Insurer rushes to Edgecombe family’s aid

Bad news stories and controversial headlines always get lots of legs, particularly stories about insurance claims, but here’s a good news story of how AMP Insurance went above and beyond for a family, with lots of young children, after the recent floods in Edgecombe, in the Bay of Plenty. 

The large family lives just outside of town, about a kilometre from where the Rangitāiki River breached a stopbank. The family had no time to grab anything when they fled – ‘Mum’ (let’s call her that) had her phone, but no charger. Other than that, they literally had just the clothes on their backs when the floods came.

I actually lodged the claim on behalf of this client because she was trying to preserve the battery life of her phone. The family did manage to book into two rooms of a hotel, which cost about $500 per night – a cost that was covered by the accommodation clause in their insurance to a limit of $30,000 or 12 months.

The flooding however was extensive and it soon became apparent that they would not be able to move back into their house for some time. Flood waters had risen more than 30 centimetres up the walls inside their home, bearing in mind that when you factor in the pilings, we’re talking about levels well over a metre or so.

The family, not wanting to be cooped up in a hotel for who knows how long, asked AMP Insurance if they could buy a caravan, and have the accommodation allowance cover the first three or four instalments until they could get back on their feet. The insurer said ‘no’.

Instead, they advanced the family the entire $30,000 accommodation allowance upfront so that they could buy the caravan cash, a measure that would provide more certainty and security for the family in owning the caravan outright.

When I visited the house, the bottom half of all the inside walls had been cut away by the builders and many of the household items – not all – were write-offs. The assessor reached the same conclusion and arranged for an immediate payment of the entire household cover of more than $80,000.

The family car was also under water, and the family was quickly paid out for this too.

Of course, customers always have an expectation – justifiably so – that the insurer will come to the party quickly and fairly, but there are processes that have to be followed to ensure legal and responsible management of money.

What was exceptional here, was how the insurer put the customer first and went out of their way to act speedily in finding a solution that was right for the client, rather than being too bound by policy and bureaucracy – a family was in need, and they stepped up.

It was a case of putting the customer’s interests ahead of the company.

Kudos to the family as well, because they had the right cover in place to ensure against just an unexpected event. As a result, it was a lot less traumatic than it could have been.

The ins-and-outs of car insurance in New Zealand

About cars, insurance and learner drivers in NZ

If you find yourself scratching your head over the complexities of motor vehicle insurance, you’re not alone. However, making sure that you have the correct ‘nominations’ and details correct on your policy is essential if you don’t want to find yourself out of pocket when something does go wrong.

Car insurance is really simple with the biggest cost variations being around the age and driving history of the driver and the demographic region where the car will be kept. Vehicle insurance can be summed up as;

  • Comprehensive insurance;
  • Third party, fire and theft insurance; and
  • Third party.

1. Vehicle insurance for drivers over 25 years of age

If you and any drivers of the car are over 25 years of age, then this is your category. Your basic excess will be around the $300-$400 mark (depending on the Insurer). Nominating over 25 year old drivers and excluding under 25 year old drivers will generally trigger the most discounts and reduce the cost.

b. Open driver insurance:

If you are the nominated driver, you can opt for an open driver insurance policy if, for example, your children are learning to drive or using the vehicle from time-to-time. In this case, the premium remains the same, but there will be an additional excess if the under 25 year old driver has an accident.

Notify your insurer and change your policy if your children have started learning to drive using the vehicle.

2. Vehicle insurance as it applies to an under-25-year-old MAIN driver

If you are the main driver and aged under 25, your premiums won’t generally be pretty and in some instances, insurers may even decline to insure the specific car! For example, a 17 year old main driver of a turbo Subaru may battle to get insurance with most of the main insurers.

Most drivers in this category, will opt for third party, fire and theft vehicle insurance because the premiums can be horrendous. As an example, $180 or more a month for a car on full/comprehensive insurance (and an excess around the $1,000 mark), compared to third party, fire & theft insurance premiums starting at about $40 per month.

And that’s the sum of a very brief outline on how car insurance works.

The thing that catches a lot of people happens when their children start learning to drive. Ordinarily owners will be paying comprehensive car insurance for over-25s, and forget to shift to an ‘open driver policy’ when their kids start taking driving lessons.

