A possible depression in Palm Harbor that badly damaged a home had a lot of you asking: Who is responsible to tell home buyers or developers about sinkhole risks?
We asked Peter Bennett, president of Blake Building, who has bought and sold property and has experienced sinkholes in the past.
"It’s more of a ‘buyer beware’-type of issue. there's nobody that's really going to tell you,” he said. “You can hire a home inspector to review your house and look for settlement cracks that are signs but if you don’t have signs there's nothing you can possibly know."
But before you feel helpless, Bennett recommends three key actions to protect yourself.
First, study the owner disclosure statement.
“They disclose any facts about the house. That would protect you. So if they knew of a sinkhole or had some settling problems they need to be honest on that form, and if they are not you can go back to the form and they could be liable for it."
Second, check databases.
"There are sinkhole databases out there to see what has happened in my area. Usually you can go on property appraisers website or "clerk of court" and do research and see is your area prone to sinkholes, especially in Pasco County."
However, one Pinellas County official says if a sinkhole is on private property, it doesn't always make it on databases.
And third, in addition to a home inspector, pay more money for soil testing.
One of the most common sinkhole causes is the dissolution of limestone.
"Geotechnical testing agencies that you can hire to come out and run tests for you,” Bennett said. “They can do soil bearings to check the surface, but that's also hit or miss as well. They are hitting certain areas in your yard. If a sinkhole occurs under your house, there's no way they can catch that."