Tampa Realtor: Public records check could find sinkhole issues

FILE PHOTO: Springhill, FL Sinkhole

SPRINGHILL, FL (WFLA) – Before Realtor Laura Rivera shows a house to a home buyer, she checks public records.

It’s a quick search that could save her clients from financial ruin, or worse. Rivera recently found a scary sinkhole label, even though there was no mention of that on real estate disclosure forms. She alerted the listing agent.

“A few days later, they marked it ‘sinkhole’ and they lowered the price,” she said.

Sinkhole disclosure is a growing problem. Our 8 on your side investigation found sellers mislead buyers on real estate disclosure forms, sticking the new homeowners with their sinkhole houses. In our most recent case, none of the Realtors involved checked public records.

That’s why it’s so important to check public records for yourself. State and county laws require sinkhole activity to be recorded. So it’s there – in the files – you just have to check.

But every county is different. We found in Hernando county, known for sinkhole activity, sinkhole activity is labeled in big red letters. Hillsborough has a map you can search for all existing sinkholes. In all counties, search permits or court records will reveal sinkhole investigations.

This kind of checking should be a must for buyers, but Rivera hopes recent publicity is a reminder to fellow Realtors, too.

“If they’re coming to you, it’s because they need you to help them through the whole buying process,” Rivera said of clients. “It’s a big process, so I think agents should just check. It should be an automatic thing, it takes two seconds.”

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