Quake victim tired of fighting

JESSICA RODEN
Last updated 12:00 28/06/2014
Wakapuaka resident Cynthia van de Loo

BATTLING IN VAIN: Wakapuaka resident Cynthia van de Loo lost her Christchurch home and business in the earthquake.

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A Christchurch woman now living in Nelson is "sick of fighting" for someone to foot the bill of her Lyttelton home that has been left derelict as a result of earthquake and flood damage.

Cynthia van de Loo is struggling to pay rent for a house in Nelson while also paying the mortgage and insurance for her Christchurch house, which is slipping down the hillside.

Significant structural damage was done to the home by the February 22 earthquake in 2011, van de Loo said.

"Continually fighting for 3 or four years, that's not how I want to be living," she said.

"My whole life now is fighting for my property. It's not fun. It's soul-destroying."

When the house was initially inspected by EQC assessors after the September 4 2010 earthquake there was no mention of damage to the poles holding up her home nor was there any mention of it by previous consultants, she said.

But after the February earthquake the house was inspected by the Earthquake Commission's engineer Graeme Robinson who said the damage was historical, she said.

His report said the extreme movement in the poles happened before the earthquake but van de Loo said she had never noticed any issues since buying the house nine years before.

"These are all just assumptions after the event happened," she said.

Van de Loo was convinced the damage was the result of the biggest earthquake and the subsequent movement of the hillside which was confirmed after hiring independent engineers, she said.

Robinson's visit had been brief and she disputed the findings in his subsequent report, she said.

He is being investigated by the Institute of Professional Engineers. A spokesman declined to comment further.

In 2012 a Fairfax Media investigation over several months into assessments conducted by Robinson uncovered nearly 50 cases where homeowners were unhappy with Robinson, with many complaining to EQC.

While her claim was still in dispute, EQC had sent a cash settlement of $24,357 to van de Loo's mortgagee on 16 March 2011 without her knowledge, she said.

This does not come close to covering the cost of the damage, she said.

Since then she had been asking the EQC to reconsider her claim but the process was taking too long and she felt "fobbed off" by them.

"It's been horrendous. It's been disempowering. There's fundamental flaws in the system."

EQC national customer and claims manager Michael Price said in a statement that two EQC engineers were currently reviewing all 13 reports received from van de Loo and he expected a response shortly.

An initial estimate from a contractor said it would cost $150,000 just to repair the foundations and damage under the house, she said.

If the EQC values the damage done to van de Loo's home as being above $100,000 then the claim will go to Southern Response, which settled claims on behalf of van de Loo's insurance company AMI.

She believed it should have been over the $100,000 cap from the start.

AMI was not supporting her and essentially said it was not their responsibility, she said.

AMI spokesperson Craig Dowling said it was committed to supporting customers but in rare circumstances its ability to influence was limited.

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Van de Loo was able to live in the house, recently renting it out, until the March 5 flood this year. Then her house and the two below were issued with Section 124 notices meaning they had to be evacuated indefinitely.

Van de Loo said she held the Christchurch City Council partially responsible for the damage after the earthquakes ruptured a water pipe near her house.

A council spokeswoman said because the damage was caused by the earthquake it was not the council's responsibility.

- Nelson

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