Family battles EQC over leaking home

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 23/09/2012

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An EQC hired expert's 22-minute inspection of a Phillipstown home has left a Christchurch family with a battle that could go on for years.

The man, who The Press revealed yesterday was the subject of several complaints, including to the Institute of Professional Engineers, produced a one-page report that contradicted 11 other inspections that all found the foundations and piles were damaged and the house needed to be raised to repair it.

The EQC expert's report said the damage was pre-existing.

Living in the cracked and leaking home has seen Niven Shuker's 1-year-old son in hospital twice, and left his 3-year-old daughter scratching her skin until it bleeds.

Shuker said he lost the ability to taste and smell a few months ago because his throat was continually caked in dust, and believed his house - built in 1904 and which he admits had a slight lean before the earthquakes - had been put in the "too hard basket" by EQC.

"Every person who has been through says the foundations and piles need to be fixed, except him. I've got full insurance and we don't want anything better than what we have, so what's the issue?"

After the inspection, EQC would not even look at photographs proving the damage was caused by the quakes, Shuker claimed.

EQC is defending the assessment. "Given the compelling photographic evidence and the detail in the report, we are comfortable the right conclusion has been reached. Nevertheless, the offer of mediation has been made, but not accepted at this point," customer services general manager Bruce Emson said.

The family's insurer, Lumley Insurance, has agreed to pay for another engineer to assess the house to try to solve the issue, but while the family fights on life has become increasingly difficult.

Moss is forming in floorboard gaps, insulation is coming through the ceiling, and puddles form in the bedrooms when it rains.

Joshua, who has Down syndrome and had open-heart surgery at three months, has been treated at hospital twice for pneumonia and gastroenteritis.

The Canterbury District Health Board and the Champion Centre, which supports children with special needs, both wrote to EQC asking for the house to be repaired, the centre so concerned about the children's safety it said immediate action had to be taken.

The sewage pipes are cracked, the windows no longer open in the lounge, lightbulbs flicker, and floors slope.

Shuker, who has 25 years carpentry experience, said his family moved out for six weeks after the quake while he made the house fit to live in, but he was reluctant to do more because EQC said that might "interfere" with his claim.

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He lost his job because of the number of inspections for which he had to take time off work.

He said he could no longer afford to move. "Repair, rebuild, whatever. All we want is a watertight house for the kids, but no-one seems to care."

- Sunday Star Times

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