The Christchurch earthquakes changed the landscape in many areas of life. One such area is insurance. Prior to September 2010 the words “EQC claim” were never muttered by a Christchurch property lawyer. Nowadays, if a Christchurch property lawyer goes a day without mentioning those words, they have done extremely well.
Recently and with the recent events in Kaikoura in the forefront of our minds, we brought you an article that looked at some lessons learnt from the Christchurch earthquakes from a home owners perspective which you can find here. We thought that it would be also useful to also look at this issue from the purchaser’s perspective.
The area of EQC and private insurance claims has evolved significantly since September 2010 and in many situations the 2016 position is more complicated than the position immediately after the earthquakes. This is mainly because many home owners have had pay outs for various aspects of damage to their properties, some of which has been completed and some of which has not. Almost all contracts for the sale and purchase of property contain provisions in relation to the claims that have been made on the property and the assignment or otherwise of those claims to the purchaser. Purchasers need to be on guard. The effect of getting these clauses wrong should not be understated. We offer the following tips to ensure that your interests are protected and no surprises occur on settlement.
Know your terminology
Be aware that there is a difference between an EQC claim and a private insurance claim. Unless there has been more than $115,000.00 damage to the property, an EQC claim will relate to damage to the dwelling and a private insurance claim will relate to aspects outside of the dwelling like the paths and the driveways.
Obtain information early on
In your discussions with the real estate agent, discuss with them the EQC and private insurance position of the property. In particular, what damage has occurred and obtaining scopes of work, did the vendor receive a cash settlement or did they have the repairs carried out by way of a managed repair process. This helps to inform you as to how much work has been completed on the property and the mode of repair.
Beware the cash settlement
If a cash settlement has occurred and the work has not been carried out, is the vendor agreeing to pay over the cash amount on settlement and if so, will the cash settlement be sufficient to complete the required work? If the cash settlement has been used to complete the work, can the vendor provide evidence (photographs, receipts and invoices) of the work having been completed? Often times, vendors who are cash settled for cosmetic work complete the work themselves. Therefore be wary of work that while technically “completed” has not been completed to a tradesman like standard. Your building report or other professional reports can be of use to determine the quality of work completed.
Obtain sign offs
If the work to the property has been carried out by way of a managed repair, ensure that you obtain all sign offs as well as any Council building consents and code compliance certificates in relation to the work. As you have probably seen in the media in recent times, even signed off work has had quality issues and therefore even with work that has been signed off, we would still encourage you to obtain independent professional reports to ensure the work has been completed to a good standard.
Feed back to your lawyer
The above information can then be fed back to your lawyer who can draft an appropriate clause in relation to the assignment of the EQC and private insurance claims. Your lawyer may want to confirm the information obtained with the vendor’s solicitor as well.
Make it a condition
You should consider making your approval of the EQC and private insurance information in relation to the property and the assignment of these claims a condition of the contract. This means that should any aspect of the EQC or private insurance position of the property that becomes clear through your due diligence process not be favourable to you, you have the ability to cancel the contract.
Beware of precedent clauses
We would caution you about relying on a standard EQC and private insurance provision that has not be tailored to the particular circumstances of the property. At Parry Field, we have more than 20 different clauses we use in relation to the assignment of EQC and private insurance claims so you can see that the variance is large.
Reliance on professional reports not commissioned by you
Be aware that professional reports (for example building and engineer’s reports) that are not commissioned by you (i.e. that you don’t pay for) can not be replied upon by you legally. Such reports must be commissioned and paid for by you if you wish to able to legally rely on them. Therefore, in a situation where a property has had significant damage, we would strongly encourage you to obtain your own structural engineer’s report in relation to the property.
Honesty is the best policy
if there is work still to be completed on the property, you should disclose this to your insurer and bank as early as possible. In relation to your insurance, this will likely result in your insurer excluding the damaged areas of the property from your policy coverage until the work has been completed. However, this is certainly the lesser of two evils given that if your insurers find out that you did not disclose damage when you are making an insurance claim for further damage to your property (a fire for example), this could void your policy and you be left with some hefty clean up costs.
This is likely to be the biggest investment of you life so take your time, speak to your lawyer early to ensure the contract is right for you. This could save you thousands of dollars down the track.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. Should you need any assistance with this, or with any other Property matters, please contact Paul Owens at Parry Field Lawyers (348-8480) firstname.lastname@example.org