"An emerging and growing problem – this is a new category of claimants".
That’s how Lawyer Andrew Hooker describes the issue of houses with failed EQC repairs, owned by people who did not own them at the time of the repairs.
Shine Lawyers have today filed in the High Court a number of separate claims against the Earthquake Commission on behalf of people who have purchased houses that they subsequently discovered, were not properly repaired by EQC. Mr Hooker says this is different to most of the cases that have been filed to date because those are brought by people who owned their houses at the time of the 2010/2011 earthquakes.
“People are seeing damage starting to occur to their houses as time passes. When they bought the house, they were assured that the assessments and resulting repairs were completed correctly and it is only after they have bought the property, they find that is not the case,” he says.
Mr Hooker says it is a disgrace that thousands of these cases are still not resolved, and people are forced to take their claims to the Courts. He adds that the increasing number of new cases that are being shunted to the private insurers shows how poorly EQC has managed their repairs.
“EQC believes they can just kick these new claims over cap and be done with it,’ he says. “It is not that simple which is why we need the courts to make a ruling.”
Andrew Hooker says, after earthquakes, a significant number of people bought houses which they thought had been properly repaired by EQC. However, after doing all the right things, undertaking their due diligence, purchasing the houses then finding their house repairs were botched by EQC, they also discover that they have no insurance company from which to claim.
“This is because they did not own the house at the time of the earthquakes, and so have no insurance policy to claim off.” Hooker says. “People believe a deed of assignment will be their saviour but some buyers didn’t get them, the home wasn’t over cap so there was no private insurance claim to assign, insurers are generally not accepting these deeds of assignment and if they are, those insurers are not applying the “full replacement” policy instead offering a portion of the costs through a formula involving a kind of indemnity and depreciation formula. The bottom line is, people are potentially in limbo with a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars, as it is usually involving foundations.”
Mr Hooker says in many cases the cost of the unrepaired damage means that a house is worth less than the money owed on it. “This is a tragic and distressing situation for people in this situation.”.
He adds that EQC, who in many cases has admitted that it botched the repairs, has simply washed its hands, and is hiding behind the $100,000 limit under the EQC Act but he says they can’t do that.
“Having botched the repairs, EQC must compensate the victims. I believe the cases we have filed so far are the tip of the iceberg. At Shine Lawyers, we are receiving calls every day from people in this situation and we are advising them that by joining forces, people can take on EQC and force them to take responsibility for their negligence.” Hooker says.
EQC will find out that these people, whose lives they have ruined by their incompetence, will not rest until they have justice, and Shine Lawyers will not back away from helping them receive what we believe they are rightfully entitled to.”
Shine Lawyers and Andrew Hooker are not proposing to launch a “group” or “class” action. The aim is to gather a group with the same issue – EQC repairs that have failed – and take a test case to get a ruling on a point of law related to culpability for fixing the failed repairs while meeting the requirement of the claimants house policy and building code.
To that end, one or two cases will be taken as far as they need to go, to ensure a ruling is made that will assist all the other people in the same position.
Do the cases you are filing all have exactly the “same” problem as this is an issue the insurers have raised in the past with points of law and group actions:
This is not a “group” action. It is similar to a declaratory judgement, or a ruling on a point of law. All of the cases we have filed have the same issue – poor and incorrect damage assessments, resulting in incomplete and / or poor repairs causing ongoing damage to the property. It is that simple.
Andrew Hooker says this is “the tip of the iceberg” with thousands of people (if not tens of thousands) living in houses with botched repairs.