29 Sep 2014

House damage blamed on wind, flax

8:11 pm on 29 September 2014

A Christchurch family is attempting to sue the Earthquake Commission and their insurer after being told damage to their home may have been caused by the wind and a flax bush, rather than a quake.

Cameron and Suzanne Kelly are attempting to sue EQC and Southern Response. It is believed they are the first residents to take the commission to court over its assessment processes.

The couple say their Burwood home was damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and left uninhabitable by the February 2011 quake. It is believed they are the first residents to take EQC to court over its assessment processes.

Initial estimates put the cost of a repair at $550,000 and full replacement at $590,000.

However, the lawyer for the Kellys, Grant Shand, told the court today that EQC's most recent assessment puts the cost of repair at just $53,000.

"These defendants would have you believe that all of those people that have assessed it have got it wrong. All of their experts have got it wrong. This house is different to the houses all around it. The 11 people who say this is earthquake damage, they're mistaken or lying. Mrs Kelly's lying."

Mr Shand told Justice Mander the house had moved laterally by about 600 millimetres, and has sunk by about 60 millimetres.

He quoted the findings of an EQC engineer's report: "The wind has somehow done that to this house and another theory is that a flax bush planted in 2006 has somehow affected the moisture of the soil, causing the house to be as it is."

EQC has admitted that it changed its mind on how to repair the house, following numerous assessments. Its lawyer, Bruce Scott, told the court its engineers deliberately started the assessment afresh and found that much of the damage to the house's foundation was pre-existing.

"I accept entirely that EQC, and Southern Response, have stood back after the expert review and assessed all the evidence to come to a view about what the view is in relation to this property," he said.

"But the plaintiffs have done the same in that they have also decided they wanted to revisit their position."

Several houses surrounding the Kellys have been demolished. The court visited the property this afternoon.

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