New-home builder strains to get cover

Posted 27 Sep 2011 by MediaStuff Popular
Posted in Insurance , Rebuild
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Katrina Hawker did not think she would have a problem getting insurance to build a new house near Ohoka in North Canterbury.

An AMI customer for 35 years and existing house insurance policyholder, she and husband John planned on shifting their policy from the old house to the new one.

"We blithely phoned AMI and asked if there were any issues about insuring a future dwelling," she said.

"They said, `Yes, there are; we won't insure you'.

"Being AMI customers, no-one else was willing to take us on. I phoned many brokers and other companies, but because we weren't their customers ... they couldn't help us."

A months-long stalemate followed, with Hawker unable to get an explanation why their new house, to be built to stronger earthquake standards, could not take over the policy of their existing Ohoka home.

"My reasoning is they were getting rid of a 30-year-old house built to old standards and taking on a newly built dwelling with quake-resistant foundations and new bracing," she said.

"They said if we were red-zone people they were happy to take the policy from the red zone to a different house, but seemingly there was this catch-22 where if you were OK, they wouldn't."

Hawker had been prepared for bad news from her insurer, but said she struggled to get any information at all.

"I don't care if it's bad news, but just get back to me; just tell me."

This week, AMI contacted Hawker for the first time in two months – to say it would insure her new home pending building code regulations.

"They said, `we've got your geotech report and if you meet these other requirements, we will insure you'," she said.

"I think it's fantastic. It's brilliant."

The response came after Hawker told her insurer she was talking to The Press and she wondered about the timing.

"It's like it took the threat of exposure to prompt some sort of solution," she said.

"I still think the people who are fronting a large organisation need a little bit of help understanding what it is they could be doing. I understand their predicament and they have to deliver bad news, but they should actually do that rather than run for cover."

An AMI spokesman said a recent policy change allowed green-zone policyholders like Hawker to get new coverage.

"For an AMI customer, AMI would continue to insure the prior house as well as the new build, provided the new build is owner-occupied," he said. "AMI therefore requires that a customer in this situation intends to sell their existing home [in the green zone] and move into the newly built house once its construction is complete."


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