HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Hillsborough County authorities gave two Valrico families just three minutes to get out of their home Thursday. This is after a 6-foot deep sinkhole opened up between their homes the day before.
The hole straddles the property line between 4724 and 4726 Copper Canyon Blvd. But 8 On Your Side discovered the homeowners at 4724 Canyon asked their insurance company about significant cracks in January. State Farm hired an engineering firm that documented the cracks and found sinkhole activity under the home. But the insurance company denied the homeowner’s claim to stabilize the house.
“They told them, ‘Oh, you’re fine, and now, eight months later, we know what the definition of fine is,” said Chris Codling, an attorney representing that homeowner, Santiago Trujillo.
Geologists and engineers from both homeowners’ insurance companies spent Friday investigating the damage and using ground penetrating radar to determine what is going on beneath the homes. But the homeowners spent the day worrying about what will happen to their houses and their belongings. They also question why State Farm didn’t act to stop this from happening.
A State Farm representative told 8 On Your Side she cannot comment on this case. But Codling explained why the insurance company denied the claim in January.
Florida laws changed in 2011 to allow insurance companies to deny sinkhole claims if they determine the sinkhole activity has not caused structural damage. Codling says his clients insisted the crack were structural damage, and they worried about a sinkhole opening under the house. But State Farm determined the structure was in tact.
Now State Farm is forced to fix the home — and the home next door that belongs to 80-year-old Yolanda Altreche and her husband. She got out with just the clothes on her back and is terrified.
“It’s taking a toll on me,” she said. “I’m not a young person. I’m an old woman. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”