Keeping your vehicle safe is all about being aware, on the road and on the insurance front.

Note to parents: Make sure that you do not nominate yourself as the main driver when in fact your under 25-year-old son or daughter is the regular driver. The insurance companies do investigate and they do come down hard on people who try to outsmart the system.

Photo: PBy Amos Bar-Zeev,

The insurance cost of earthquakes and procrastination

Does procrastination undermine wealth?

After the recent earthquakes and aftershocks across the centre of New Zealand and a subsequent embargo by most insurers, we were inundated with people wanting to increase their sum insured and contents insurance – of course, by then it was too late.

For example, one of my prospective clients had been given a quote for home insurance on her new property early in October. All quotes are valid for thirty days, but it was only post the earthquake that the client got back to me about implementing the policy. Unfortunately, by then, an embargo on all insurance was in place.

Soon after the earthquakes most insurers placed an embargo on all new insurance policies and alterations to existing policies that covered easily half of New Zealand, from Christchurch to the Bay of Plenty. Initially, even car, boat and bike insurance policies were put on hold, but gradually lifted later.

The existing embargo – which has since shrunk to include most of the top of the South Island and up to just north of Wellington – allows existing policy owners to transfer their insurance policies to a new property or rentals. In other words, you can take your existing insurer’s policy with you, but can’t take out a new one with a new Insurer.

For example, if you are buying a house, the vendor can transfer his or her sum insured policy over to you – OR they can take it with them – provided that the amount remains the same as what they insured the property for. So if the vendor had $400,000 sum insured, you can pick up the $400,000 policy, provided you meet the underwriters terms and conditions. You may not increase the value of the policy, even if you believe the previous owners undervalued.

Be sure to find out from the seller if they are also buying in an embargo zone as well – if they are, they may be looking to transfer their own policy to the new address (if the property that they are purchasing e.g. does not have insurance). If they transfer their current policy to the new address and if you do not have a current Home Building policy in the embargo zone, that may leave you exposed and unable to arrange insurance on your purchase!

However, if you already have an existing policy, you may be able to take it with you to the new property. If you are in the process of having a house built, you may be able to ask the builder’s contract works Insurer to convert that to a Sum Insured Replacement policy for you.

If you have purchased an existing property in the embargo zone, make sure that you are kept informed if there is and EQC claim on the property. You would not want any pay-out to go to the vendor, who has long since left the property, while you sit with the damages. Ensure your lawyer and mortgage broker are on to this.

The most salient lesson we can learn from all of this? Be insured, be insured for the right value and don’t procrastinate.

Six steps landlords should take to protect their rentals from meth contamination


Tenancy Practice Service director, Scotney Williams LLB, recently told AMP insurers that it is better to have a clause in the tenancy agreement that says the tenant agrees not to possess, use, buy or have on the premises any unlawful drugs.

“If the tenant breaches that clause, the landlord can issue a 14-day ‘cease and desist’ notice under section 56 of the RTA (which deals with the process a landlord must follow to remedy breaches of the agreement or the RTA itself),” he said.

If there is a breach of the law around recreational drugs, like smoking cannabis, the landlord has to issue a 14-day notice to the tenant to get rid of the cannabis because small quantities aren’t necessarily enough legal reason to eject the tenant.

Methamphetamine is much more serious. Cooking P or using it on a property causes substantial damage which is difficult to remedy – that’s ample reason to terminate the tenancy.

“If you have evidence of methamphetamine use or production on the rental property you should take a photograph of the evidence, which you can use if you go to the Tenancy Tribunal seeking termination over the possession and use of methamphetamine,” Mr Williams said.

Five tips to reduce the risk of meth contamination on rental properties

  1. Establish a baseline moving forward by testing property for methamphetamine before new tenants move in – every time;
  2. Do more than a credit check on tenants. The situation is serious enough to warrant full background checks;
  3. Include a clause in the tenancy agreement that prohibits the use, sale or production of drugs on the property;
  4. Make sure the tenancy agreement has a clause that lets the landlord test for methamphetamine during standard property inspections (with or without an expert);
  5. Ensure you employ reliable testing methods;
  6. Carry out regular property inspections.

HSWA 2015: What are the absolute minimum insurances tradies should have?

