A comedy of errors with no repairs

Last updated 08:32 17/07/2012
Islay McLeod
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

GIVEN THE RUN-AROUND: A parade of builders, assessors and heating specialists have visited Islay McLeod in her quake-damaged Linwood home since September 2010, with no result.

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Islay McLeod, like many, has been dealing with EQC and Fletchers EQR.

Usually, if you want something done around the place, a bit of renovation, you ask a mate, a neighbour, a work colleague for a recommendation. That builder who did such a great job on their place? You get a quote, one way or another you've got the money, the job's done and you pay the bill.

All good, you clever little project manager you!

So, what's the problem with project managing your own earthquake repairs? You can't unless you opt out of having Fletchers EQR. You can choose your own builder? - no, only if he's EQC-registered. Your builder wants progress payments? No, the EQC will pay only on the completed job.

So, unless you've got the $10,000 to $100,000 in the bank or from the bank, you pretty well have to join the queue and, as a Cera staff member promoted, ''learn to friend the wait''.

And that's not easy when all the cases I've been helping out on or heard of, verge on ''emotional abuse''. But I can only quote my case.

In October 2010, after the September 4 quakes, I lodged an EQC claim for suspected chimney damage and (phew, as it turns out) didn't use my logburner.

At 10.15am on February 22, 2011, I logged a reminder call to EQC and they assured me an assessor would call. At 1.10pm the same day, a neighbour rang to say one of my chimneys was at her place.

The assessors did come. On July 21. Needless to say, with event management experience and project management training, I presented them with a list of the damage. Needless to say, again, they took no notice of it.

I received a copy of their ''Scope of Works'' a month later and promptly fired off a three-page letter of complaint about the bits they'd missed . . . like the crumbly brick fireplace, floor to ceiling in the lounge!

EQC emailed on October 1 that it had received it and would get back within 10 business days. On October 22, EQC thanked me for my reminder and it would get back to me within 10 working days or advise me otherwise. I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, Fletchers EQR came in September and had a check around using the complained-of Scope of Works. They did note the missing bits and advised the re-piler would follow. He came around a week later, with a spirit level, and showed how out of plumb my floors were. A month later, EQR is back with the EQC, this time because they're not happy with the re-piler's quote.

''Pre-existing condition'', claims EQC about the kitchen floor, noting the wedge under the front of the shower floor in the bathroom next door. I point out that the dresser in the kitchen never had a gap under it before. ''Can you live with that?'' asks EQR.

Next comes the lounge floor. They'll pull up the carpet, go through the (heart rimu) floorboards, pack the piles and, if I'm not going to expose the floor in future, they'll just replace the boards with chipboard. (''Give me another whopping great big earthquake!'', I'm thinking to myself.)

The July EQC assessment's Scope of Works doesn't mention the Nightstore heater in the hallway. The one with the crack staggering down the wall behind it and bulges of the bumped-around bricks sticking out.

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''Does it go?'', asked EQC back then. I had no idea. ''Try it then,'' said EQC. ''You didn't, did you?'' asked my insurance company.

So, with two chimneys down and a bung Nightstore heater, I'm up for a replacement heating source. I have gas hot water heating so opted for a gas fireplace in the lounge.

On December 15, the EQR heating man cometh. I suggest he ties in with the building work when installing the fireplace and pipes . . . the piles packing and deconstruction of the fireplace surround. ''That's OUR job!'' harrumphs EQR heating man, never to be seen again.

Hallelujah December! December 23, to be precise. The gap under the kitchen dresser is now two-thirds its length, anchored by what's left of the Belle Fiore dinner set, I suppose. On February 27, Fletchers EQR are back again with a different builder. ''Yep, the pile's popped here all right, '' he says, toe-tapping the kitchen floor.

In the lounge . . . ''This chimney's dangerous,'' he declares, withdrawing his hand with a shower of sandy mortar from the bricks up inside.

June 20 I get a call from the (original) EQR builder to arrange a meeting a week before they start work. ''What work?'', I ask. Next morning he rings to suggest that we have another check-around meeting with EQR since it's been so long. 2.30 next Tuesday it is. That gets changed to 4-4.30pm. They arrive. EQR hasn't got much time 'cos he's got to pick up the kids. And things go bad from the start.

No, they hadn't accounted for spouting on three sides (fallen chimney damage). No they hadn't accounted for the smashed perspex roofing on the porch (as above). No they weren't going to re-pile the kitchen - huh? But they were going to strip, sand and re- seal the floor - huh? By the time we got to the bedroom . . . ''what cracks in the walls?''. I turn on the lights. ''Oh, those cracks. Oh look, I'm out of time,'' says exasperated EQR.

He leaves, telling the builder it'll need another (variation) EQC inspection, The builder doesn't stay much longer either. He's too cold. That's despite the (ECan- approved) woodburner firing flat out. I'll hear from EQC next week, says the builder. I won't hold my breath, I tell the builder.

Just as well I didn't, because two weeks later I'd be blue in the face as well as my frozen extremities. I'm typing this in my ''sleepout'' office with the bow in the floor that no-one's looked at yet.

And tonight, I'll perch over the non-flued gas heater in the lounge, poked into the gap of the ''dangerous'' fireplace surround.

I just wish EQC, EQR, their builders and heating division would turn up together, take all the time I wish, and get the Scope of Works correct. But I'll never know about that. ''You don't get the Scope of Works'', said EQR. I told him I had got the original. That was a mistake, apparently.

And that's my story . . . so far.

Islay McLeod has a background in communications consultancy and events management.

- The Press

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