You could say 2020 was a tough year for Naomi Lowe and husband Andrew: her grandmother died, Naomi was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition and Covid-19 struck. Oh, and their house burned down.
The fire, in a rental property owned by the Lowes, almost destroyed the house after being accidentally started by one of the tenants.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand conducted an investigation into the fire – piling more stress on the couple as it became apparent they were also carefully checking that the landlords had lived up to legal responsibilities like working smoke alarms and insulation.
The Lowes had done everything they should have – but Naomi says the three-week investigation was stressful, waiting to see if their insurance would pay out.
"My health wasn't great," she says. "My nana had recently died, the first Covid-19 lockdown arrived and we were involved in an eviction process regarding another rental property that was very costly in repairing the damage left behind – and then this fire. It all happened within a couple of weeks – the most stressful year of my life."
That's why Naomi has metaphorically placed a great big tick next to the names of Vero Insurance and their project managers Morgan Project Services (MPS) – because both managed to relieve the couple's stress at a time of multiple life-changing events.
She lives close by to the fire-damaged house in Mangere and was constantly involved in the investigation, with all sorts of questions thrown at her. However, once that was sorted, she got on with the job of re-building the house.
Her Vero policy included landlord protection – which meant she received the equivalent of rental payments while the re-build was happening – and a house and contents policy which gave them the option of a cash settlement or a re-build.
They chose the latter, which is where MPS comes in. Project management and building professionals, MPS have an exclusive partnership with Vero and together the businesses have a long history of disaster recovery work and smaller jobs – like Naomi's – which would also be a disaster without insurance.
Not that the Lowes' re-build could be called "smaller". It was, says Naomi, "very expensive" and essentially "a whole new house built inside the bones of the old one".
Most of the house had to be replaced. Whole rooms were destroyed, floorboards and weatherboards affected, almost every window had to be replaced, with the whole house stripped back from the inside and replaced, including the roof after water and smoke damage.
Vero's focus on speed, support and its relationship with MPS means the company is able to react quickly and comprehensively. Naomi, a personal risk insurance adviser for a company which works with several other insurance firms, says she recognised the value.
"Vero and the guys at MPS were very, very good. Our project manager oversaw the repairs and he and the builder were a good team. They did a great job, the pair of them.
"They relieved a lot of that stress during that awful time. In a lot of builds, the timetable gets lost but they stayed on schedule. It wasn't as if everything went 100 per cent smoothly – there were mistakes and omissions but all we had to do was point it out and it was put right quickly."
Naomi was a regular visitor, asked to make decisions regarding colours and paint jobs and other issues but she praises not only the speed of the re-build but the smoothness of operations – not always a phrase you hear when builders are involved.
"I would say it's never exactly a good time to have a fire like this, and it is a stressful process for anyone to deal with," she says.
"But all I can say is that they lowered our stress levels, did a great job and we were really happy with the experience for such a large insurance claim. If we hadn't had the cover we did, the outcome would have been a lot worse and very costly."