Housing blocks must be assessed

More than 100 Christchurch housing blocks and units must be assessed by engineers to determine if they are earthquake-prone.

However, property managers say a shortage of engineers could create a backlog of up to 18 months.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) confirmed yesterday that 114 residential properties requiring detailed engineering evaluations (DEEs) were "in the system".

All commercial buildings and residential buildings of two or more storeys and containing three or more household units needed to be assessed, but other residential buildings were exempt.

Some of the 114 properties listed were individual units within multi-storey buildings and others were multi-unit buildings.

Tony Brazier, of Brazier Property Investments, said clients had begun receiving DEE letters from Cera, but no assessments had been undertaken.

"The hard part is finding an engineer in the next six to 18 months who's got time to do it," he said. "I've gone from one engineer to another to try to get a speedier approach on my own commercial building, and you really just can't hurry anyone, and maybe we shouldn't."

Property owners believed the DEEs were a "necessary evil", Brazier said.

Evaluation cost estimates were between $3000 and $18,000.

"[Owners] don't particularly like it because a lot of the flats, especially the multi-level flats that are multi-unit, have been some of the best properties to survive through the earthquakes," he said.

"I've got several blocks of flats and really [damage] has been minor, so to spend thousands of dollars to get a DEE . . . Nobody's looking forward to it."

Commercial evaluations should be completed first and then residential properties, Brazier said.

Tenants queried the safety of some properties immediately after the February 2011 quake, but there had been few complaints since, he said.

Martin Evans, of A1 Property Managers, said none of his clients had been asked to supply DEEs. Builders and engineers had inspected every property his company managed. "If we have a tenant who is concerned, we send an engineer out to have a look at it, or a builder for a start."

A Cera spokeswoman said the standard DEE time frame was eight weeks, but the approach was "realistic and flexible".

The Press