Thank you to all of those ‘stuck’ residents who shared their words with us to test our perception of what being stuck feels like. The new wordle does not paint a happier picture but we believe it paints an accurate one. We will share this with many agencies as we continue to advocate for communication and processes which acknowledge the head space of many of those still dealing with their residential recovery.
As we mentioned last week, we are interested in solutions to unstick the stuck a step at a time and are exploring what alternative or supported customer service looks like. We have many, many great earthquake support services available – Residential Advisory Service, Earthquake Support Coordinators, Canterbury Insurance Assistance Service to name a few – and we are pleased to see the level of positive interaction between the services and the insurance industry.
We believe we have a more direct role to play with residents too – not to duplicate the services already available, but to help with getting the ‘no brainer’ problems sorted out more quickly.
Because we’re still figuring out what this new direction looks like, we are planning a couple of focus group sessions to clarify options and we need your help. If you are keen to attend or just to hear a little more about the sessions please click the link here and you will be directed through to a two minute questionnaire so we can gather your details. Please feel free to pass the invitation on to others who may like to attend.
We want the next wordle to be an uplifting one – words of progress, understanding, common sense and innovation.
And just in case this wordle has put a real dampener on the start of your weekend, here’s some laugh therapy – we all need it and this one has worked for us in the office all week! If cats said “hey”.
Going to court: what you can expect
We thought it might be helpful to explain the different types of court action possible for quake-related disputes, as well as the possible cost and time frames.
CanCERN is aware of a growing number of people pursuing court action. For some this will be just what is needed to get what they’re entitled to, however, we’re also hearing stories of people being surprised by the cost and time frames involved and wanting to get out of taking action after signing up.
The information below has been written with help from Canterbury Community Law.
High Court – general litigation
A claimant could expect general litigation in the High Court to cost a similar amount to proceedings for a declaratory judgement (i.e. perhaps $40k or more for a successful claim and $70k plus for an unsuccessful claim). Litigation relates to a dispute between 2 or more parties on the particular facts/merits, while a declaratory judgement will state the Court’s position on a question of law.
It’s tough to put a precise time frame on it, but it could take anywhere between 6-18 months. That will probably depend on the complexity of the case, whether expert evidence is needed, etc.
District Court – general litigation
For proceedings to be brought in the District Court, a claim will need to be for $200k or less and not be in the nature of review-type proceedings (public law remedies such as judicial review need to take place in the High Court). The difference in cost between District and High Court proceedings is fact dependent. It is likely to be substantially cheaper.
It’s tough to put a precise time frame on it, but 6-18 months may be suitable. It will likely depend on how complex the case is and whether expert evidence is required, etc. The District Court has put EQ cases on a “fast track” but, again, every case is different.
Class Action – general litigation
The cost of a class action suit will depend on the number of plaintiffs involved. However, costs are typically less as they are generally divided amongst the claimants. Whether a person will lose the money invested in the proceedings if they withdraw will depend on the contract between the lawyer and client. It would be prudent for a person to check with the firm taking the class action about the costs and/or time frame involved. Whether there is a cap on the fees a person pays will depend on the nature of their retainer with the lawyer. People may wish to have full and frank discussions with their lawyers about any fee arrangements of that nature.
It would not be unusual for a final outcome to take 18 months or more. However, the Quake Outcasts initial case was decided by the High Court within six months of being filed.
A declaratory judgement is a statement of the Court’s opinion on a question of law or the rights of the parties involved. A person can apply to the High Court under the Declaratory Judgements Act 1908 for clarification about the interpretation of a statute or a contract. The High Court has given a number of declaratory judgements in relation to earthquake issues. These proceedings often arise where there is disagreement between property owners, EQC and insurance companies about the meaning of a section in the Earthquake Commission Act 1993 or a clause in a policy of insurance.
A declaratory judgement is binding on the parties involved in the same way as an ordinary decision of the Court. With these proceedings, the Court is generally reluctant to entertain factual matters which are better suited for other types of hearings. The application should indicate where clarification of the legal position is required. The issue should be one of interpretation.