The new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 casts a wide net and in my opinion, all business owners should at a bare minimum have Public Liability, Statutory Liability and – where the company has staff – Employers Liability cover.

What is public liability insurance?

Public liability policies protect businesses (and other bodies like sports clubs) from claims for compensation when unexpected, and unintended personal injury or property damage arises out of the business’s activities.

What is statutory liability insurance?

Statutory liability policies protect people or businesses (and other bodies like sports clubs) when they unintentionally breach New Zealand Acts of Parliament and covers things like defence costs, legally allowable fine and reparations – for example, those arising from breaches of the HSWA 2015. Conditions certainly apply of course and not all elements may be covered

What is Employer’s liability insurance?

It’s true that ACC does cover a lot of costs arising from workplace injuries or work-related illnesses, but there are some things that ACC won’t cover. An employer will need to have covered in place to protect the business from claims for work-related accidents that ACC doesn’t cover.

When it comes to trades people, the limit of indemnity (the sum insured) is very dependent on a few factors:

1. Do you work in the commercial/business sector or the domestic/residential market?

The assumption is that how much you’re insured for will be higher if you work in the commercial/business sector. Although, for those working in the higher value residential sector, a higher limit of indemnity should be considered!

2. Are there any contractual requirements that suppliers/clients have of the tradesperson?

For example, a tradesperson may need $5million NZD public liability cover, but they may want to do work for a city council or any government department. In that case, the will find that the contractual requirement may differ from what they have.

Some major corporates require $10 million NZD public liability cover from their contractors.

3. What are the risks associated with your trade?

The services you offer – and in what context – could also play a role in determining the limit of liability cover that you may need.

For example, if you are a gardener or landscaper who does work for the council in parks and gardens, you may be required to have the standard $250,000 limit for Forest & Rural Fire Acts cover under the public liability policy.

However, a gardener or landscaper who works in rural areas, may have a requirement to have Forest & Rural Fires Act cover of e.g. $500k to $1mil.

4. What tools and equipment do you use?

Tradespeople may have also had insurance needs when it comes to the equipment and tools of the trade, whether that equipment travels with you to the site (and not to forget the vehicle that transports the tools and equipment).

5. Do you sub-contract specialist roles to other trades?

Some tradespeople who are Licenced Building Practitioners (LBP’s) should also consider additional cover to protect themselves in the role of a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking).

6. Are there any legal or specific requirements of your profession?

Some liability insurance policies have extra ‘tick-boxes’ or benefits applicable to certain occupations. For example, an additional cover is required by those in the motor trade who are licenced to issue a Warrant of Fitness.

Total Disaster: Most Kiwi homeowners may be unable to rebuild if their property gets destroyed. Are you making the same mistake?

If your house insurance at least matches the market value of your home, you should be covered in the event of a disaster like fire, flood or earthquake – right? Well no, because the cost of replacing your home may
well be much higher than the sale value of your house.

Following the Canterbury earthquakes, New Zealand insurance companies moved to a sum insured regime, which essentially means that you specify what you want your insurance company to pay if your home is totally destroyed or badly damaged. The problem is that there is no guarantee that the sum insured will be sufficient to cover the costs of rebuilding your home.

Prosper’s Auckland Fire and General Manager, Stewart Wright, talks to the Insurance Council of New Zealand’s Operations Manager, Terry Jordan, about why so many Kiwi homeowners are at risk of under-insurance when it comes to their homes.

Should I base my insurance cover on the market value of my property?

“I would totally ignore the cost price, rating valuation and market valuation of a property because they are irrelevant – use them to choose your lotto numbers. They have nothing to do with the cost of replacing your property.”

What are the risks of total loss and what does it mean exactly?

“Here in New Zealand, a total loss would most likely be due to a volcanic eruption or earthquake – as we saw in Canterbury – and possibly a tsunami. Total loss from a flood, windstorm or tornado is less likely.”

What are Kiwis getting wrong when it comes to sum insured?

“Most homeowners are underestimating the extras they will be required to pay for in the event of total loss because people look purely at their house, and ignore things like outbuildings, fences, driveways, paths, decks and infrastructure services like sewerage, storm water drains and power.

“Our Canterbury experience tells us these additional factors add significantly to the overall cost. The homeowner is responsible for replacing anything from the house through to the boundary – and for some through the boundary to the middle of the road. The homeowner may well be liable for costs such as traffic control and digging up the road.”

