1 Oct 2014

EQC dispute homeowner questioned

1:00 pm on 1 October 2014

The owner of a house at the centre of an Earthquake Commission High Court case says he had not noticed any of his floors were not level prior to the Canterbury earthquakes.

Cameron and Suzy Kelly say their Burwood Home was damaged by the September 2010 earthquakes, and made uninhabitable by the February 2011 quake, but the EQC says the damage was pre-existent.

Mr Kelly had lived in the 100-year-old house for a decade before the earthquakes hit.

Cameron and Suzy Kelly.

Cameron and Suzy Kelly. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

At the High Court in Christchurch, Mr Kelly was asked whether or not he took more attention to the floor levels after the earthquakes, in light of damage to other parts of the house.

Mr Kelly said the change in the floor levels is the most significant and noticeable damage in the house as a result of the earthquakes.

He said there is now significant warping, and there are humps in the floor.

Earlier, a builder said the floors of the house were in good condition before the Canterbury earthquakes.

Michael Nurse told the court that in his opinion, as a tradesperson, the floors were level before the earthquakes hit.

He said a lot of his work is tiling, and he can generally tell if a floor is level, Mr Nurse said he had tiled some of the house's floors in 2006.

EQC argues the damage was caused by wind and a flax bush affecting the soil.

The Kellys are claiming $590,000 from both insurers, the amount their own experts have said it will cost to rebuild the home which sits on ground prone to liquefaction.

Outside court yesterday, Suzy Kelly, said if they lost and had to accept EQC's offer of $53,000 they would be left with a large bill to rebuild the house.

"If we accepted their repair strategy we would never be able to sell the property. So yes we would have a roof over our head, but is it safe. For me, I've got three children. I'm not putting a family back in a home that's fixed to a substandard level."

Ms Kelly said the floors of her home, which has been uninhabitable since February 2011, are so distorted they resemble a fun house.

She said it is ridiculous for EQC to claim that only minor repairs are required.

"What actually happened in the February earthquake is the powerlines fell into our section. So they pulled the wiring out from around our house so there's no power to the house. So we can't actually live in it due to the structural integrity and the powerlines."

Mr Kelly said going to court was not an easy decision to make but the stakes are so high they didn't have any other option.

"This is our life. It wasn't the biggest house, it wasn't the newest house."

Cross examining Ms Kelly yesterday, the couple's insurer Southern Response's lawyer, Richard Johnstone, said evidence would be presented from an assessor that the Kellys' house remained level, despite the earthquakes.

EQC's lawyer, Bruce Scott, asked her why she originally filed a claim for over a $1 million and put it to her she was "trying it on".

Ms Kelly denied this, but said she had no idea how much the house would cost to rebuild.

The trial is scheduled to last all week.

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