Insurers race the rebuild clock

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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A third of the most badly quake-damaged homes in Canterbury have had their insurance claims settled, but insurers are facing huge work rates to meet ambitious building deadlines.

About 18,500 properties were so badly hit in the earthquakes that the damage bill exceeded the Earthquake Commission's $100,000 liability cap and they were referred to private insurers for major repairs or rebuilds.

So far, 3600 have been fixed or cash-settled and another 2200 were in the design and construction phase. However, just 400 homes have been repaired or rebuilt to date, with another 650 new home builds and 500 major repairs due in the next six months.

Most insurers have set deadlines of the end of 2015 to have work on all properties complete.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said there was no question they had to move faster.

"Absolutely. To meet those deadlines [work] will ramp up considerably. It obviously has to . . . to meet the deadlines that have been set."

In December, Southern Response, the claims management company handling AMI's quake claims, said it was not happy with its rebuild progress. It expected it would rebuild about 3500 houses, or half of its over-cap claims.

The company would wind up in mid-2016, meaning its job translated to about 2 rebuilds a day for the next 3 years.

Meanwhile, insurance companies have paid out nearly $7 billion in Canterbury earthquake claims. Insurance Council figures show $6.7b has been paid in settlements; the commercial side, at $4.7b is much further progressed than residential, where $2b of claims have been settled.

Commercial settlements were not subject to Earthquake Commission (EQC) coverage and apportionment, Grafton said.

About 7500 were still in apportionment limbo where EQC was liable for $100,000 over multiple earthquakes, but had yet to work out what damage occurred when and if private insurers had to be involved.

Damage that could not be matched to a claim and multi-unit cross-lease apartments where insurers and EQC had to agree were also slowing residential progress, Grafton said.

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