Alf, 92, waits on tardy insurer

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014
Alf Johnson
IAIN MCGREGOR

HOLDING PATTERN: Alf Johnson, 92, is still waiting on his insurance claim for his St Martins house.

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Sitting in his sloping and half-packed St Martins home, 92-year-old Alf Johnson has only one question for his insurance company.

"Why am I still waiting for a new house?"

After a decision was finally reached to demolish and rebuild his Roscoe St property last April, Johnson was under instruction to pack and be ready to vacate his home around Christmas.

Christmas came and went and Johnson remains in his slanted house.

His story is another in a series of "vulnerable" elderly residents still awaiting action on their quake-damaged homes - sparked by 85-year-old Dot Boyd.

Since the circumstances around the three years of inaction on Boyd's Aranui property were highlighted, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) confirmed there were at least 85 elderly people considered to be "vulnerable", suffering the same plight.

However, Johnson's insurance company, State Insurance, says it has kept him up-to-date on all delays experienced since the first assessment of his home in August 2012.

Johnson, a retired train driver, built the majority of his home himself in the 1960s and has lived in it since.

After the earthquakes, the house sunk about 150mm on one side. Initially deemed a repair job, it was later decided his home should be demolished and a new one built on the same site. He received the blueprints for the new house last August and signed a contract in September.

Johnson then readied himself to move to his granddaughter's place until the new house was built.

"The next step, I was led to understand, was I move out of here just after Christmas. So I started to pack up.

"We were all ready to go, I got my garage ready to lock up. I was half packed," he said.

He has now been ready to move for almost six months.

Vowing he is usually not one to complain, Johnson said he "just boxed along" dealing with the sloping floors after the earthquakes, but now he is "getting a bit tired" of the inaction.

"I am getting a bit frustrated with it. I'm not getting anywhere."

He said he has had "some" correspondence from an Orange Homes employee but has heard nothing from anyone else.

A spokeswoman for EQC said Johnson was initially paid $15,000 for repairs after the September earthquake. However, February then put him over cap and the claim was "settled and is now sitting with the insurer", she said.

State Insurance spokeswoman Renee Walker said the company was "aware of Alfred's situation and had prioritised him based on his age and the condition of his home".

The first assessment of Johnson's home was followed by a more detailed scope that deemed it uneconomic to repair.

She said the delay on the home was due to an initial geotech assessment finding the land condition "considerably worse than expected for a TC2 property".

After Johnson signed his contract and selected a builder in August, the structural engineer requested a second, more detailed assessment on the land. Walker said this assessment took place over December and January, and was peer reviewed in February. This report had now been sent to the structural engineer.

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Walker said Johnson's claims case manager, loss adjuster and project manager at Orange Homes had been in regular contact with him. He would now have a customer support person "visit him on a regular basis to ensure he is comfortable with the next steps for his claim".

- The Press

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