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Lawyer Encouraged By EQC Minister’s Commitment To Sort Botch

Lawyer Encouraged By EQC Minister’s Commitment To Sort Botched Repairs

The insurance lawyer who has already filed more than a dozen cases in the High Court, for clients who have bought houses with botched EQC repairs, says the Minister for EQC’s comments in the media tonight are positive.

Andrew Hooker of Shine Lawyers is contacted in his Christchurch office by several people every week who have bought homes which are cracking and breaking because they were not repaired properly by EQC. He says Megan Woods’ commitment to “find a way to rectify this for the people involved” is reassuring.

“I am very pleased to hear Dr Woods say she has sought urgent advice,” he says. “To have the Minister of the very organisation at the centre of this awful situation, committing to resolve the problem is, to be frank, refreshing and a long time coming.”

Mr Hooker says the number of failed repairs being identified continues to increase.

“The number mentioned on the news tonight was 70 – I am assuming that must be just the cases EQC has agreed are over EQC’s statutory cap of $100,000. There are hundreds if not thousands of botched repairs I believe will exceed $100,000 once they are properly and independently reassessed.”

He adds that the questions around liability are also still being batted back and forth between EQC and insurers.

“EQC says its liability is as stated in the EQC Act (paying the first $100,000 plus GST) and then the claimant has to go to the insurer. However, in most of these cases, the properties were under the $100,000 cap for the original repairs and so there is no private insurer claim for the new homeowner to follow,” he says. “And these claims are going over cap because they are mainly related to foundation repairs and these are in our experience on average upwards of $200,000, especially on TC3 land.”

Mr Hooker says even where there is a private insurance claim to follow, the insurer is saying, ‘not our problem; this damage is the result of EQC’s poor assessment and / or work so they are liable, not us’.

He says there are a number of variations related to the liability question – some claims have both an EQC and a private insurer deed of assignment, some just EQC, some obtained the private deed of assignment retrospectively, and some people have no deed at all. He understands that the new government has a fund to provide for legal costs to clarify these sorts of issues, and he hopes once the Minister gets the advice she is seeking, she will access that fund.

Shine Lawyers believes clarification by the Courts around these different situations could resolve hundreds if not thousands of claims in one go, however the wording of the legal questions in the declarations need to be carefully thought through, so that all scenarios are covered.

“Shine already has a number of claims against EQC filed in the High Court but if a declaratory judgement can achieve a faster outcome for many more people still fighting seven years on, then bring it on. I would be very keen to be involved on the plaintiffs (claimants) behalf,” he says.


What is a deed of assignment?

The process of transferring the benefit of an insurance / EQC claim is called ‘assignment’. The most commonly used documentation for this is a Deed of Assignment – but any document can be used as long as it is clear about what is being assigned.

Private Insurer Deeds of Assignment:

As at 2017, private insurers interpret deeds of assignment as only conferring the indemnity (depreciated or market value amount of the loss). And even then, some insurers are arguing that if the house was sold for value as a repaired house, these is no value at all in the assignment.

Even this “indemnity” cover only applies where there is a deed of assignment of a private insurance claim. If a house has only ever been an under cap repair (under $100k plus GST) and stayed with EQC as a consequence (so there was no private insurance claim), the insurers are saying that, as a result, the new owner can’t claim and it is too late for the previous owner to claim. These people who have bought houses that they thought were repaired by EQC have nowhere to go.

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