Many unaware of need for insurance to cover sinkhole damage

Posted: 3:16 PM EST Jan 06, 2012   Updated: 5:19 PM EST Jan 06, 2012

With more sinkholes in recent months, many people are finding out the hard way that they're not covered.

Sinkhole insurance is optional for homeowners, and now some are wishing they had it.

"It's been frustrating," said Geryl Hodge, who lives in the 300 block of North 10th Street in Allentown.

Hodge's home was damaged by a sinkhole that opened last week. She has homeowner's insurance, but not sinkhole coverage.

"It's not an event that's covered by our policy," said Hodge, who didn't know that until it was too late. "I wasn't aware that it was available per se. I'm the average homeowner, I'm sure."

To be covered in Pennsylvania, homeowners have to add a special "sinkhole endorsement" onto their homeowner's policy. 

"It covers your property," said Roberta Kates, personal insurance manager for Arbor Insurance Group. "So, a sinkhole opens up and it takes part of your property, the structure. That's where sinkhole coverage comes in."

Some companies, like Arbor, offer it to everyone who buys a policy, even making their customers sign if they decline the extra coverage. 

Other companies, however, may only offer sinkhole coverage if one asks about it.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said it shouldn't be like that. 

"Part of it is education, but part of it is making sure that we have public policy in place so that people have more opportunities to avail themselves of that opportunity to have that kind of insurance," said Casey.

Last month, Casey sent a letter to the insurance commissioner asking him to make sure that every homeowner is aware that sinkhole coverage isn't part of their standard policy.