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FAQ: What is Structural Damage?

As our blog has previously mentioned, recent changes to Florida statutes concerning sinkhole losses and damages in Florida have added a requirement that a homeowner have both a sinkhole and structural damage. Specifically, Florida Statute Section 627.706 defined “structural damage” for the first time effective July 1, 2011. Just like literally millions of Floridians, the use of this terminology raises the obvious question about what specific damages will actually constitute structural damage.

The Statute provides five (5) different criteria that could potentially amount to “structural damage” specifically:

1. Interior floor displacement or deflection of acceptable variances in ACI-117-90 or the Florida Building Code (“FBC”), which results in settlement-related damage to the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard as defined within the FBC. This would be measured by a floor elevation survey of the interior floor slab.

2. Foundation displacement or deflection in excess as defined in ACI 318-95 or the FBC which results in settlement-related damage to the primary structural member or systems that prevents them from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support such that those systems exceed one and one-third the nominal strength allowed under the FBC for new buildings of similar structure, purpose or location. Ultimately, this will require significant testing from a structural engineer, who will have to conduct significant measurements and analysis of one’s residence.

3. Damage that results in listing, leaning, or buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls or other vertical primary structural members to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base as defined in the FBC. Of the criteria provided by the Statute, this is the most likely to be able to visible to the naked eye. The sinkhole lawyers of Hackworth Law have had the misfortune to observe leaning and buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls at homes. This obviously raises significant concerns regarding the structural integrity of the residence, which is also addressed by subsection 4 of the Statute.

4. Damage that results in the building or any portion of the building containing primary structural members or systems being significantly likely to imminently collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground within the influence zone of the supporting ground within the sheer plane necessary to support the building as defined in the FBC.

5. Damage occurring on or after October 15, 2005, that qualifies as “substantial structural damage” as defined in the FBC. Ultimately, this definition relies on the previous definition from the Florida Building Code.

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