An application for a declaratory judgement must be made in the High Court and the cost will most likely be similar to general litigation in the High Court – perhaps $40k or more for a successful claim and $70k plus for an unsuccessful claim. A successful party is generally able to recover costs from the party who fails. The successful party generally recovers about two-thirds of their legal costs. The losing side therefore must pay the full cost of their own fees in addition to the majority share of the costs of the winning side.
Think very carefully before making a decision to go down the litigation route.
- How much are you willing to pay?
- How much energy are you willing to give to the process?
- What will the potential time factor mean for you and your family?
- What kind of relationship does your potential lawyer have with the insurance industry? (This may have an impact on how successful negotiations are.)
- Are there alternative avenues to litigation?
Get some good advice before you see a lawyer about litigation so you can make an informed decision. We’ve been given a good steer by Community Law, and you can access them through the Residential Advisory Service or directly on (03) 371 3819 / 0508 CANLAW or via their website./************ get tags and categories ****************/ ?>
Land damage and insurance policies
We always knew insurance policies would be rewritten after the Canterbury quakes and thankfully some people have learned a valuable lesson and actually read the small print before they consider signing.
One such fabulous resident has read her new policy and raised some very important questions about how much dwelling cover a person would actually have if they have identified land damage. Although the following wording relates to a VERO policy, other insurers may have similar wording so we have put these questions to the entire industry through Insurance Council NZ.
We are not entirely convinced that the implications of policy statements such as VERO’s below have been considered in light of the lack of answers to some of the land settlement questions. However, we believe it is fraught with difficulties to have such vague statements in a policy contract. Surely the insurance industry must also have learned that lesson.
The VERO policy says:
15. Unrepaired Land
This policy does not provide cover for loss caused or contributed to by land where you are aware that the land requires repair or poses a threat to the home. This policy will not cover loss caused or contributed to by the condition of the land where you, or a previous owner of the home, has received payment from the Earthquake Commission in order to effect repairs to the land, and those repairs have not been undertaken.
We believe that part of the problem with this kind of statement is the lack of definition. As it stands, the policy holder would have to trust the insurer’s interpretation of the statement and that is probably the other great lesson learned from the quakes – don’t assume you have the same interpretation.
The questions have been asked and we hope to facilitate greater clarity between the policy writers and EQC to ensure the statement is applied fairly.
- At what level of damage would it be deemed that land needed repair or posed a threat and who would tell the homeowner? What is the benchmark based on?
- Who makes the decision about what constitutes an appropriate and completed land repair?
- Will the insurer make any potential lack of cover more visible by asking specific questions and enabling the homeowner to make full disclosure of current situation at the time of taking up the policy?
- In the situation where a property is identified as Increased Liquefaction Vulnerability (ILV), a cash settlement is made but remediation is deemed not suitable (site issues, etc), how will the dwelling and out of scope cover be affected?
- What ‘remediation’ is expected regarding Increased Flood Vulnerability (IFV)?
- How will the cover be affected if you are one of those homeowners that repeatedly floods but will receive no cash settlement (not IFV)?
- Some people may not be told by the seller of a home if they had received a cash settlement from EQC for land remediation or the house could be on-sold multiple times before another event. How would the new homeowner in this circumstance be expected to know if they are therefore responsible to carry out land remediation at their own expense (no Deed of Assignment – DOA)? All documentation will be owned by the current owner unless it automatically goes onto the LIM and EQC cannot disclose that information to anyone other than the customer with the claim.
- Can we presume from the above statement that under this policy:
a) cover will be provided for those whose payments have been made based on loss of value because settlement is not designated as payment for repair, or
b) cover will not be provided if potential risk to the home is not mitigated against by lifting the property out of the flood zone regardless of foundation damage, and
c) damage to a house on land identified as ILV but not repaired would not be covered?
- If EQC do settle ILV but the homeowner has already had bespoke foundations put in place so theoretically does not then need to remediate the land will they be covered for damage to the home?
- Are homeowners expected by insurers to repair damage to land that is not directly under the footprint of the home if it does not pose a direct risk to the house platform? What about garages and out of scope cover (paths, etc)?
