Hernando properties called un-repaired after sinkhole repairs

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Dozens of Hernando County homeowners who live on an identified or possible sinkhole received a letter in the mail from the property appraiser that left some of them panicked.

The letter from Hernando Property Appraiser John Emerson notified 84 homeowners their houses, which had all undergone the same type of sinkhole repairs called "underpinning," that their classification is changing from "repaired" to "un-repaired."

"I open the mail and I started reading this letter and I was really, really shocked," said Michael Palmer, who had work done on his Brooksville house 18 months ago. "The upsetting thing about it, you get it on a Saturday and you can't call anybody."

Palmer said he paid $30,000 to have his house underpinned, which is a process used by sinkhole repair companies to stabilize a home.

It's the same process that was done on the home that sat on top of the massive sinkhole in Land O' Lakes that swallowed two houses in July. Emerson said the situation in Pasco County was eye-opening and prompted his decision. The alternative method is a grout and cement fill that can cost two or three times as much.

"I think anybody in our area saw what happened in Land O' Lakes with that big sinkhole," Emerson said. "You could actually see the pins still there when some of the homes disappeared."

Emerson's letter, however, didn't sit well with the homeowners who received them.

"To me, this seems like a knee-jerk reaction to what happened down in Pasco," Palmer said, adding it was the county that told him underpinning was a sufficient fix. "Before I had my house pinned, I went and asked the county: how do I get this to be a fixed sinkhole house?"

John Thompson, with the homeowner advocacy group Good Foundation Florida, said he received a lot of calls from angry homeowners.

"I'm mad as hell at this. Blindsided is a word that comes to mind," said Thompson. "There's no question that that even two weeks ago in Pasco has scared, what he was done now is scared more people."

Thompson urged the property appraiser to rethink the idea.

"Halt, stop, rethink this and look at all the ramifications," he said.

By mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Emerson had adjusted his plan. Instead of reclassifying homes as "un-repaired," he decided to use more specific terms, such as "pinned," "grouted," or "pinned and grouted."

"The only way you're going to get this worked out is to send out a letter, get feedback and that's what we did," Emerson told FOX 13, while also disagreeing with the criticism that this decision was knee-jerk. "I think the quicker you get it out to the property owners and get it settled, the better."

"Any way they can make it so I get the value back that I just lost with this, I would be quite happy," Palmer said.

Emerson said he plans on sending out new letters notifying the same homeowners and couldn't rule out having to send letters to more residents who own sinkhole homes.