EQC, insurance won't cover earthquake damage it failed to detect

Wide-scale damage from the Canterbury earthquakes is beginning to hurt a second wave of homeowners.

Seventy people who purchased homes after the quakes have discovered extensive damage that went unreported by Earthquake Commission inspectors.

One of them is Paula Bennie-Steel. On the surface, her home looks perfectly fine, but beneath, it's a different story - deep cracks in the walls had been filled with jib compound. She purchased her Rangiora home three years ago, only to find that EQC had missed earthquake damage to her home. 

"There's no way to know that behind these walls are massive cracks," she says.

Minutes from a Residential Advisory Service meeting said the most recent scope of works EQC prepared indicated that the claim is over cap and deemed a rebuild, but both EQC and the home's former insurer are refusing to pay. Ms Bennie-Steel can't lodge an insurance claim, as she didn't own the property at the time.

"If somebody buys your house, they don't automatically get your insurance policy," says Tim Grafton from the Insurance Council of New Zealand. "A bit like a car - if you sell your car, that insurance policy doesn't attach to the person who bought your car."

Figures released to Newshub by EQC reveal that 70 homeowners have discovered extensive damage worth more than $100,000 in properties they've purchased since the September 2010 earthquakes. This was not identified by EQC and insurance companies were not notified.

New Minister for EQC Megan Woods says the matter could end up in the High Court.

"It is something I have sought urgent advice on, since becoming a minister... I want to know what our options are," she says. "We have got to find a way to rectify this for the people involved."

Ms Bennie-Steel suffered a cardiac arrest while trying to get compensation for the extensive unreported damage to her home.

"Trying to recover from that, with this stress, has been unbearable."