14 Oct 2020

Deadline for EQC compensation unfair, say advocates for quake-damaged homeowners

6:23 pm on 14 October 2020

Time is nearly up for owners of on-sold quake damaged properties in Canterbury to apply to claim money for botched repairs.

Earthquake-damaged home in Sumner, Christchurch.

Earthquake-damaged home in Sumner, Christchurch. (File image). Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The government announced last year it would give an ex-gratia payment to homeowners with properties that went over the Earthquake Commission's (EQC) then cap of $100,000, plus GST.

Today is the last day for applications after the original August deadline was extended due to Covid-19.

But there are calls to extend that deadline again, as applications have flooded in over the past month.

Applications for the on-solds programme have been open for 14 months, EQC has received 4000 applications so far.

But there has been a late surge, with 1500 of those coming over the past month.

EQC head of on-solds Pip Andrews said that was down to good promotions.

"We have seen, probably in the last eight weeks, quite a significant uptick in the number of applications I think due to the mailer that we did recently."

Despite being extended once already, Andrews said there were no further deadline extensions.

"We have been running for 14 months now. So there's been an opportunity to make applications for that period of time. There won't be any extension to the current deadline so I guess my message is get your application in today," she said.

The programme is expected to cost $300 million, and just over $14m has already been paid out so far.

Peter Woods, who is a partner at law firm Anthony Harper, said there needed to be more time.

Woods has led the EQC Group Action, made up of owners of quake-damaged properties who took EQC to the High Court.

He said the on-solds over cap programme was a good thing, but the deadline was unfair.

"There'll be thousands of homes in Christchurch which were sold and people are still trying to establish whether the EQC fix was right or not. There'll be loads of people who still don't even know they've got a problem," Woods said.

Ali Jones, who chairs the Claims Reference Group, applied for the on-solds process for her new home which was found to be inadequately repaired.

She said it had been a relatively smooth process, but was not convinced more extensions were necessary.

Jones said there would always be people who discovered damaged homes or those who should have signed up to the programme.

"In two, three years time even in six months time people may go to sell their house. They bought it, they thought it was repaired and find that there's hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage that needs repair and I don't know how you nip that in the bud completely," she said.

But Jones said allowing a one-month extension and putting it down to Covid would make perfect sense.

Mel Bourke, spokesperson for EQCfix.nz - which is a group working to hold EQC to account - said the deadline should never have been in place.

"I think Treasury and EQC fully understand the sheer scale of the missed damage and omissions and errors that are in Canterbury," she said.

"And it is my opinion that by putting a deadline on it, it's potentially a way to attempt to limit what I would consider to be an enduring liability that they have to Canterbury."

Her advice to people is; if in doubt about applying for the on-sold programme, apply immediately. If anyone misses the date she believes there will be a legal avenue to follow up.

In a statement this afternoon, EQC Minister Grant Robertson ruled out extending the deadline for the programme.

"One year was deemed sufficient time for people to assess their property, seek expert advice and make a claim if they believed they were eligible. The one-year period was extended to allow for the time when properties could not be assessed during the Covid lockdown," he said.

"These issues have gone on long enough for Cantabrians already and the time period will not be extended further."

Those who own on-sold properties and have botched or missed earthquake repairs have until midnight tonight, to lodge an application with the EQC.

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