Saturday, June 25, 2011

Devil is in the detail

As well as being instant geotech and seismic experts, many Shakeytown citizens are now also becoming all too familiar with the intricacies of insurance fine print. First it was the businesses in the CBD who found that business interruption insurance didn't cover inaccessibility. The insurance companies' argument was, it wasn't the earthquake that was preventing businesses from trading, it was the cordon - introduced by Civil Defense and now maintained by CERA - and that wasn't covered under the policy.

Now there's a whole lot of homeowners suddenly finding that their insurance company's interpretation of the situation is not what they expected. The issue was highlighted by Dr David Haywood, on his blog Southerly - part of the Public Address stable - and picked up by The Press and the NZ Herald. Again the argument is that it's not the earthquake that has caused the issue, it is the government's zoning of the land. As far as the insurance company is concerned if a house is repairable that is all they will pay out for, so even if the homeowner has total replacement insurance, they will only get the (2007) market value of their house at best. And, as David explains, that's not nearly enough to replace/rebuild a 1900's character villa on a new section that has to be purchased at 2011 prices. John Key seems to be aware there are problems, so maybe things will change but I think we're more likely to see people end up short-changed.

Roger Sutton is doing his best to placate people at public meetings, but doesn't have many answers yet. Whichever side of the red/green divide people are, a significant number are unhappy about something. But for those of us for whom this announcement should not have been a factor, will our green status enable a payout now? There should have been no reason why our claim could not be processed before now - our suburb has not unduly suffered, in fact the nearest red zone properties are about 6kms and 5 suburbs away. Once again, an impending wave of claimants threatens to swamp our seemingly simple claim.

But in The Press this morning, next to the article featuring David's story, was an interesting detail. AMI chief executive, John Balmforth, says that AMI will have contacted all Christchurch customers within the next two weeks on the timing of the settlement of their claims (emphasis added). Theoretically that means that sometime between now and July 9th, someone from AMI might actually have an answer for us. Or maybe just a date that someone else might have an answer for us. Hell, at this stage I'd be happy just to have a phone call from them, to reassure me that my claim still exists in the system.

We've been dispossessed, stressed, assessed, reassessed and assessed again. Surely by now AMI has enough data to come to what should be a blindingly obvious decision, one that we've been prepared for since mid-September. We only have one claim (well, two if you count the car in Feb) and no land issues. Pay us out already!!! Based on past experience though, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the phone to ring.

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