Good feedback from elderly quake expo (pics)
As was advertised in last week’s newsletter, CanCERN worked with John Patterson and his committee and Matt Walters from CERA to pull together the fifth Older Generation Forum to introduce elderly people to the earthquake support services which are available to help them with their issues.
It was great to see a large number of people in attendance, with roughly 100+ residents joining in and about 16 different organisations keen to connect.
The key thing that struck us about the format of this workshop was how it didn’t seem to matter who people began talking to, they would be pointed in the right direction, on the spot, to a targeted service that could provide some assistance.
At the CanCERN and In the Know table, we noticed that by just giving people an opportunity to tell their story we could show them who would be able to assist them and why. They didn’t have to sit through an automated phone system or navigate a website for answers; it was simply a matter of showing up at a venue where everything was at their fingertips.
Well done to John and his brilliant team.
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ICNZ presentation: sum insured
For those who are interested, here is the Insurance Council’s presentation (by CEO Tim Grafton) to the elderly expo on Thursday. It has a bit to say about what it means to be ‘sum insured’ post-quake and many people found it helpful.
If you want ‘sum insured’ defined in more detail, there’s a comprehensive description from the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman here./************ get tags and categories ****************/ ?>
Storing home contents during repairs
There’s been a bit of talk recently about who’s responsible for paying for the storage of contents while home repairs are done. Some people have been told it’s EQC’s responsibility to pay, while others have heard it’s up to the insurer or them personally to foot the bill.
Well, here’s the official word from EQC:
Every repair is different so the need to move household contents will depend on the work being carried out. In many cases, repairs can be undertaken if the contents are shifted into another area of the house or garage. Where significant content relocation is required, and the homeowner or tenant needs to move out of the property, there are various strategies available from onsite storage in a container, to storage at an offsite location. Generally, these costs are not covered by EQC.
Your insurance might cover these costs and you should check first with your insurer. If the insurance policy does not allow for this, or if the insurer declines to provide cover, the expectation by EQC is that homeowners will cover the costs.
If a homeowner is not willing or able to incur the costs personally, EQC may be prepared to include the cost as part of the repair under certain conditions. Fletcher EQR hub staff can help homeowners in dealings on this with their insurer, or with making a claim to the EQC for the costs to be covered. Customers should provide Fletcher EQR a letter or something similar from their insurer confirming that they will not cover the relocation and storage.
Hopefully that helps! Any questions, let us know.
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Let’s Find & Fix in action (pics)
Let’s Find & Fix is trucking along well, so we thought we’d show you some photos from a recent ‘fix’.
Darryn Drake from Avondale was the recipient – he and his young family are having their house rebuilt in September and had weathertightness issues that made their home drafty and sent their power bills sky high.
Enter City Care who have realigned windows and doors to make them airtight!
If your memory needs refreshing, here’s a bit about Let’s Find & Fix from last week’s newsletter:
This project is all about finding and temporarily fixing homes with weathertightness, security and sanitation problems. We’ve had 933 people register – just over 500 have so far been approved for a ‘fix’, and the rest have been identified as needing different supports or being very close to having their house permanently repaired or rebuilt. As it has happened, some of those 500 approved have been found to not need a temporary repair after the assessment was completed. About 240 of a total of 360 properties have been fixed so far and we are on track to have the rest completed within the next month.
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A survey that’s worth your time
Last week we talked about EVO::SPACE – a community survey wanting feedback on proposals for the future use of the residential red zone.
Now that we’ve done it ourselves, we just want to give it another plug and stress how important it is to have your say.
In the quake-y environment we all occupy, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘here and now’ – and rightly so – but it’s also crucial we look to the future and help shape it where we can.
The survey itself is easy to use, comprehensive, and gives good background to some proposed projects for the East.
Check out the survey here, or head to one of the many workshops and drop-ins being run over the next couple of months throughout the city (see the timetable below for details).
The programme will complement CERA’s public consultation on the residential red zones. The feedback, analysis, and recovery map for the East that will be produced as a result, will be published and forwarded to CERA and CCC.