Sinkhole solutions from the Sinkhole Guy

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The following is a  guest post from Taylor Yarkosky, AKA “The Sinkhole Guy” who owns Advanced Pier Technology, a sinkhole repair company based in Hernando County. 

You know me as “The Sinkhole Guy,” but I’m also the guy that knows how devastating unaffordable sinkhole insurance rate hikes will be for the Tampa Bay area.

But there is a solution to this mess.

On Monday, regulators will decide if Citizens Property Insurance Corporation will be able to jack up sinkhole rates 50% in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Hernando County. To translate that in real dollars, that means about $750 more in Pasco County and $690 in Hernando County. This is in addition to an average 11% hike on personal lines.

The problem is real. When it comes to sinkhole coverage, Citizens is paying out about double what they are bringing in with premiums. Simple math tells you that Citizens should be raising rates to offset this significant financial shortfall. But that formula is wrong.

There are two ways to repair sinkholes: “underpinning” – which is a process where your home is put on underground pilings and will never move again; or “grouting,” – which is a process of pumping about 30 of those huge concrete trucks full of a concrete material called grout underneath your home and hoping that it stabilizes the deep soils.

Grouting doesn’t address the foundation of your home and it is also ridiculously expensive. The average cost to grout a home is about $100,000-$150,000. There is also a legitimate question about the impact of grouting on our water tables, surrounding homes, and our overall environment.

Underpinning is comparatively cheap — averaging around $35,000-$40,000. I’ve never seen an underpin job fail. In fact, because I know grout alone isn’t a permanent solution, I now refuse to grout a home without also underpinning. And I do it for free.

When grout fails, subsequent repairs or settlements are extremely expensive. On the contrary, my company provides lifetime warranties for underpinning jobs. This doesn’t just benefit the homeowner; it benefits taxpayers by eliminating future liabilities.

Let’s go back to the math. Citizens is asking for a 50% rate hike. If Citizens would stop grouting all these homes and just start underpinning them, they could save more than half of their repair costs — there would be no need to raise rates and rates would be actuarially sound with future risk all but eliminated.

It’s hard to be fiscally responsible and also blame Citizens for raising rates. But in the case of sinkhole coverage, the contradiction isn’t necessary. 

If Citizens keeps raising rates, areas of Tampa Bay will become unaffordable. Fixed income residents will leave, homes will be condemned, and every citizen within driving distance will feel the impact of this shortsighted strategy.

Regulators will decide Monday on how high your sinkhole rates will go — unfortunately, they are basing these hikes on bad math.

I encourage you to email regulators at [email protected] today, not only voice your opinion about rate hikes, but to let Citizens know that being fiscally responsible is also about utilizing the most efficient, effective and permanent sinkhole repairs.  

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.