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As Citizens dictates repairs on damaged homes, families try to push back

Emilie and Fred MoutranTo Fred and Emilie Moutran, there’s no dispute that the cracks in the walls of their Spring Hill home were caused by the shifting ground of a sinkhole deep below the surface.

The floor under the chimney has dropped three inches. A gash runs across their mantel. A crack extends the length of a hallway, and the ceiling over the garage has shifted so much that the Moutrans fear it will collapse.

“We hear cracking and popping at night, sometimes all night long, and we’re starting to get very concerned,” said Fred Moutran, 31, who lives in the home with his 64-year-old mother, Emilie.

After two engineering firms concluded the damage was caused by sinkhole activity, the job of repairing their home and the stabilizing the ground fell to Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run company. For three years, the family has been trying to get Citizens to make the repairs.

But the insurance company sent them a check for $21,000 to cover cosmetic repairs, not the fixes to the foundation that will shore up their home.

“They want to force us to make the repairs their way,” Moutran said. “We paid for a service with the understanding it would be there when needed, not three years later.”

The Moutrans are not the only family accusing Citizens of denying repairs and delaying their case. An estimated 1,800 homeowners have filed lawsuits against the company challenging their sinkhole claims. Citizens acknowledges that most of the disputes involve disagreements over the method of repair. More here.

Photo: Emilie and Fred Moutran at their Spring Hill home by Octavio Jones, Tampa Bay Times

 

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