23 Jun 2020

Southern Response quake damage claims still rising

From Checkpoint, 6:16 pm on 23 June 2020

The number of Southern Response claims is continuing to rise, dashing hopes most claims would be sorted by the middle of the 2020.

In January this year Southern Response general manager Casey Hurren told RNZ there were "about 200" claims left.

EQC took over those claims at the end of 2019 and former deputy chief executive Renee Walker told RNZ she hoped there would be few by mid 2020.

That has not happened, with open claims now totalling 236.

Several homeowners still with Southern Response have told RNZ's Checkpoint they are "frustrated" that almost 10 years on from the September 2010 earthquake their claims have not been settled.

"We are not where we would like to be," EQC's new Head of Canterbury Claims, Kate Tod, said.

"There are a few factors that influence where things are today, one being we continue to get claims over cap. For example this year we have received 90 more claims over cap into the SR bucket."

Over-cap claims are those exceeding the EQC cap of $115,000. Earthquake repairs costing more than that fall on the homeowners' private insurer.

"I think we appreciate now, looking at these claims, the layers of complexities we are dealing with... we have differing reports, [also] building the homeowners' trust about the process we are going through."

She also blamed Covid-19 for delays.

"We've lost over two months of site visits, we were only able during Covid-19 lockdown to do desktop tasks on these claims and the reality is most of these claims need site visits to progress them."

"EQC is absolutely committed. We owe it to these homeowners, who will be frustrated - probably some of them very angry - their claim has not been settled so far."

Tod said new enquiries about Southern Response claims were coming in every day. She described the original goal of having most sorted by mid 2020 as "aspirational".

Hurren told Checkpoint he also hoped more claims would be resolved by now - 95 overcap claims had been resolved this year so far.

"I would have hoped the number we have resolved would be higher than the number we got in," he said.

"I think that is a product of a push to have people who have on-sold properties, or are looking to sell their homes, in a position where they can check to see if the original work that was done in the first place had been done properly."

Out of the 236 claims remaining, 110 are overcap claims, 72 are overcap but had an interim payment made, 10 are in construction, 17 in litigation, and 27 for other reasons.

In total, Southern Response had settled 48,864 claims - or 99.52 percent of total Southern Response claims.

Hurren acknowledged some people had found the process frustrating.

"I understand that there are people out there that may still be frustrated with how quickly their claim is progressing and would like to see more movement," he said.

"I would encourage them to speak with the claims handlers that are looking after them at EQC and set out exactly what it is they think is needed to expedite their claim".

The minister responsible for EQC, Grant Robertson, said he was in regular contact with Southern Response and EQC about the remaining claims.

"I would have hoped they could have progressed a little quicker than this, but there are reasons for that," he said.

"They have taken on a number of on-sold cases and we've obviously had the covid situation as well... as we get further on into the Canterbury claims sequence the cases get more complex as well."

"But I am monitoring very closely how they are going."