22 February has marked another year since the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, which impacted thousands of Cantabrians. For many residents, repercussions from the earthquake continue to be felt. And years later, Shine Lawyers continues to right wrong for our clients who were impacted by the earthquakes, fight for justice and ensure insurance companies pay out on homeowners’ much needed earthquake house damage entitlements.
The Christchurch earthquakes
The February 2011 Christchurch earthquakes caused death, serious injury and unprecedented disruption and damage. Years later, many Cantabrians continue to live with unresolved earthquake claims against their insurers or the Toka Tū Ake Earthquake Commission (EQC). In the years since the earthquake, our local team has successfully resolved hundreds of repair claims for our clients and continues to fight for those that remain unresolved. Our clients include Cantabrians who owned their property prior to the earthquake, and those who in good faith, purchased properties afterwards.
Insurance limbo after the Christchurch earthquakes
Existing insurance case law proved inadequate to answer the complex property ownership and earthquake house damage situations after the Christchurch earthquakes. Thousands were left in insurance limbo.
Home insurance policies didn’t cover new owners when botched or missed repairs were discovered. Neither EQC nor private insurers would fix botched EQC repairs or accept liability for earthquake damage that had been missed.
Shine Lawyers are proud to have sought justice, and continue to seek justice, for those left in insurance limbo.
The ‘test case’ for EQC’s responsibility
Shine prepared a ‘test case’ to clarify EQC’s duty of care and responsibility regarding inadequate or missed earthquake house damage repairs of ‘on-sold’ homes. This term refers to homes that were:
- Purchased since the Christchurch earthquakes;
- Assessed by EQC or repaired through its managed repair program; and
- Subsequently found to have earthquake damage which had either been poorly repaired or completely missed.
One of the first clients of 57 who joined the ‘test case’ was Georgie Hanafin. Georgie’s story resonated with Cantabrians and led to hundreds of others in the same boat, making enquiries about their own earthquake house damage and unresolved EQC Christchurch claims:
- Georgie and her then partner purchased their first home for $360,000 in Linwood, Christchurch in 2013;
- The home was repaired after 2011 earthquake damage, with the repairs being signed off by EQC’s Canterbury Home Repair Programme;
- In 2014 cracks began to appear in the walls, the first sign of significant home damage which included cracks in the foundations, separation of external weatherboards, black mould and parts of the house sinking (meaning the house wasn’t level);
- On inspection, EQC denied the damage was due to botched EQC repairs or assessment;
- We obtained independent structural evidence which showed that EQC had been negligent in their early assessments of the home’s stability after repair;
- The property’s value plummeted (by over 50%) to $190,000;
- At this stressful time, Georgie and her partner separated and were financially stuck – neither could afford to move out or purchase the other’s share of the house.
Groundbreaking result of the ‘test case’
The ‘test case’ settled in August 2019, just before its scheduled 15-day High Court hearing. Shine Lawyers negotiated an agreement with EQC which led to the government announcing a scheme for ‘on-sold’ homes.
- Incorporated a financial safety net for earthquake affected homeowners from which the government would pay for repairs to on-sold over-cap homes;
- Was available to anyone who purchased their home between 4 September 2010 and 15 August 2019;
- Was for EQC to make voluntary payments for repairs to ‘on-sold over-cap’ homes;
- Required people to prove how much their repairs would cost;
- Didn’t guarantee that the full quantum of repairs would be paid.
Because the payments were made voluntarily by EQC (known as ‘ex gratia payments’), it meant that EQC did not admit liability or responsibility for the repair or missed repair issues for on-sold homes.
In practical terms for our clients this has meant:
- Their homes have been repaired and restored to their full value (rather than an indemnity value), with repairs paid for by EQC;
- An estimated settlement amount for all 57 properties affected, to the value of approximately $30 million.
There have also been practical benefits from Shine’s test case, for thousands of other Cantabrians:
- Their own on-sold homes have been appropriately repaired;
- Eligible homeowners of on-sold homes can apply for ex gratia payments from EQC.
Shine Lawyers – we’re here to help
Shine’s advocacy for Cantabrians impacted by the Christchurch earthquake helped to secure a new government policy, with the announcement of the on-sold over-cap scheme. We continue to represent property owners who are fighting for resolution of their botched EQC repairs.
Shine Lawyers can help resolve your claim, even if you did not apply to the on-sold scheme prior to its cutoff.
Our expert lawyers have years of experience with EQCover claims and claims against private insurers. Our practical advice will help guide you through the private insurance or EQC Christchurch claims process. We can also:
- Investigate your claim and explain all the options that are available to you, to secure the best outcome;
- Review any offers made to you by EQC or your insurer, to ensure you receive the entitlements you deserve; and
- Help engage property experts and structural engineers on your behalf, if you need expert evidence for your EQC or private insurance claim.
Time limits apply
It’s important to seek legal advice if you own an earthquake damaged home, whether you owned it at the time of the earthquakes or purchased it since. Each case is specific to your own circumstances, and there are nuances to the different strict time limits that apply for making an EQC claim or claim against a private insurer.