Tampa woman nearly loses homeowner’s insurance over faulty county-owned sidewalk

Better Call Behnken

County agreed to fix the sidewalk after questions from Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WLFA) – Could that buckling publicly-owned sidewalk in front of your house cost you your homeowner’s insurance?

A Hillsborough County woman was stunned when her insurance company informed her that she will be dropped unless the sidewalk that is supposed to be maintained by Hillsborough County is repaired.

Insurance agents say this happening more often.

Eight On Your Side Investigator Shannon Behnken found that insurance inspectors aren’t out looking for bad sidewalks. They’re there to evaluate the liability of your aging roof, but they’re also stumbling across other potential liabilities like hazardous sidewalks that aren’t even on your property.

Dione Dujust has been trying to get Hillsborough County government to fix her buckled, dangerous sidewalk for three years.

The sidewalk is causing more problems than she ever imagined. Safepoint Insurance notified her she would lose coverage, effective May 30, unless she did two things: replace her 22-year-old roof – which she did right away and level out the county-owned sidewalk.

She got no help from the county so she turned to Better Call Behnken.

“It’s not even on track to be repaired in 2021 at all,” she said.

“I definitely don’t think I should be penalized or threatened even by the insurance company with losing coverage just because the county won’t step up and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Eight On Your Side quickly learned this isn’t an isolated case. Agents tell News Channel 8 third-party companies are paying special attention to aging roofs but also to other potential liabilities they might not have noticed before. The county admits it is legally responsible for public sidewalks. Even so, some insurance companies don’t want the risk.

A dangerous county sidewalk should not be the homeowner’s problem so I went to the top. Assistant County Administrator John Lyons.

He agreed to take a second look.

“Because of this, we wanted to do something for this lady.,” he said. “We’re going to try to get out in the next 30 to 60 days replace that sidewalk panel.”

So soon, Dione should have a new, safe sidewalk and she won’t have to worry about losing insurance.

Eight On Your Side reached an executive with Dione’s insurance company, Safepoint Insurance and was told they took a second-look at this, too. The executive called this an “oversight” and said they don’t typically cancel coverage over faulty county-owned sidewalks.

Insurance agents tell News Channel 8 some clients have avoided cancellation by providing documentation from the county, showing that the sidewalk is on the list to get repaired.

In other cases, the companies won’t budge, and your best bet is to look for a new company that will overlook the sidewalk problem.

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