New Port Richey, FL -- A New Port Richey woman is fast becoming the poster child for sinkhole insurance problems that hundreds of people have claimed are unfair.
Twelve years ago, 78-year-old Donna King bought what she thought was her dream house. But a couple of years ago, King says she noticed some small cracks outside her home.
A sinkhole was found and a contractor started pumping grout under the house to stabilize it. In fact, they pumped so much grout, King says her house started cracking... outside and inside, ceilings, walls and floors.
"They destroyed my house and now they won't give me any money to fix it," she says.
By the time Citizens Insurance and the contractor were done, King says they pumped $242,000 of grout into the ground without using a single metal rod to stabilize the foundation.
Now, with a payout cap on her policy of $237,000, the insurance company has refused to pay a penny more for the cosmetic damages.
By one estimate she needs an additional $284,000.
"That's Citizens," says King, shaking her head in disappointment.
"Be cautious as to how your money is being spent," says State Representative Mike Fasano, (R-Dist. 36).
Fasano says he understands why insurers -- including Citizens --don't want to pay out more than a property is worth. But hey says the delays in paying claims, and sometimes the work itself, can make the jobs more expensive.
Policy holders like King need to be responsible for knowing what their payout cap is, he says, and making sure repairs -- including cosmetic fixes -- stay within that budget. Even then, people complain they're then losing coverage.
"Citizens will pay out all this money and if you don't do exactly what they're wanting you to do along with fixing the cosmetic work, well they will never insure that home again when the homeowner has done nothing wrong," said Fasano.
King says that's what happened to her. They canceled her policy. She trusted Citizens and the contractor to do right by her, she says. Instead, she feels victimized.
"They seemed to be taking advantage of me, probably because you know, I'm just an old lady widow that couldn't do them any harm," she said.
At this point King says she really doesn't want her house fixed. She wants a buyout; enough money to walk away from her home, from the headaches, and from the nightmare that was once her dream.
"It's scary living here. It really is scary living in this house," she said, "And I just want to get out of it."
Fasano says he tried to get a law passed in this last session that would force insurers, including Citizens, to look at alternative ways of stabilizing property... not just pumping more and more expensive grout. But the bill was defeated by what he says are powerful lobbyists, representing those who make big money on keeping things the way they are.
We reached out to Citizens Insurance for comment but, still have not heard back from them.