SPRING HILL, FL (WFLA) – A Spring Hill man faces prison time after knowingly selling a house with a gigantic sinkhole to a family with five children. It’s the first federal case of its kind. But law enforcement tells 8 On Your Side it won’t be the last.
Detective Bill Horvath, with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, has this message for crooks who pocketed insurance money and then sold homes without disclosing the defect: “We’re gonna come get you,” he said.
In the Spring Hill case, Glenn Jasen filed a claim with Citizens Property Insurance Company. Citizens paid Jasen a settlement of more than $153,000, but instead of fixing the home, he moved to house down the street and spent tens of thousand of dollars fixing up that home. Jasen, according to the government, sold the house to a family and did not disclose the sinkhole. He even answered no on numerous real estate disclosure forms, asserting the house had no structural problems, including known sinkholes.
Sadly, Jasen wasn’t the first to think of this scheme, Horvath said, adding that “human greed” led to this type of deceit. He explains that before a law change in 2011, insurance companies paid out hefty sinkhole claims directly to homeowners. Fixing the home was up to homeowners. Not fixing the sinkhole is fine, as long as the homeowner stays put or discloses the sinkhole to perspective buyers. But some homeowners, such as Jasen, kept the money and sold – or are trying to sell – without disclosing.
And some did patch-work repairs that did nothing. Horvath says his team is working to expose these homeowners and real estate professionals that put people at risk. “To the engineers out there that are unscrupulous, we’re watching you,” Horvath said. “To the remediation companies that are unscrupulous, we’re watching you. We’re not letting it go.”
And Horvath has advice for buyers: “All you have to do is go to the clerk’s site and run that homeowner’s name and you’ll see anything that occurred, any legal or official document that was put on file for that particular home when that homeowner owned it,” he said.
Sinkhole activity is required to be listed on property records. However, as demonstrated in the Glenn Jasen case, sometimes the information falls through the cracks.