Gold Canyon home is collapsing, so why won’t insurance cover it?

Engineers say a support beam over the garage is too small and is now weakening under the pressure of the Hammond's home.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:30 PM MST|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 6:15 PM MST
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GOLD CANYON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- If your house floods or catches fire, your insurance company will usually accept the claim and pay for any damages. But what happens if your home is caving in?

Lynda Hammond and her husband have enjoyed their Gold Canyon home and picturesque surroundings for seven years. “This is one of my favorite places to be in the world outside with the beautiful Superstitions in the background,” Lynda said. “I love the view. I mean, the view sold me on this house, and we would come up here, and the breeze would be blowing.”

But back in December, the couple started noticing issues. Water was leaking in a corner upstairs, and the floor suddenly sloped, dropping a few inches. Cracks appeared, and the flooring on the deck started to buckle. “We called a structural engineer who said to immediately put the beams up,” Lynda said. “They said if we didn’t put those beams up, it most likely, about 90% chance, would have just caved in, taking us with it.”

Lynda is talking about a series of vertical, wooden beams in the middle of the garage that are supporting and keeping the second floor from collapsing. Engineers say a support beam over the garage is too small and is now weakening under the pressure of the home. “That beam in itself is carrying the whole load to the middle section of the house on the second floor,” said Scott Lance, a construction expert who was called in to fix the issue. “And if that was to let loose it would be a catastrophic failure.”

The vertical beams keeping their home from caving in are only temporary until a permanent solution is found. So, Lynda and her husband filed a claim with their insurance company, Farmers Insurance. After all, their policy specifically states that it covers a collapse. “Called the insurance company, figured no problem,” Lynda said. “I mean, you’ve got a collapse here. They told us it’s not a collapse. And that is absurd. It’s a collapse!”

According to Lynda, Farmers Insurance told her the house has to collapse and fall in before they can get involved. Until then, their claim kept getting denied. That’s when Lynda reached out to On Your Side. “I’m hoping by calling you guys that maybe we can get something done because to be honest with you, you’re the first people that have ever listened to us,” she said. “And for that I’m very grateful.”

On Your Side asked Farmers Insurance to look into the issue again. They did and determined the couple’s predicament wasn’t covered. If you look at the policy, it says the collapse must be “sudden” and an “actual and complete falling down.” It goes on to say that the “substantial impairment” of a building structure without a “complete falling down” is not considered a collapse. So, if the second floor had collapsed out of the blue, it likely would have been covered. And since the couple was able to catch it before a total failure, it’s not covered.

That’s heartbreaking for Lynda, whose beloved deck, with its views of the Superstitions, is now too dangerous to use. “It’s frustrating since one of my favorite places in the world is broken, you know?” she said.

Farmers Insurance says if a structural engineer brings them new information, they’re happy to take another look at the claim. Lynda and her husband are now exploring other options to cover the repairs, with a cost that could reach six digits.