Mark and Nichola Goodier are hoping the High Court will find a landslip damaged their Whanganui house and that they are entitled to enough compensation to replace it.
The case began on Monday before Justice Helen Cull — more than three years since a slip at the Shakespeare Road property in June 2015.
The Goodiers' case is taken by expert Christchurch insurance lawyer Grant Shand, and it is against both the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and the Goodiers' insurer, IAG.
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Last week the Goodiers agreed to be paid the most the EQC can offer under its legislation for damage to land on their Bastia Hill section. That is $78,000 — the value of the land that slipped — plus $20,500 to replace retaining walls to their previous standard.
They say they didn't have much choice in that matter, but are concerned that estimates to fully repair the land amount to more than $300,000.
The cost of replacing their house could be as much as $521,000.
Whanganui District Council placed a dangerous building notification on their house on June 30, 2015, and no one has been able to live in it since.
The Goodiers have continued to pay for its insurance, while living in rental accommodation.
The High Court at Whanganui heard on Monday that EQC assessors have said there is no damage to the house, nor to the garage — which caused a gasp in the courtroom.
The EQC has offered the Goodiers a total of $38,000 for house and garage — that covers $5000 to restore drainage and sewerage connections; $5700 to replace children's playhouses; and $27,000 in case the partially undermined garage moves further.
The Earthquake Commission rules are that it will cover property to a maximum of $115,000 and anything after that has to be covered by insurance.
So with the offer of $38,000, the Goodiers would need another $76,000 from EQC to reach the $115,000, leaving IAG to pay any additional costs.
Justice Cull was told that the house could be repaired and reinstated, though that would need council consents — one for retaining walls and one for house repair.
"The dispute with IAG is that the damage to the house was caused by the landslip," Shand told the court.
"IAG and the EQC now say there isn't any damage — the owners and 33 other people say there is."
He said the Goodiers felt bullied and were on "significant medication".
"They have a house that was pristine and they were looking to sell it. They want just another $76,000 from EQC."
It had cost the couple many times more than that to bring the case to court, he said.
EQC lawyer Bruce Scott said damage to the house could have been caused by past poor workmanship, and by it having been empty for three years.
Both Shand and Scott made opening addresses on Monday, and a site visit is planned, before factual and expert evidence is given.
Justice Cull had three volumes of evidence to refer to, plus a book of photographs. She suggested some resolution could be reached, rather than an expensive 10 days in court.