EQC house inspection left owner in tears

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012

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An Earthquake Commission (EQC) engineer under investigation by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand left a Hororata widow in tears after conducting what she says was a substandard assessment of her property.

The engineer inspected 58-year-old Allison Dalley's central Canterbury rammed-earth farmhouse last year.

He reported "serious doubts that any significant recent earthquake damage has occurred to this house" and suggested it would be "generous" of the EQC to make a cash settlement with a nominal allowance to Dalley.

During his inspection he used no tools and took no measurements, and his report failed to mention a concrete water tank that had crashed to the ground in the quake, yet noted maturing cheese that was being stored in the kitchen.

His report did not highlight the lack of sewerage and water facilities, but mentioned a "noticeable absence of dust" indoors.

It ignored a new crack that had formed around the entire perimeter of the house where the roof connected to the rammed-earth walls, and he was the only assessor who did not climb into the easily accessible roof cavity to inspect a dislodged chimney.

Dalley said she had packed her belongings into boxes when she was forced to abandon her house, and during the engineer's inspection he was "snooping" through the boxes as if he was "trying to find evidence I had moved out prior to the quakes".

The widow, who still works fulltime on the farm, walked out during his assessment in tears because she "just couldn't take any more" of him insinuating she was "trying to defraud EQC".

She complained to the EQC about the engineer's "ill-mannered, unprofessional and overbearing attitude" and paid for an independent assessment on the house.

That engineer found quake damage to the walls, foundations, chimney, water tank and many doors and windows.

The EQC told The Press it had now agreed quake damage was present in the water tank and exterior walls, and "a settlement has been made accordingly".

"I have been unable to reach anyone who accompanied [the engineer] to verify or refute claims of bullying. However, there are no notes on EQC's file to suggest the customer raised this complaint with us," an EQC spokesman said.

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