Young couple want house back

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014
Tristan and justine Cooke
Dean Kozanic

REBUILD WOES: Tristan and Justine Cooke have decided to fight for their rights and get what they are insured for in a dispute with EQC.

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When Justine Cooke began setting up a room for her new baby it did not feel permanent.

Next month, she and husband Tristan are expecting their first child but a disagreement with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) means the child will be born into a battle that the couple feel they are losing.

"This is not what we planned," Justine Cooke said.

Their St Albans home is on a tilt but the EQC said it was within building guidelines so cosmetic repairs only were required. A first scope of works also did not discover a large crack in the concrete slab where liquefaction was seeping through.

However, the Cookes' builder has found a large discrepancy - that the bottom and top floors are both outside building code guidelines.

The house should be a rebuild, they say.

They bought it as an investment when they were both working so they could upgrade to a larger family home when they had a baby. But their situation with EQC means that instead they have signed up to a class action lawsuit against the commission.

"This is our only option - to try and fight it," Tristan Cooke said.

About 95 others have signed up for the lawsuit, which seeks to clarify EQC's responsibility under the act. In particular, it seeks to discover what is meant when the commission says it will repair a property to "as new".

"We want it back to the way it was . . . we are not trying to rip [EQC] off . . . just want what is fair," he said.

Justine Cooke said they just want to be able to move on to a family home to raise their child.

"We were working hard for it when the earthquake came but then we thought when you are in trouble things will be okay."

EQC Canterbury Home Repair Programme Manager Reid Stiven said EQC had about 160 engineers qualified to determine the appropriate repair strategies for earthquake structural damage.

While EQC had recently completed the field assessment of the Cookes' property, it was yet to confirm its status.

Law firm Anthony Harper last year called for disgruntled homeowners to join its campaign to hold EQC to account under the Earthquake Commission Act.

The proposed action aimed to get a declaratory judgment from the High Court confirming the standard of repair EQC was required to meet.

"It's about ensuring the scope of works EQC comes up with, the repair methodology . . . being sufficient to bring the property back to the standard required," lawyer in charge of the group action, Simon Munro said.

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