Why are Kiwis getting it wrong?

“A lack of understanding about what has to be paid for in the event of a total loss is an issue. It’s also cheaper to go with the default sum insured put forward by the insurer when all the default sum was meant to be was a starting measure. And there’s the attitude of ‘it will never happen to me’.

“At this stage there has been no evidence of an underinsurance issue because there has been no total loss scenario since the sum insured regime began. Total loss through fire normally leaves things like the driveway, fences and foundations intact. But you just need to look at what happened to Christchurch to realise that total loss could happen to you – for a few dollars more, it isn’t worth the risk.

Does this mean that New Zealander’s need to move on from default sum insured?

“When insurers switched over to sum insured, they sent everybody a default sum insured. Effectively they said to everyone that ‘you must choose what you need to insure for, but here is a start’.

“That was five years ago when most insurers applied a rebuild cost of $2,000 per square metre and added on a bit for debris removal. A large percentage of people accepted that default, but it is important that they take the next step and establish accurately what level of cover they need.

“If you haven’t moved beyond default sum insured, then it is time for you to take a serious look.”

What steps should New Zealand homeowners take to make sure they are properly insured?

“There is an ascending scale of actions you could take

“Step One: Accept or remain with the default sum insured that your insurer is probably increasing each year (by about 3 or 4 per cent depending on the level of building inflation).

“Step Two: Use the calculator on your insurer’s website to price the replacement value of your home. You will need to measure your home to establish details like the size of your kitchen.

“Get a tape measure out and do some work because it is your biggest investment. Your insurer’s calculator will give you a cost to rebuild your home, as well as factoring in the cost to demolish what remains of the old home, remove the debris, pay for infrastructure services and cover off professional fees like engineering, Geotech and architects. The calculator will also add one year’s inflation to the sum.

“Option three: Hire a property valuer who can give you a figure. The Insurance Council has been working with valuers who now have a good idea of what to do. It’s a lot less work than using the calculator, but it will cost approximately $500 or $600. You can have a high level of confidence that this sum will be accurate.

“Option four: Hire a quantity surveyor, who is more expensive than a property valuer, but he or she will be able to give you a breakdown of your property and the costs involved in each of the areas. This equates to a high level of confidence in your replacement cost.”

Should everybody be using a valuer or a quantity surveyor?

“If you have a standard square box house on a section – which is pretty much half of most houses in New Zealand – you can be fairly confident with the sum supplied by your insurer’s calculator

“However, if you have unusual design features, an architect designed home, or you’re located on a difficult site – for example, a remote location, hilly section or narrow access way (any obstacles that will contribute to increasing the cost of a rebuilding) – then go to a property valuer or quantity surveyor.

Is insurance being used to paper off cracks in workplace compliance?

Nobody wants to end up a test case for the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 but, just in case, company owners, tradesmen, managers and even home owners are beefing up on their insurance policies.

Over the last couple of months I have had many inquiries from worried people who don’t understand the legislation and are looking at more insurance as a way to protect themselves against what they don’t know.

I guess you could say that people are trying to insure their way through a bureaucratic minefield.

Nobody really knows what their requirements and responsibilities are under the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

We’ve had calls from paint and panel beater shops, clothing manufacturers, landlords and tradesmen, and they’re all viewing the act like it’s a poisonous snake – but some things they believe they need to do are just too cost prohibitive or not applicable.

Unfortunately, having the correct liability and indemnity insurances is not a silver bullet, it’s just one aspect of what’s turning into a stressful and loaded situation for many people. This Act has given birth to a new safety advice industry, increased compliance and cost headaches for people.

A big part of the problem is making companies and ordinary citizens, like landlords, responsible and legally liable for the behaviour of others – sometimes when those people are nowhere near a particular site, such as a rental property.

While I am only able to offer advice from an insurance perspective, my experience with various liability scenarios over the years suggests that there are two steps in the process.

1. Understand the risk to which you are exposed (take expert advice on what those risks may be). For example, if there is gas on the site, or if a neighbour’s house is close enough that it might also catch fire if your rental property is burning.

Make sure you understand the various liabilities, including public liability, statutory liability, employer’s liability and professional indemnity that might apply in your situation.

