a little more in taxes to help the country out, and all you hear is "no."
Rev. James L. Baker, St. Petersburg
Bucs, NFL get busy | July 26
Fiddling while Rome burns
It was interesting and revealing that the story that dominated the front pages of newspapers nationwide on Tuesday was the end of the NFL lockout, which brought a collective sigh of relief from millions of rabid fans who will not have to find alternative amusement for Sunday afternoons, not to mention Monday and Thursday evenings.
The debt ceiling crisis, if mentioned at all on the front page, had smaller headlines. Even the Times placed the tale of the tense Obama-Boehner exchange below the fold, easily missed in the bottom left corner of the page.
I have always loved professional baseball, football and basketball. Today I share the lament of Ken Burns that baseball is no longer a game. Neither is football or basketball. Player salaries have escalated, and attending even one game is a major expense.
Yet the reaction to the lockout's end has been enthusiasm from the majority of fans. Relegated to footnotes are the looming collapse of our economy, weak leadership in Washington, a potential worldwide financial crisis, soldiers dying and forgotten in foreign conflicts, and a federal and state mentality that places corporate welfare above the welfare of citizens.
I fear that the response to the end of the lockout is a sad indicator of our priorities and a fearful harbinger of a terrible struggle ahead.
David Brennan, Lutz
Scott's stance: no need to raise the debt ceiling | July 27
Cause and effect
So Gov. Rick Scott says that if the United States goes into default, he is unsure what will occur. He states, "I don't think that anybody knows, because it's never happened." Governor, is this really your logic? I have never shot myself in the foot with a pistol, but I am pretty sure I can guess what will happen if I do it.
Ronald Medvin, Tampa
The biggest lesson from the debt crisis is that education is the most important item in the national budget. What besides ignorance can be responsible for our voters sending to Congress the pusillanimous politicians who are willing to sacrifice the good of the nation for their own ends?
A well-functioning democracy depends on an electorate that is well informed and resistant to self-serving officeholders with sound bites and distortions.
Coralie Lang, Tampa
Car allowances top $200,000 | July 24
Entitlement for the well-off
Top administrators get a monthly benefit for their cars and don't even have to turn in receipts. The justification is that they have not had a raise in two years.
Living on Social Security, I have not had a raise in two years either, and I make a tenth of what they make.
Why are we cutting salaries for police, firefighters and teachers who also do not make nearly what these people make?
Why not give up some of these perks so others who are more important can keep their jobs? Oh, that's right, they are politicians and entitled.
Ann Childress, Palm Harbor