Sinkholes are a fact of life in many parts of the country, not just Florida. Unfortunately, The Villages is not immune to them either. There have been several confirmed sinkholes in The Villages over the years.
Florida has more sinkholes than any other state. This is because in many parts of Florida, the ground near the surface is sitting on top of limestone. When underground water levels rise and fall, this limestone can dissolve and form holes.
What Causes Sinkholes?
When the ground below is no longer strong enough to support the weight of what is on top, there may be a sinkhole. Sinkholes can happen anywhere, but if you research this topic on your own, most websites will tell you that North Central and West Central Florida are where they seem to occur most often.
February is usually when the state is at its driest, but it's also the start of the rainy season. Acidic rain can, over time, eat away the limestone and natural caverns that lie under much of the state, causing sinkholes. Both extremely dry weather and very wet weather can trigger sinkholes. An extensive drought can cause soil and sediment over a cavity to be extremely dry and collapse. On the other hand, following Tropical Storm Debby in 2012, dozens of sinkholes formed in counties north of Tampa because of the rain.
For your reference, here are links to some other articles I came across during my research that have been written about sinkholes, specifically in The Villages, over the years:
Sinkholes Plague Villages (2002)
Sinkhole Insurance in Florida
For insurance purposes, it’s important to distinguish between what’s known as Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse coverage, and sinkhole coverage. They are two different things.
Florida law requires all homeowners insurance policies to include Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse (CGCC) coverage, but there is strict criteria that must be met for an incident to be covered:
1. The abrupt collapse of the ground cover;
2. depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye;
3. Structural damage to the building including the foundation; and
4. The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the government agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.”
If a sinkhole occurs and any one of those four criteria is not met, the incident will likely not be covered by your insurance company.
If you read those criteria again, you’ll note that your home must literally be condemned and vacated for CGCC coverage to kick in. There have been efforts in the state legislature to change this but as of this writing, nothing has made it out of the proposal stage.
Fortunately (in the case of safety) or unfortunately (in the case of your ability to collect insurance money to fix your home), most sinkholes do not cause enough damage to meet these criteria.
That’s where optional sinkhole coverage comes in. Florida law requires all insurance companies writing policies in Florida to offer sinkhole coverage, typically as a separate policy or in a rider, and of course, this will be at an additional charge above and beyond what your regular insurance costs.
It’s also important to note that if geological testing or an inspection reveals that sinkhole activity is present on your property or within a certain distance of it, the insurance company can decline to provide sinkhole coverage to you.
While actual geological testing can cost thousands of dollars, most insurance companies will simply send a representative out to do a walk around of the property and sometimes they’ll come inside and inspect around windows and doors for signs of excessive settling before approving you for coverage.
To learn more about sinkholes visit: