Quake-hit residents fear insurance woes

6:17 am on 24 March 2017

Some Kaikōura residents with earthquake-damaged homes are worried their insurance policies will leave them short changed.

Quake-hit Kaikōura residents get advice at a meeting organised by Christchurch-based claimants rights group EQC Fix on 23 Marc 2017.

Quake-hit Kaikōura residents get advice at a meeting organised by Christchurch-based claimants rights group EQC Fix. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

They expressed the fear at a meeting in the town last night, organised to give them free independent advice on how to deal with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and insurers.

About 100 people packed Kaikōura's Memorial Hall to hear from speakers arranged by Christchurch-based claimants rights group EQC Fix.

A hot topic for discussion was the change to policies nationwide after the Canterbury earthquakes in which home insurance moved from full replacement to sum insured. This meant insurers settled up to a maximum amount.

One of those at last night's meeting, Mike Karl, said while his home could be repaired for his sum insured figure, he worried the cost of the temporary repairs he needed now would eat into it and leave him short.

"The longer they delay it, the more of that sum insured we're using up just keeping the place warm.

"We've got to take all of the bricks off, we've got to reline it because the bricks are letting the water through, the walls are getting wet. We've got kids in there, a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Yeah it needs fixing."

Mike Karl, whose home is in one of the worst-affected parts of town, by Lyell Creek, said four months on he wanted to be paid out so he could get on with rebuilding.

"They're saying I can do it, but that comes off my $329,000.

"I'm going to put lining on the wall, which I've got to take off again and throw in the rubbish when I re-brick it. So it's money I'm putting on that's got to come off.

"I should really be shifting my concrete floor, putting new bricks on and going back to living in it, rather than just doing temporary repairs."

Insurance lawyer and Labour candidate for Christchurch Central, Duncan Webb, was one offering free advice.

Sum insured policies were shaping up to be a massive issue for people in Kaikōura, he said.

"There's a lot of people who went out, used the insurance calculators or simply used a sum they thought would give them lower premiums and they are going to fall short.

"They're going to have to find that money out of their own pocket. This is not a wealthy community."

Fionna Carr said her insurer was saying floor damage to her home was "pre-exisiting".

"We have structural damage, but they're saying they won't pay for engineers etc. The last comment to my husband was that, because it's pre-existing, they can't recommend anyone else to come and look at the house."

Another point of difference with Christchurch was the deal EQC struck with private insurers to carry out first property assessments on its behalf.

The jury was still out on whether homeowners would benefit from this, EQC Fix spokesman Cam Preston said.

"Certainly things are going quickly," he said.

"It appears the strategy for the insurers is to come in and cash settle and get out of town as quickly as possible."

He said that was "the opposite of what happened in Christchurch", but came with its own complications and risks.

A statement from EQC said the new approach to assessing claims was needed because of the national spread of the damage, from Wellington to North Canterbury.

It had received 1859 claims for damage from the Kaikōura district.

Beautiful weather in Kaikoura today. 20 November 2016.

The Earthquake Commission has received 1859 claims from the Kaikōura district. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

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