Elderly couple say EQC rules causing more stress, delays

An elderly Christchurch couple are crying foul over EQC's site visit policy under Covid-19 alert level 2.

EQC said the measures, outlined in emails to clients, were crucial for staff and customer safety.

But John and Frances van Petegem said the new rules were causing them further delays and stress.

They have waited nearly a decade for their home, damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, to be properly repaired.

"It's ruined our life, it really has," Frances van Petegem (75) told RNZ's Checkpoint programme today.

"We've been married since 1965, we've had a very good life together and this puts you all on hold.

"John can't settle and I get cross with it. I'm alright if I keep busy, but the minute I'm not I think 'how can people do this to people?'

"How can you rip off old people?"

EQC's rules represent yet another hurdle for the New Brighton couple.

Under alert level 2, the Crown-owned insurer is telling clients that management and in some cases senior management sign-off is required before any site visits to assess or fix damage can go ahead.

Even then, correspondence shows EQC staff are telling customers there's no guarantee such visits will take place.

Deputy chief executive Renee Walker said the process should be quick.

"The only thing that needs to be signed off by senior management is a visit to a vulnerable homeowners home and that - again - is just to make sure that we're doing everything that we need to do from a health and safety perspective," she said.

"As long as we are satisfied that we are keeping people safe, those visits are signed off. In terms of the management piece, it really is just a check to see that the contractor has those plans in place, that we've asked those risk assessment questions and that everyone's satisfied that the visit can go ahead.

"It's a five minute check. It's not an onerous process."

But the van Petegems have been waiting since 13 May for EQC to assess defective repairs at their property.

They had expected a site visit months ago, but alert level 4 restrictions dashed those hopes.

"You don't want to go away in the week because they might ring up and say they're going to come out and see you," Frances said.

"So your whole life is put on hold."

Walker said the policy was in place to keep people safe.

"I don't think there's been anything that I haven't approved myself," she said.

"As long as we know that there's a site plan in place and that there's no one vulnerable in the home. Or if there is that we've got a plan to manage that vulnerability."

Walker did not know how many customers were experiencing delays as a result of the alert level 2 policy.

She promised to look into cases like the van Petegems'.

"As I say, I wouldn't expect that anyone is waiting pending approval, because it is simply the case manager reviews the case, looks at it, asks for approval, the approval's given and the visit's booked," Walker said.

"The only coordination there then is with whoever's going to do the site visit.

"So if there are specific examples where people believe there is a delay I'd be more than happy to look at that, because the process is not designed to delay anything at all and I'd be disappointed to think that it is."

Despite not knowing the numbers, Walker claimed very few people would be impacted.

"The only reason would be if the person conducting the visit has a backlog of assessments," she said.

"So for example, none of our contractors could go on site, none of our engineers could go on site during level 4.

"So we do have a backlog of probably about 200 jobs that we need to schedule in to get those contractors out.

"I know anything that comes through to me is signed off within the hour, so there shouldn't be people waiting a week to have site visits signed off, it might just be about the scheduling of the experts that need to get out to do it."

Meanwhile, EQC is still working to resolve 1500 claims from the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

It is also working through 800 expressions of interest as part of its on-sold programme - where Cantabrians who have bought undisclosed damage that is over the EQC cap of $150,000 can apply for repairs.

While the Crown-owned insurer has no timeline to wrap up its activities in Canterbury, the van Petegems desperately want to get on with their lives.

"You know, this happened in 2011, well it's 2020," Frances said. "This is disgraceful - I've been to funerals where people have died through stress from this thing."

 

 

 

Comments

Brilliant. Great to see that EQC beaurocrats haven't allowed the Covid 19 lockdown to lose their ability to use beaurocrat speak to confuse the issue and cause good Kiwi folk more grief.
What part of empathy do they not understand???

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