2016 saw the 6 year anniversary of the 4 September earthquake and many insurers granted further time to property owners to bring claims. A number of those deadlines are looming again as at 4 September 2017 and this may impact on property owners and their ability to pursue insurance claims.
Property owners could be out of time to bring court proceedings if they are not issued before 4 September 2017.
In general terms the Limitation Act provides that court proceedings must be brought within 6 years in order to avoid a limitation defence being raised. There have been differing views as to when the 6 year period starts to run in terms of earthquake insurance claims, but many adopted the conservative approach which would see the 4 September 2010 earthquake as the start date.
The looming deadline saw insurers make public announcements as to their position on limitation defences. A number of insurers agreed not to rely on limitation defences for any residential insurance claim relating to the Canterbury earthquakes where proceedings were filed before 4 September 2017.
So what does this mean if you are a property owner with an unresolved insurance claim?
First, if you are a property owner who has an outstanding claim with one of the insurers who has agreed to extend the limitation period then it is important to check that you have an extension, and to what date the extension has been granted.
If your extension is until 4 September 2017 then you may be at risk that any proceedings must be brought before that date. It may be possible to obtain agreement with your insurer to extend the limitation period but we recommend that you seek legal advice as to your position as soon as possible.
If you have a claim that is still with EQC, or have had defective repair work undertaken by EQC, its policy on limitation is on its website: https://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/claims-assessment/limitation-legislation. Rather than having an extension to a fixed date EQC looks at when, or whether, the EQC claim has been settled. This does potentially leave homeowners with uncertainty as to the time frame for any proceedings against EQC to be brought. Of further concern is that if EQC eventually puts those claims over cap, the homeowner could by then be out of time to sue their insurer.
We would suggest that any homeowners in this situation take legal advice as to their position and options as soon as possible.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.