How long is a piece of string?

Last updated 09:25 07/08/2012

Will Harvie is on a well-deserved break so I'm filling in with a guest blog about my housing situation.

How long is a piece of string? Annoying little comment, isn't it? It means absolutely nothing and reminds me of pledges  from my insurance claims managers informing me they'll call back ''shortly''.

In my case, the longest ''shortly'' was a staggering five months, and that was despite my occasional email and phone call reminders.

This time we're at six weeks and still no call. I've checked my policy thoroughly and unfortunately there is no definition.

It might as well have a glossary that says: ''Shortly is as long as a piece of string.''

My insurance company is BNZ, underwritten by IAG. Considering the customer care I have had from IAG, it came as no surprise that they were rated the worst insurers by Insurance Watch this month.

The good news is that the fishheads are finally getting the message that something is deeply wrong.

Last month, Roger Sutton said insurers needed to provide clear time frames. He hit the nail on the head by saying ''a five-minute conversation'' would take a massive amount of stress off residents.

Even Gerry Brownlee has piped up, claiming he has ''lost his patience'' with insurance companies.

Finally, a handful of insurance companies fronted up to a group of elderly people with at least one company, IAG, admitting what we've known for almost two years: ''We haven't done enough''. No shit Sherlock.

An insurance lawyer told me insurance companies are not a charity. It's a valid point, but they are a business.

By accepting my fortnightly payments, they are accepting my business, and their business ought to include telling me what is going on with my claim.

I should explain that my quakehouse is unlivable. It is in St Albans on land classed as tehnical category2, green-yellow. We should be good to go.

However, there are complications. I am one of four adjoining units and between the four owners we have two insurance companies.

Two of us are with IAG and the other two are with Lumleys.

Initially, it seemed like that might be OK. The woman I dealt with at IAG was a dream. She said the two companies could share costs of an engineering report, and this happened.

Then she went to another department and the two units who were with IAG were given Claims Manager A.

After 18 dreadful months, I emailed and told him I was fed up with his lack of communication and included his bosses in the email.

One working day later I had been assigned a senior claims manager. I was high on the progress of it all. Something had happened ''shortly''.

Claims Manager B promptly emailed to say she would just come up to speed with the claim, ''hopefully make some progress where possible'' and ''be in contact with you shortly''.

After a month I emailed to ask if there was any update.

I have been met with a further two weeks of silence. I feel as broken as my house.

The units have been assessed by an architectural draftsman and EQC, and each unit has been assessed by engineers from each company. That was a year ago. We have been told we are up for a rebuild, not a repair, but also that nothing is definite.

Meanwhile, our house rots. It is the subject of break-ins, an eyesore and a dumping ground for shopping trolleys, mattresses and what looks like squashed mince.

People tell me the squeaky wheel gets the oil but I have lost the will to squeak.

My expectations are so low now that I'm not asking for much. All I'm after is someone to return with a call or an email. I want them to speak to each other in their own technical jargon and get back to me in a language I can understand. Even if the only answer is: ''We can't tell you anything this week.''

Anyway, if I have any progress, I'll be sure to get back to you shortly.

What has ''shortly'' meant to you?

- The Press

Post a comment
liz   #1   12:37 pm Aug 07 2012

i had the same problem with my parents driveway claim with bnz (iag). i was ringing every week for 3 months trying to get the claims manager to take my call, every time i rang i was told he was on another call and would ring back straight away - but no contact whatsoever. i was beginning to think he had me on caller id, so i finally sent him an email cc-ing every one i had email addresses for an specifying if i didnt have a response in 24 hours i would go higher.. and 24 hours later i had a response and the claim was rejected! still working on disputing that one

Paul   #2   12:41 pm Aug 07 2012

Sounds familiar.

Hannah   #3   12:47 pm Aug 07 2012

Our 'Shortly': in August last year we were visited by a man from Fletchers and a man from a building company (It's so long ago I have no idea which one) to go through our scope and plan our repairs, which would begin 'shortly'. I asked what shortly meant, they said 'oooh about 4-6 weeks time'. When they said goodbye I was so happy! That was the last I have heard from either of them. I have phoned our hub numerous times but only been able to leave messages, EQC call centre can't help because they tell me to call the hub. We have now decided to opt out!

