Don't lick the asbestos

Last updated 12:32 16/05/2013

Now that I am a ho-meow-ner, specifically a Christchurch one, I have the joy of not only paying rates and wondering things about insulation, I have also entered into a relationship of sorts with EQC.

Previously my only interaction with EQC has been in relation to three claims for damaged contents. Eventually I received cheques to pay for replacement wine glasses, crockery and furniture and though there were a few confused phone calls, and some lack of clarity about the process, for the most part this didn't have much of an effect on my life and it all got sorted out in the end. Indeed there have been many, many times during the past couple of years when I've been mightily glad not to be a ho-meow-ner.

But those days are no longer. When we bought our house we knew that it still hadn't had its earthquake repairs done. It would have been nice to move into a house that had already been fixed up but the reality is once you've narrowed down the available houses to what you can afford and then narrowed that further to what you can get a mortgage for (TC2 land or better only), adding an extra filter of "places that don't have any earthquake damage" pretty much leaves you attending open homes for garden sheds in Halswell.

I'm happy with the choice we made. I like our house and the damage is mainly cosmetic. It's not leaky or damp. Repairs would certainly involve colour charts (exciting!) but could be quite some way off. Or so we thought.

About a month ago we got a call from EQC organising a time for some buildery types to come around and inspect the house in anticipation of our repairs getting under way. This was all happening a good deal more quickly than we'd counted on, but hey, we're not going to argue.

So two blokes turned up one day and we did the tour of the house, with them figuring out what needed fixing where, and roughly how much materials would be needed. I felt good about the fact that the elder of the two looked like George Lucas and that the younger showed an appreciation for our haphazard sprinkling of Star Wars memorabilia around the house. The Silver Fox thought he looked familiar and later googled him. Our builder used to be a professional sportsman. I don't know if that's good or not but for some reason I like that he has his own Wikipedia page. I think I like having a builder that I can provide a bibliographic citation for, if needed.

Wiki-builder pointed out that they'd need to test for asbestos, and I must have reacted with one of my "Argh, that sounds really bad" faces (I have several) because he assured me we only had to worry about it when it's in powder form and inhalable. Still, I made a mental note not to lick any of the ceilings. You know... just in case I should have a sudden and unprecedented urge to do that. Even if there is asbestos though, repairs should take four to six  weeks and be completed by spring.

A week later someone came around and took samples (i.e. carved out a chunk the size of a 50c piece) of the wall and ceiling in the bedrooms. We still don't know if we have asbestos and I'm still restraining myself from wall-licking in the meantime.

And then a week or so later someone from EQC rang to say that there would be a hold put on our claim until someone had been around to inspect the property, at which point the Silver Fox reminded them that we've had builders around inspecting the property within the past few weeks. "Oh, never mind then,"  said the person on the phone, and that was that. I suppose we should follow up about that but to be honest, I get the feeling that if we start ringing EQC, we'll never stop.

In the meantime we're having to face the ordeal of packing up all the stuff we only just unpacked. Also, because we moved into the house in the full knowledge that EQC repairs were outstanding, our insurance will not cover the cost of accommodation for the four-to-six-week period when we won't be able to live in the house. So if anyone knows of any competitions where the prize is a month-long all-expenses-paid trip to Paris (or the Americas, I'm not fussy) then please do let me know.  Otherwise we might have to camp out in my mum's spare room again. Or move into a shed in Halswell.

But anyway, we're bravely dipping our toes into the water of EQC-ness. Fingers crossed it all goes swimmingly (though if the experience of friends and family are anything to go by, the waters could get choppy). But hey, George Lucas is in charge so what could possibly go wrong?*

* I'm hoping our house repairs are more The Empire Strikes Back than The Phantom Menace but at this point I'd settle for Willow.

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