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Sinkhole Legislation Draws Opposition

Sinkhole Legislation Draws Opposition

CREATED Feb 12, 2014

by Janet Kim

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Sinkholes can swallow up entire homes and buildings. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, it even swallowed eight cars early Wednesday morning at the Corvette Museum.

A proposed piece of legislation is now making its way through the Tennessee Legislature regarding how sinkholes are handled in an insurance policy. Supporters believe it will make the law more clear, but opponents fear it will do more harm than good.

When Barbara Hollins bought her home in Nashville, it was all she ever wanted.

"We moved here in '99, and everything looked perfect when we first moved in," said Hollins.

However, beginning last year, Hollins began noticing a sinkhole in her garage that has continued to get bigger.

"Well my garage has a sinkhole, and it's sinking rapidly," said Hollins. "I'm afraid to walk out here a lot of times."

Sinkholes are nothing new in Tennessee and now there's a bill making its way through the state Legislature involving how insurance companies handle sinkhole claims.

"It actually helps consumers and insurance companies both, so I think it's very positive for Tennessee," said Tennessee State Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.  

Tracy is sponsoring the bill and says it will help clarify the law regarding sinkhole coverage.

"It doesn't change now that the statutes are the company does require to offer the coverage," said Tracy. "It just changes the procedure to protect consumers and protect insurers too."

However, attorney Sonya Wright says the bill only helps insurance companies, not the homeowners.

"They are now adding a portion that it has to be at the request of the homeowner, so every unsuspecting homeowner needs to check their policy because if they don't know to check for it, or to ask for coverage, then they won't have it," said Wright.

The result? People like Hollins, who didn't know to ask for sinkhole coverage, will be out of luck and maybe out of a home.

"It's scary. It really is scary," said Hollins. "But right now, there's nothing I can do about it but pray." 

The bill has already passed the Tennessee Senate and it's expected to go before the House next Thursday.

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