Securing insurance not 'as hard' any more

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013

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Getting house and contents insurance in Canterbury has become easier, insurers say, but some earthquake-hit residents haven't got the message.

A scrub fire in the Selwyn district last week destroyed the possessions of two uninsured families who said they could not get cover after September 2010 earthquake.

Prebbleton retirees David and Deanna Hartley were left with little more than the clothes on their backs when their Shands Rd home of nearly 40 years was lost.

The couple said they mistakenly allowed their insurance to lapse while overseas, and were then refused cover.

Bev Throsby and daughters Amy, 20, and Maria, 18, moved into their rented Selwyn Rd home just before the September 2010 quake struck, and had since been unable to secure contents insurance. They lost most of their possessions in the fire.

Insurance companies spoken to by The Press yesterday said in most cases existing customers had been able to renew contents policies since October last year.

IAG, which owns State, AMI and NZI, and Tower both released statements at the time announcing new conditional cover.

David Hartley said yesterday he had not tried to restore his lapsed policy since October. He accepted it was his error, but he had been helping his son in Australia and in the past six months had suffered serious health problems.

"We've had a house all our [married] lives and we've always had insurance, for 50 years," Hartley said. "For the last two years we've had such disengagement because of those earthquakes."

He had felt "secure" because the house had not suffered any quake damage.

An insurance industry source said fire cover should have been available to Canterbury homeowners after the quakes.

"[Insurers] weren't [covering] because they were worried about insuring substandard buildings, even if it was for fire only.

"I feel very sorry [for the Hartleys], but the point was they shouldn't have let it lapse and once they asked [for cover], they should have stayed on top of it," he said.

IAG spokesman Phil Barclay said cover for new and existing customers had been available "in most cases" since October 1 last year.

Policies for new builds would be considered but cover on existing homes for those not already insured with IAG would be declined, he said.

Contents cover for new and existing customers was considered where the house has no structural damage, but for existing customers only where there was structural damage.

The change was communicated to customers with a quake-related claim and led to "reasonably substantial" media coverage and significant discussion on social media, Barclay said.

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Tower reviewed its policy on October 9, which included insurance for existing customers in the red zone and on land classified TC3 but not new policies in those areas.

Lumley Insurance said it "does, and has always" provided contents insurance for existing customers in Canterbury and new customers would be assessed case by case.

Insurance Council of New Zealand operations manager Terry Jordan said securing new insurance had been difficult for much of the past year.

The position was improving but it was still necessary to "jump through some hoops", he said.

- The Press

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