Sutton urges insurers to front up

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 13:05 19/07/2012
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FRONT UP: Insurance companies need to start giving people clear time-frames as to when their homes will be repaired, says Cera boss Roger Sutton.

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Insurance companies need to start giving people clear time frames on when their homes will be repaired, says Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton.

Sutton told a Christchurch City Council forum today that he was pushing insurance companies to be more upfront with their customers.

''Insurers need to be coming out and giving clear time frames so people can start planning their lives,'' he said.

He will meet the insurance industry tomorrow and will seek assurances that no homeowner in Christchurch will wait as long as eight years to get their homes fixed, as some claim to have been told.

The city council is waiting for a response from Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to its request for an insurance tribunal and advisory service to be urgently set up in Christchurch to help homeowners struggling to reach a settlement with their insurer.

Brownlee has indicated that he is open to the idea, telling a parliamentary select committee yesterday that the Government would take a look at the proposal.

Sutton said there was no doubt that insurance issues were causing some residents huge stress.

He told councillors he had been exploring with the insurance industry and the legal fraternity ways they could help, and he hoped to make some progress on the issue in the next few weeks.

''There's a very great human need out there. There are some people with some big issues and there are also some people who just need their hand held,'' Sutton said.

For some, a ''five minute conversation'' would ''take a massive amount of stress off them''.

Mayor Bob Parker said he had told the Insurance Council what it needed to do in the first instance was to get staff on the ground in Christchurch.

''People are overwhelmed. They get into a circuitous combination of letters and phone calls and messages ... and it feels to some people that the insurance companies have been happy to take the money over the years  ... and now they're at the point where they need their insurance company to stop and treat them as though they're at the centre of the insurance universe,'' Parker said.

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