Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Good news?

Last Thursday's announcement confirmed that our block in River Road is classified Red, which was more or less expected. Now we're trying to make decisions about taking the RV and buying a place, or taking the land value from the Government and then a replacement house from our insurer, State-IAG. The second option would give us more equity, but could take two or three years at least.

The added complication is that some insurance companies are saying that they were going to rebuild houses, so they don't have to pay for total loss, even when the neighbourhood is going to be bulldozed. They can't say that to us; we have their written statements that our house is unable to be repaired. In fact, they advised that they weren't going to keep pricing repairs because there was no point. These emails were from before the February and June quakes, so the situation with our house has only got worse, of course. But many of our neighbours do have damaged but repairable houses, and must be freaking out at this development.

On Thursday afternoon I emailed our friendly (really, she's very pleasant and helpful) customer representative at State, asking for a meeting. There was no answer after two days, so yesterday I called her phone; I was taken to her voicemail, which said that State were very busy and I should call the Government Helpline.

This doesn't sit very well with the Friday 24th statement from their chief executive, that “We’ll also be looking to ensure all our impacted State, NZI, and Lantern customers, as well as those with policies through IAG’s business partners, understand their options and know that we will be there to work with them to receive the entitlements due under their policies." (My emphasis)

It looks like insurers are helping their clients by pulling up the drawbridge and heating up the vats of oil to repel invaders. They can't hide forever - it will be interesting to see what they have to say when they eventually talk to us. We want to make a move as soon as we can, and before house sellers add 25% to their asking prices, so when our formal offer arrives we'll be camping on State's doorstep if necessary until we get answers.

I may be suspicious (all right, I'm very suspicious) but this seems to be a move by the insurers to be so nasty to their customers that they all decide to take Option 1, the full payout from the Government. That would allow insurers to keep up their primary activity; hanging on to our money and paying out as little as possible.

Mark Twain's definition of a banker seems to fit this situation well. He described a banker as "a man who lends you his umbrella, then asks for it back when it rains". I'd add insurers to that description.

UPDATE: Our State rep did reply, with a bland assurance that "State are currently in the process of scoping all properties that we insure within the red zone to be able to provide residents with the information they need to fully consider their options." I wonder what "scoping" means?

I doubt that they can suddenly "discover" that our house can be repaired; we have an email dated 4th February that says "Due to the fact that we now know the house is unable to be repaired an engineer's report has not been requested." So they have no information on which to base repair estimates, as far as I can tell.

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