3 Mar 2020

1,600 Canterbury homeowners with EQC quake claims open

From Checkpoint, 5:45 pm on 3 March 2020

EQC has told a meeting of homeowners it has 1600 outstanding Canterbury earthquake claims - and although more keep coming it hopes the number will be under 1000 by May.

About 100 homeowners turned up to last night's public meeting organised by EQC Fix, all with stories of home repair hell, botched repairs, or seemingly never-ending arguments with EQC, Southern Response, or their private insurer. 

The crowd was told there were 1600 claims left, with more than 2500 resolved over the past four months.

New claims are coming in for re-repairs however - original EQC repairs that were botched or defective.

One of those new claims was for Vicki-Anne Parker, a local hero in Christchurch whose charity NZ gifts for Love and Strength organised hundreds of volunteers in the wake of the mosque attacks to support victims.

Vicki has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, and told RNZ's Checkpoint she was also having to deal with a home that is becoming more and more broken as the years pass.

She bought her small house in 2012 for $311,000 knowing there were some earthquake repairs to be done. EQC sent contractors out early on to do that work - for about  $21,000, plus $7000 for the driveway and paths, she said.

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Photo: EQC, Christchurch, earthquake, Earthquake Commission

In the years since, she had started noticing things going wrong.

"There's more cracking appearing, the door handles haven't been fixed, the wardrobes keep popping, the driveway is cracking ... I suspect my ring foundations are a bit cracked as well," she said.

She contacted EQC last week and her claim was reopened - a settlement specialist has now been assigned.

"If I don't get things fixed and reassessed at the moment, they will never be reassessed and should I decide to sell one day the next person's going to end up with the issues I've currently got and that's not right."

Those attending the meeting heard from outgoing EQC deputy chief executive Renee Walker, lawyers Peter Woods and Grant Cameron, insurance advocate Dean Lester and quantity surveyor Stu Harrison.

Many at the meeting expressed concern about the apparent lack of accountability by insurers for problems following the quakes, and the impact that had on families.

"Here we are more than nine years on," high profile lawyer Peter Woods said.

"That system of 'delay, deny, defend' was used, in my view, by most insurers and most of them have cheated people out of their rightful entitlements".

"I think the only way [homeowners] can continue to try and get some accountability is to stand their ground, call out an insurer when they fail to fulfil their obligation or when they've acted in bad faith, or when it's engaged is misleading and deceptive conduct, or there will never be any accountability."

Speaking after the meeting to Checkpoint, Walker said she hoped fewer than 1000 claims would remain by the time she leaves the organisation in May.

Earthquake Commission deputy CEO Renee Walker in the RNZ Checkpoint studio.

Outgoing EQC deputy chief executive Renee Walker Photo: RNZ

She also gave an update on the government policy announced last year to assist 'onsolds' - homeowners who bought a house only to later on find undiscovered or botched earthquake repairs that would cost more than the $100,000-plus-GST EQC cap.

An ex gratia payment was being offered by the government to assist those homeowners - it was expected to cost about $300 million.

Walker said 625 expressions of interest had been received by EQC for onsolds - with 561 qualifying. 

Expressions of interest can still be lodged until 14 August this year.