Quake payouts lagging in Christchurch

Insurance payouts are moving at a sluggish rate in Christchurch, and it will be at least 2015 before major companies have processed all claims.

At the end of July, NZI told brokers that only 51 claims for rebuilds and repairs had been processed.

That outraged some people, who contacted the Herald on Sunday to ask why, with thousands of claims outstanding, the number was so small.

IAG, which manages earthquake responses for State, NZI and Lantern policies and those from BNZ, ASB and the Co-operative Bank, said it had received 67,000 earthquake-related claims, 6500 of which were rebuilds or repairs.

It said just 100 homes would have been rebuilt or repaired by the end of the year. Spokesman Craig Dowling said that by June next year IAG would have built at least 500 homes and "we have 567 new homes at various build stages, and 481 significant repairs to existing homes at various stages".

Meanwhile, some Vero clients may not see work begin until 2015. Vero said it would start repairs and rebuilding over three years. More than a third of Christchurch residents have filed claims.

At a meeting earlier this month between Insurance Council Members and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, it was resolved that there needed to be clearer communication and an understanding of the stress of unresolved claims.

Insurance broker Allan Daly said there was a lot of frustration at the pace of claims processing. The worst hit were people whose houses were in category three, the worst of the green zone.

Before rebuild work can start, or an agreed payout amount is reached, a geotech report must be done.

Insurance firms have not yet reached an agreement on sharing that information.

The Earthquake Commission pays the first $100,000 of structural damage and the first $20,000 of damaged household contents. Beyond that, it's the res"onsibility of insurers.

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said some of the lack of progress was because most claims that were left related to major damage. Smaller claims had already been dealt with by the EQC.

"It's starting to speed up now."

Sandy Hall and her son Alan (picture) waited two years to be told by their insurance company that they would get only $300 for the earthquake damage to the contents of their Christchurch home.

They received a $20,000 payout from the Earthquake Commission in December but were referred to their insurance company, IAG, for compensation for spoiled food, ruined carpet caused by a shattered turtle tank, and damage to Alan's bed.

Sandy, a grandmother who is on the invalid's benefit, had a chest freezer, stand-up freezer and two fridge-freezers full of food when the quake struck, knocking out power. She estimated it was worth $2000.

"I was brought up to have something in the cupboard," she said. "Because I'm on the invalid's benefit, when I have spare money, I buy food. That means if I have an unexpected bill, I can pay the bill."

But the insurance investigator said the food would have been worth only $300.

The Halls won't be getting anything for the carpet or bed, despite paying premiums for about eight years on a policy that insured them for full replacement value.

Sandy was told that because she didn't keep the shattered tank, she could not prove what happened.

"We're just trying to claim what's ours and they're giving us nothing. What's the point of having insurance if they're not going to pay out?"

IAG said there were likely to be a number of households where the total insured value of contents was slightly on one side or the other of the EQC's $20,000 threshold.

"That doesn't mean anyone has received less than their entitlement or that their insurance hasn't responded properly."

IAG suggested the Halls contact the Insurance Ombudsman.

- Susan Edmunds of the Herald On Sunday

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