2. Once you have identified what could go wrong, do everything in your power to mitigate those risks. Take advice, discuss and brainstorm possible scenarios and how they can be prevented, managed or insured against.

By that I don’t mean that you need to think like Wilbur Smith and go to the lengths of imagining 50 ways to die, like tenant’s brother turns up to repair her car and gets crushed or sets the garage on fire.

Causes of disaster are many, but actual disasters aren’t that numerous — you basically have property damage, property destruction, injury and death. Just the scale differs.

It’s easy to get carried away when it comes to insurances too.

If you’re a painter who paints the odd domestic house, you will find that $1 million worth of liability insurance may be enough. If you paint commercial properties however, that’s a whole other scenario.

In turn, if you’re the owner of the property, make sure that your contractors provide proof that they are compliant with the new health and safety regulations, and insist on evidence of the contractor’s public liability insurance.

There have always been public liability insurance policies available to contractors, such as accidental damage to a property by a tradesman who, for example, spills paint on the carpet. It’s just that many self-employed contractors never use them because they regard them as too expensive and unlikely, so they self insure.

If you’re a property owner, you have responsibility to the people and properties around you. If your house catches fire and burns down the neighbour’s house, you could be held legally liable. However, if you have home building insurance worth its salt, that policy should already include property owner’s liability cover.

For more information, visit

Contents insurance — if it isn’t snapped, it isn’t a cinch

You’ve got contents insurance, so you’re all sorted – right? Well perhaps, and perhaps not. The question is, can you prove that you own the items you have covered in your policy and are Cameraclaiming for?

It’s easy when you have accidental damage, like your mobile phone slipping out of your pocket and into the toilet (a claim far more common than you would think). You still have the phone – unworkable – but it is physically there. However, what happens when a burglar comes into your home and takes your stuff is a bit more complicated.

We recently had somebody break into our house, while  we were asleep. We woke up the next morning to find the front door open and my car gone (with my sunglasses in it). Theft of your car is easy to prove, but my sunglasses would be difficult. You may know they were in the car, but how does the insurance company know for sure that you’re not trying to rip them off for a pair of sunglasses you’ve never owned?

Fortunately I had a photograph of my sunglasses, and a receipt from recent repairs I had done to the lenses. Both items were sufficient proof of ownership — either one alone would suffice.

But, let me ask you, this do you know what type of TV you own? Make and model? Most people won’t know the answer.

You’ll have to know that information if you want to claim for it. At least have a photograph, the TV manual and even the remote that belongs to the television. The insurer will want to know when you bought it, how much it cost, was it new or used and what the replacement value is.

The same applies to items like jewellery and cameras. Ironically, claiming for stolen make-up is a bit easier because every insurer presumes that all women own and use cosmetics, but the same rules do not apply to your lawnmower.

My advice is to e.g. throw all your jewellery on the bed and take a photograph of it. Keep you receipts, repair invoices, warranties and manuals if you can. The easiest thing is to take a photograph and store it in your Gmail or some other safe offsite place – whether you email it to your Insurer/Adviser or save it in Dropbox.

As a footnote to the story of my sunglasses, it was those same sunglasses that were instrumental in catching the person who stole my car (it was classed as a home invasion because he broke in while we were in the house).

The police found my sunglasses in his house and it was enough to bring him to book for the car too. And we got the car back too!

Landlords – how do you protect yourself against the risk of meth labs on your property?

Landlords were no doubt left feeling queasy by recent reports of P (meth) lab raScreen Shot 2016-02-09 at 7.44.50 amids and headlines like ‘soaring cost of meth-tainted housing’, but there are comprehensive steps property owners can take to protect themselves – the answers, however, aren’t simple.

As it stands, depending on your insurer and the exclusions in your policy, you may be protected from meth lab damage to your rental property – at least in so far as your sum insured amount – with the standard property / building insurance and a landlord’s extension. Then again, you might not.

The landlord’s extension to the standard property insurance will usually cover damage that is not deliberate or malicious (bearing in mind that policies differ). Provided
you’ve been able to prove that you have done your utmost to exercise due diligence and caution around protecting your property e.g. regular inspections and or communication with your tenants, your standard policy may protect you from meth damage.

