The Earthquake Commission (EQC) no longer has to work to a one-year deadline to pay out on settled claims.
The EQC Act says the commission should pay claimants no more than a year after the cost of quake damage has been settled, but the legislation was changed this month using the power of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.
Reinstatement claims – those that come under the Fletcher repair scheme or managed land repairs – will be exempt from the 12-month time frame because they do not involve only cash payouts.
The change does not apply to any claim being cash-settled, meaning all those under $10,000, or over EQC's $100,000-per-event cap and contents and cash-settled land claims, are still subject to the deadline.
EQC strategy, policy and legal services general manager Bryan Dunne said the change would mostly affect homeowners with a single claim from the September 2010 quake as multiple claims meant it took longer to determine what damage occurred when.
"With multiple events ... you're dealing with the ongoing impact of multiple earthquakes in claims," he said.
"The clock starts from when the damage has been duly determined. At the moment, you've got differences of opinion in damage assessments between insurers and EQC."
The change was not announced, but Dunne believed news would have filtered down from Parliament, where it was made through an order-in-council and subject to cross-party consultation and a review.
"I'm expecting local MPs would have advised," he said.
"Up until now, we've had no-one asking us about the one-year deadline."
The EQC Act, passed in 1993, was not equipped to deal with the ongoing Canterbury quakes, Dunne said.
"The legislation never really contemplated multiple events. Our act hadn't been reviewed for 20 years," he said.
"Canterbury is very much an aberration in having multiple earthquakes based in the same location in a short period of time.
"I think it's a consequence of the unusual circumstances."
Canterbury Community Earthquake Recovery Network spokeswoman Leanne Curtis was not surprised at the change.
"Does anybody actually really expect to have their place reinstated within 12 months?
"If they can change that part of the EQC Act, then there are other parts that it would be good to have a look at as well," she said.