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Insurers back record of written-off homes

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 13:20 02/02/2013

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The insurance industry is backing calls for a public record to be kept of earthquake-damaged homes that have been written off by insurers.

Property experts have raised concerns that the lack of public records in Christchurch detailing a property's condition could result in unsuspecting house hunters buying quake-damaged homes written off by insurers.

Such properties are beginning to appear on the market and although they are being sold with full disclosure, that may not be the case in future.

Lawyers and real estate agents fear that because there is no public record of insurance companies' decisions to write off some properties, in five or 10 years the properties could be sold to buyers unaware of their true condition.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said a public record of properties that had been written off by insurers would also provide an element of protection for insurance companies, which currently could not access other insurance companies' claims records.

"Insurance companies don't want to be insuring houses that have been deemed uninsurable," he said.

Asked why insurance companies could not provide the Christchurch City Council with information about a property's post- quake condition so it could then be included on the land information memorandum held by the council, Insurance Council manager John Lucas said insurers had to comply with privacy legislation.

They could not hand that information over without the permission of the property owner.

"There might be reasons why the homeowner might not want to give that information," Lucas said.

Talks were under way within the insurance industry on setting up an "over-cap claims" database, but it would be accessible only by insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission, he said.

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