Recently homeowners in Spring Hill Florida who owned a home that was a repaired sinkhole in Hernando County got quite a surprise when they received a letter in the mail from the Hernando County Property Appraiser telling them their home was going to be re-classified to be considered unrepaired. This letter went out to a total of 84 homeowners in Hernando County and caused quite a stir. The letter undoubtedly was prompted by the huge sinkhole which opened up in Lake Padgett Estates in Land O Lakes, and seems to be a knee jerk reaction to that event. As one can imagine letter caused a great deal of commotion and backlash, since the letter went out just a few days ago the Hernando County Property Appraiser has somewhat retracted and will no longer be calling these properties unrepaired but will now rather notate the method of repair and if it were grouted (a form of sinkhole remediation where a polymer concrete compound is injected into the grout to fill potential voids) or if it were underpinned (a form of remediation which focuses on installing steel underpinns under a foundation to create a system of pylons underground which stabilizes the foundation and prevents it from being susceptible to further ground movement or soil subsidence) Depicting with accuracy the scope of the repair type is probably a good thing on the Hernando County Appraiser's part although it should be noted that the Engineering Completion Report which is generally in the possession of the home owner or a potential seller does clearly spell out the method of the repair and whether or not grouting or underpinning or both were utilized.
The initial letter that went out caused much panic in homeowners prompting many questions across social media sites like facebook. As you can imagine getting a letter stating your home is an unrepaired sinkhole can cause instant fear in the heart of a home owner, especially a new home owner who recently purchase their home thinking it was repaired. So are these homes really unrepaired? The answer would be no, well maybe, well yes but technically no. Wait say what? Let's look at that a step further in an attempt to truly clarify this confusing topic. The initial decision on the part of the property appraiser was prompted by the following thought process, at least as far as I can tell anyway. Technically speaking the act of installing underpins does not resolve the underground soil condition since what it is doing is stabilizing the foundation with steel pylons and not necessarily focusing on filling the void. The goal in any sinkhole remediation is to ultimately stabilize the foundation right? So underpinning and grouting in theory should accomplish this and should stabilize the foundation assuming either type of repair was performed properly and in accordance to an engineers specification. Since the underpinning does not fill in a void one can technically then say the void was not filled therefore the condition of the potential void itself is not repaired. Does that mean if your home was underpinned it is really unrepaired? No of course not, underpinning has for many years been deemed an acceptable form on sinkhole repair. The focus of underpinning is not and never has been the purpose of filling a void, but rather the purpose is to stabilize the structure regardless of the subsurface condition which may or may not exist. Short of something changing legislatively which is fairly unlikely it continues to be an acceptable form or repair which is why the property appraiser in Hernando County received as much backlash as they did.
So if underpinning is OK then why did the underpinned home in Land O Lakes fall victim to the massive sinkhole? The simple answer might just be Mother Nature. Mother Nature is a powerful and often unpredictable, unstoppable force. In cases where the sinkhole is or becomes so massive there is likely not much that could have been done in the way of a repair that would prevent such a catastrophic collapse. Would grouting have helped? Nobody can say definitively but it would be highly unlikely, maybe it would have bought a few seconds more of time, but reality is probably not. Regardless of what may have been done with an event as catastrophic as the one in Land O Lakes it most likely would not be preventable regardless of any amount of compaction grouting, or number of pins or both. Its just one of those acts of Nature that man cannot control. The good news is these types of catastrophic sinkhole events are relatively rare and do not happen very often.
*My home was underpinned, now what do I do? Well the simple answer would probably be nothing unless you are noticing new damage or something that would cause immediate concern then start by contacting your engineer and contractor who performed the repairs. If necessary bring in another licensed professional for a secondary opinion.
* My home was underpinned, the Hernando County Property Appraiser has me concerned by first stating it was unrepaired now saying repaired. Is my home repaired or not? Regardless of the initial letter sent out, if the home was repaired via underpinning it remains underpinned and thus is repaired. Understanding the difference between a grouting type repair and underpinning type repair is important but being underpinned does not define it as unrepaired in the State of Florida. Being unrepaired under the definition would mean nothing was done or it was not done in acceptable manner under the supervision of a licensed structural engineer.
* I hear the County Property Appraiser may reduce my assessed value, does that make my home worth less now? No, it does not make the home worth any less or any more in the open market. Over the past few years market statistics show that repaired sinkhole homes are selling at or near the full market value. In some geographical pockets repaired sinkhole homes may actually be selling for more than their counterpart similar homes with no known sinkhole. The county assessment has little to no impact on the actual appraised value or market value. Assessments are strictly for taxation purposes and should not be used as a gauge for what a home may sell for or may appraise for in a real estate transaction.
E Loans Mortgage Inc
4117 Mariner Blvd
Spring Hill FL 34609
Disclaimer: Steve Fingerman is not a licensed contractor, engineer, attorney, news reporter, magic genie, or anything other than a Mortgage Professional and Real Estate Professional in Hernando County who is very familiar with the Spring Hill Florida Market and the topic of Sinkholes :)