IAG - immoral aggravating gits!   #4   12:48 pm Aug 07 2012

Yet another shining example of IAG's customer service! The only thing worse than their complete lack of communication is when they do communicate and it's a new story every time...makes you wonder about the veracity of each version!

Nigel   #5   12:50 pm Aug 07 2012

I so feel for you and no doubt thousands of others in similar situations. I contacted EQC to request our "scope of works" to be emailed to me. The call centre person couldn't do that and had to get someone else to do it. It took 4 months and 4 chase up calls to finally get that sent out.

Stay strong and keep pestering your insurance company, even if via email - maybe send one email every hour for a couple of days. Maybe just maybe that will spur them on to do something.

Elissa   #6   01:16 pm Aug 07 2012

My house is getting worse as we wait and wait. This morning I got home after taking my 4 yr old to the doctor to find I could not unlock my door. My house tilted during the quake, and the door has become difficult to open only recently. I rang EQC from my mob phone asking them to send someone to get me and my ill daughter into the house. They said they could put an emergency request through to Fletchers, but it would be 72 hours. They suggested calling the police or fire brigade to break into my house. It is earthquake damage, it is an emergency being locked out with an ill child. But they can not do anything. shame on them.

lindsay   #7   01:18 pm Aug 07 2012

I called EQC to request emergency repairs to weather proof our house and was told Fletchers would be in touch "soon". I asked for a timeframe, does that mean days, weeks, or months? She said "weeks". That was over a year ago. We NEVER heard from them. We eventually just did the work ourselves and then opted out of Fletchers.

Still Waiting   #8   01:20 pm Aug 07 2012

Shortly for us... 703 days since the 7.1 and no contact from AMI/Southern Response that wasn't initiated by us (except the annual insurance bill which shows up with monotonous regularity). We wouldn't know what an insurance assessor looks like because we have not seen one! TC3 land that meets none of the criteria for TC3 (no liquefaction, no lateral spread) and a perfectly livable house with under $100K damage... That means we will still be waiting until the drilling is finished, and who knows when that will be. We are happy to wait until people with more damage have their work done, but all we want (as Roger puts it) is a 5 minute conversation telling us what they are going to fix. That would be nice.

jenny   #9   01:34 pm Aug 07 2012

come on the demonstration tomorrow corner clarence and princess st at midday. It is quite close to Tower Junction . The orbiter goes right past. other buses go down Blenheim Road or Riccarton Road and can be caught instead.These insurance companies wont do anything until they have to. the only way is to use people power and demonstrate showing our fustration. All placards welcome all loudspeakers and hailers. The more people that come the better, bring children, relatives etc etc to swell the numbers. please dont let the weather put you off.

Lynda   #10   01:34 pm Aug 07 2012

Same here, my poor landlords are in the same boat. Only had one inspection post 22 Feb 11 and one rapid inspection. Rapid guy said 're-pile' but no go from anywhere else. Meanwhile house is like yours rotting and gaps in floorboards where damp comes into house. We can live in ours, if we moved out not sure poor landlords would get more tenants cos house is like trampoline and everything shakes from the least movement. Landlords are lovely people, he is a builder and knows what he's doing, this house was restored to a beautiful state, now gaps in weatherboards let the damp in as well as the floor gaps so house stinks. Dehumidifier goes 24/7 but can't dry house out of course. Meanwhile the house is getting worse :-( we are in Rangiora which isn't supposed to have damage, but there's a lot out here.

Show 11-32 of 32 comments

Post comment


Required. Will not be published.
Registration is not required to post a comment but if you , you will not have to enter your details each time you comment. Registered members also have access to extra features. Create an account now.

Maximum of 1750 characters (about 300 words)

I have read and accepted the terms and conditions
These comments are moderated. Your comment, if approved, may not appear immediately. Please direct any queries about comment moderation to the Opinion Editor at
Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content