Red-zone family in wrangle with insurer

By Jarrod Booker

Photo / File
Photo / File

David Haywood and his family thought they had enough to deal with after earthquakes left them without sewerage since February and with only intermittent power and running water.

Now they are also facing massive financial loss as they are forced to abandon their Christchurch property beside the Avon River and their insurance company is refusing to pay out replacement cover for their house.

"Up to this point, I have seen the best of people in the earthquakes," Mr Haywood told the Weekend Herald. "And I guess now you are seeing the nastier side."

Mr Haywood, 42, lives in his almost 100-year-old house with his wife and two preschool children. This week they learned they are in the red zone and will need to leave.

The family had total-replacement insurance cover for the house but because the house is only damaged and not a write-off, Tower will not pay for total replacement.

The family will be offered the "book value" of the house but this will leave them nearly $200,000 short of replacement.

"They say that just because we won't be allowed to live on the land and that the house will be bulldozed doesn't mean that the house is an insurance write-off."

Under the Government's offer to buy out red-zone residents, freeing them from having to deal with insurers, the Haywoods would get the rateable value of their property.

But Mr Haywood said their house was old, so the Crown's money would be nowhere near enough to rebuild.

Tower managing director Rob Flannagan told the Weekend Herald he had sympathy for Mr Haywood and his family but Mr Haywood's view was "not how the contract works".

The company was obliged only to pay for repairs or the cash equivalent unless the house was a total write-off.

"We don't cover Government decisions. We cover catastrophe events. Unfortunately, he's one of those people whose house is not totally written off."

Mr Flannagan expected other insurance companies would have the same policy.

Mr Haywood felt that other homeowners would be in the same situation.

"What we are intending to do is challenge Tower on this and see if we can move things closer together.

"This may be a situation where we get together an action group of people in a similar position and try to negotiate with Tower as a group rather than individuals."

Mr Haywood felt the Government had done a good job in what it was offering homeowners in the red zone but is still hoping there might be movement upwards in the land payouts to better reflect the true value.

The Weekend Herald contacted the Insurance Council of New Zealand, which referred the newspaper to Tower Insurance.

- NZ Herald

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