The Christchurch earthquakes caused unprecedented damage and disruption to the people of Christchurch. Almost a decade later many people still have unresolved claims against their insurers or EQC.
We have assisted hundreds of Cantabrians and others with their earthquake claims. Our office in Christchurch helps our customers and the people of Christchurch ensure that they get what they are entitled to under their insurance policy or from EQC.
No one could have predicted years later that so many earthquake claims could remain unresolved. The unresolved claims fall into the following categories:
- Cases in which EQC (Earthquake Commission) has paid out its full obligations and the insured is fighting the insurance company over the repair scope for repairs or replacement of the house;
- Cases where EQC is alleging that the house can be repaired for less than the $100,000 cap;
- Cases where either EQC or the insurance company claims to have completed repairs, but the repairs are either substandard or do not meet the policy standard. In particular, there have been attempts by EQC and insurers to repair to a lesser standard than the “as new” requirements under the policies and EQC Act.
- Cases where an earthquake-damaged property has been inadequately repaired by the EQC and on-sold.
This has led to significant litigation in the Courts. Many people have found that the only way to force insurers to pay what they are required to pay is to issue court proceedings.
Building standards must be met
Almost all insurance policies require the insurance company to repair the house to an “as new” condition. So, no matter how old the house is, the insurance company must pay for a new one that meets current building standards. The same applies to EQC under the Earthquake Commission Act.
Both insurance policies and the EQC legislation require that a house be repaired to “as new” or sometimes “when new” standard. This is not the standard it was immediately before the earthquake. It also means that building practices or a finished job that is not the same as would be expected in a new building does not meet the policy standard or the standard under the Act.
Under Cap claims
There are still many houses that EQC has said are under the statutory cap that are actually well over the cap – $100,000 plus GST ($115,000). It defies belief that EQC could have claimed that some of these houses are under cap, only to admit that the repairs are well over cap when challenged.
Faced with this debacle, EQC has recently been pushing many claims over cap, and passing them to insurers. However, that will not be the end of the struggle. The insurer will then need to be forced to repair the house properly.
What should you do:
- If your house is still under cap, ask EQC whether it will be put over cap;
- If EQC does not agree to place the house over cap, you will need to get your own expert report from an engineer;
- Armed with that report, it is Shine Lawyers’ experience that the best process is to file proceedings in the High Court;
- If your house is over cap, you should still get your own advice to be sure that the insurance company is providing a proper repair solution. You don’t have to accept their engineer’s advice and should not until you have your own independent engineering advice.
High Court Earthquake List
After the earthquakes, the High Court set up a special division to look after earthquake cases. The process that is in place is about timetables to progress resolution, almost always without the need for a trial.
Our experience is that the Earthquake List is a very effective process for progressing your case. By filing in the Court, it does not mean that you will be going to a full trial. What it means is that the control is out of the hands of the insurance company and in the hands of the Court. The Judge will set a timetable for progressing the case. You can take control and escape any delays and denials by the insurance company.
Shine Lawyers NZ has a reputation for progressing cases rapidly and cost effectively to resolution, usually without the need for a Court hearing.
The Government recently set up an alternative forum to bring earthquake disputes with EQC or Southern Response called the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCRS). The goal was to facilitate and speed up resolution of earthquake claims. The GCCRS can offer some advantages to a High Court proceeding, but also has some limitations. It can provide some engineering assistance and offers some mediation services, together with the ability for obtain a binding decision.
The Government has also established a specialist tribunal called the Canterbury Earthquake Tribunal in an effort to resolve claims efficiently and quickly. The Tribunal also offers some advantages to proceedings in the High Court, as well as some disadvantages. We discuss all potential options for resolving claims and disputes with clients so they can make informed decisions about what the best course of action is in their particular circumstances.
If EQC or an insurance company has repaired your house or settled your claim based on MBIE guidelines, then it is very likely that your house has not been repaired to the standard you are entitled to under your policy or the EQC Act.
Whilst your house may look cosmetically sound, the defective repairs are likely to seriously affect the value of your house. Of course, if the repairs are substandard there may be serious questions about whether they will last or whether your house is safe.
People who have had their houses repaired should have the repairs inspected and if the repairs are incomplete or defective, EQC or the insurance company should be required to do the job properly.
At Shine Lawyers NZ, we have acted for many homeowners and businesses, to ensure that EQC and their insurance company settle their claims as they are required.
Court proceedings must be filed within six years from the earthquake or when repairs were carried out. We are now dealing with claims for failed repairs due to the time restrictions on filing proceedings.
How can we help?
At Shine Lawyers NZ, we have solicitors who specialise in these types of cases and have previously represented insurance companies. So, we know how insurers operate and we have the expertise and knowledge to take on insurance companies and EQC. We are passionate about these cases and our many satisfied customers will gladly attest to our results.
If your home or business has been impacted by an earthquake, contact Shine Lawyers NZ today for an obligation-free consultation so we can help you get what you’re entitled to.
We are here to help you right wrong.