I had a client recently who maintained meticulous records of her rental property inspections – right down to the mileage she travelled – and all her communications with the tenants were on record. As a result, $19,200 of her original claim for $22,000 of meth damage to her rental property was covered. The reason being that it was not an ongoing problem and was deemed to be accidental damage in terms of her policy (and thanks to her conscientiousness).

Her claim included lost rent for the weeks she was unable to rent out the prope
rty, as well as two inspections and decontamination treatments. Damage to the property was mild, by comparison to some and could of course have been a lot worse.

In this case, the level of contamination was higher than acceptable, but not through the roof e.g. the stove had very high levels of contamination, and the tenants were obviously smoking meth in the bedroom. Testing and decontamination was about $15k, because they had to do it twice.

For some extra ‘peace-of-mind’, a landlord can also take out a specific landlord’s cover, but policy conditions and events covered are very specific. This type of policy may include – for example – up to 8 weeks loss of rent if the tenant skips, or $30,000 worth of cover for malicious and deliberate damage (unlike the conventional policy that excludes wilful damage). The cost of this policy averages around the $300 per year mark.

A standard property insurance, together with the landlord’s extension — which makes it clear that the occupants of the property are tenants – plus special landlord insurance against malicious damage (e.g. meth labs), will cover most of your bases and protect you right up to sum insured stipulated on your policy documents.

The important thing however, is to make sure you are making every effort to exercise proper care and maintenance of your property, whether that is hiring a property management company, or keeping an eye on the place yourself. Failure to do so could result in your standard insurance claim being declined – there are specific sections in all policy wordings that say you must do this and it could make things sticky at claim time if you do not.

Illustration Source:

‘Tis the season for petty theft

As we move into November, it’s a timely reminder now to ‘mind your stuff’ – as the weather warms up there will be an increase in petty theft. Minor property damage also rockets up more than 20 per cent over the summer months.

At this time of year, those of us in fire and general insurance in Auckland are bracing for a sharp increase in claims resulting from opportunity theft, as well as losses and damage to personal property as Kiwis move outdoors.

It’s the season for petty theft. More Kiwis are on the beaches, so they leave their mobile phones, sunglasses, handbags – that kind of thing – unattended. Thieves target the beaches in summer because people are relaxed and less vigilant. There are also more vehicle break-ins.

Another problem is that outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, boating and swimming results in broken sunglasses, water damage to mobile phones and people simply forgetting their stuff in the change rooms, for example.

It’s the inconvenience factor of stolen handbags and phones that really gets under the skin for most people. A lot of them discover, belatedly, that their insurance doesn’t cover a lot of these things, or the excess is too high to make it worthwhile claiming against.

Insurance policy limits can also catch a lot of people by surprise.

An example of a sub limit that may apply is that the insurance policy won’t cover you for theft that results outside your main dwelling, for instance, or which makes you pay higher excess.

The fact is though, that losing a $200 pair of sunglasses still hurts. It hurts the back pocket, it causes distress and inconveniences and it hurts even more when you think you’re covered and you discover you’re not – it puts a bit of a damper on the holiday.

Even more aggravating is being unable to prove ownership.

Insurance companies require you to prove ownership. If, for example, you’ve thrown away the box and the receipt, you can still provide a photograph, or Facebook screen shot, of you wearing or using the item. But if you can’t prove ownership you’re in for an uphill battle with the insurance companies.

I’ve had someone submit a TradeMe receipt as proof of ownership, and that was fine,” he said.

Here are some steps to help keep the holiday cheerful:

  • Have proof of ownership handy e.g. a photograph of you wearing your sunglasses or wristwatch
  • Ensure you have the correct cover for your outdoor pursuits, and that the cover meets your expectations e.g. be aware of policy limits, excess and sub-limits
  • If possible, be able to provide proof of value. If your handbag gets stolen, it may be difficult to prove the value of your make-up, for example. In that instance the insurance company will revert to a second-hand value pay-out
  • Lock valuable items in your boot, or out of sight
  • Ensure somebody keeps an eye on your stuff at the beach

These are simple steps you can take to ensure that your holiday is not interrupted by petty theft or the inconvenience of lost or damaged property. They’re little things, but it’s the little things that count.

The Home Owner’s Guide to Fire and General Insurance in New Zealand

Learn how a lot of problems can be avoided with proper planning and a few extra dollars.

Check your email to complete your free claim!