Fire on day family moved into Christchurch home ignites year-long insurance nightmare
When their newly-bought house caught fire just hours after they moved in, Georgia Scott and Mike Rodgers snatched their children from their beds and ran.
They got out alive, stunned – and thought the worst was over.
But the Christchurch couple's insurance nightmare was just starting.
More than a year later the Heathcote Valley house is still burnt, with wall linings torn away and tarpaulins covering the roof. After some time in a tent, the family lives in the sleepout, with Finn, 5, and Sienna, 3, top-and-tailing in one bed.
READ MORE: Family thankful for support after fire
A fire damage appraisal revealed a completed 2014 Earthquake Commission (EQC) repair on the house was inadequate. The couple cannot repair the fire damage until their foundations are fully rebuilt. A new scope of works shows $250,000 of earthquake repairs are needed.
Neither EQC or private insurer IAG dispute this, but neither will pay the couple a cent to properly fix the earthquake damage. The family faces another winter in the backyard sleepout.
"It's been horrendous. We feel let down by everybody," Scott said.
"We feel EQC is fobbing us off. They are not even replying to our emails," Rodgers said.
The couple felt they took every precaution when buying the house. The paid for a comprehensive building survey report, checked that EQC's repair was signed off and had insurance claims reassigned from the house's previous owner, just in case.
"We did our due diligence and more," Scott said.
They enjoyed eight hours in their new house before the roof fire started in a faulty ceiling heat lamp.
The worry and stress of the past 13 months took a toll. They let their plastering business go, complete with staff. There were sleepless nights. They were sick and the doctor told them their overcrowded living was the reason.
"We've given them [EQC and IAG] enough time. We even offered to pay half the shortfall. We just want to repair our burnt house and they are stopping us," Scott said.
"We can't get on with our lives because EQC didn't do things right in the beginning. We are living in compromised conditions because of their negligence."
The couple requested their paperwork and discovered EQC and IAG were aware a major over-cap repair was needed. The scope EQC sent to its repairer, EQR, was a different one and appeared to be for another house. It listed features their house did not have, such as aluminium windows and a bath.
Instead of rebuilding the foundations, EQR repairers spent $90 glueing up cracks.
Scott recorded EQC's complex claims manager telling them at a recent meeting: "It was crystal clear to everyone that EQC was at fault". When the couple asked why, they were told "We had the wrong people in the job at the time."
EQC's customer and claims general manager Trish Keith told Stuff they recognised the couple's frustration and stress and were communicating with them. However, EQC had followed the law, she said.
"EQC believes it has fully settled Ms Scott and Mr Rodgers in accordance with its obligations in the Earthquake Commission Act," Keith said.
"The claim has reached EQC's cap and has been passed onto the customers' private insurer to manage."
IAG insured the house for both the couple and the previous owner. Scott said IAG first said they would pay indemnity value, "but it got a whole lot worse, because then said they wouldn't pay us a bean".
IAG spokeswoman Renee Walker said when the claim was reassigned when the house was sold, the couple took over the previous owner's rights. Because the previous owner got market value when they sold the house, no loss was suffered, so the claim assigned to Rodgers and Scott had no value, Walker said.
"IAG has settled the fire claim with the family. Unfortunately, there is nothing further payable for the earthquake damage under the IAG policy."
Scott described that as nonsense, "No-one has benefited, except the insurers. The repairs are still not done."
Scott and Rodgers insist they do not want people feeling sorry for them. Their family survived a serious fire. The dog, Ella, stayed around. They made the sleepout as liveable as possible. Their neighbours were wonderful. People donated household goods.
"A lot of people are worse off," Scott said.
However, they want the claim settled and the organisations to sort out the details between themselves later. They do not want another winter in the sleepout. They are fighting their case through a lawyer.
"It's their (EQC's) internal processes that were wrong, and we have to pay for it. You put your trust in these qualified people. What else can you do? They are meant to look after you, but they don't," she said.
Rodgers said they found out about their damage the hard way and wonder how many other Christchurch homeowners are living on new carpet laid over glued-up foundations.
"Anyone who has bought a second-hand home since the earthquakes could be in this situation."