Warning over EQC coverage

The Earthquake Commission is urging lower North Island householders with quake-damaged chimneys to wait for an assessment before rushing into demolition and rebuild projects.

Of the 2130 claims received up until yesterday for property damage from the Wellington Anniversary Day earthquake, national operations manager Barry Searle said more than one in five were about chimneys.

Palmerston North residents had lodged a total of 674 claims.

Mr Searle said each claim would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and no two chimneys were the same.

He said property owners had a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect their homes against further natural disaster damage, and would be covered for the cost of urgent repairs.

"However, customers should make sure the work is actually an urgent repair - and if unsure, check with EQC beforehand.

"EQC will not necessarily pay for total demolition, removal and reinstatement of a chimney."

Mr Searle said homeowners should protect their property, for example, by putting a tarpaulin over a hole in a roof caused by chimney bricks falling.

"But customers should only do these things if it is safe for them to do so."

Mr Searle said claimants should take photos of any damage before urgent repairs were carried out, keep broken parts, and retain copies of invoices from tradespeople.

EQC cover would only apply to loss or damage that could be directly linked to the earthquake, he said.

Damage that could be determined to have happened before the earthquake would not be covered.

Mr Searle said qualified assessors would visit each claimant to check the claim, inspect the damage, and advise on the repairs needed to make the chimney safe.

"For each chimney, the earthquake damage and the repair solution required will be slightly different."

Manawatu Standard