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Fair Go: Insurance company sees light of day over Dunedin family’s cracking home

It's an exciting time for Ronnie and Heidi Proctor of Dunedin. After over a year of stress, they've received a payout from their insurance company for a full rebuild of their house that's been cracking from top to bottom. But it didn't come without a fight.

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It’s been a year since the Proctor family turned to Fair Go for help. Source: Fair Go

Fair Go first met the Proctors in July 2019. Six months earlier, they'd noticed cracks appear in their house, both inside and outside.

They say the appearance of the cracks coincided with the next door neighbour digging a huge hole in his property to build a mancave.

The neighbour had a different opinion about the cause.

"He says he's done nothing wrong and that it's to do with our spouting, he's dug himself a really big hole and that's what the problem is," Heidi said.

The project next door had no building consent, and was all being done by the neighbour singlehandedly.

Still, at first, the Proctors weren't overly worried as they had a full insurance plan with AMI that included all the extras.

But it turned out a claim wouldn't be simple.

First, AMI told them that if they made a claim then their policy would be cancelled. As Ronnie explains "the way companies are going now no-one would insure us after that, and we need to have insurance for our mortgage".

AMI also estimated that a pay-out would be around $40,000 for a fix-up but that they couldn't pay this until the neighbour had stabilised the land by building a consented retaining wall.

The first problem was quickly fixed. After Fair Go became involved, AMI changed their minds about cancelling the Proctors policy, which gave the family peace of mind.

But the second problem of having to wait before fixing their house to make it safe was more of a slow burn. In fact, it was hard to see an end in sight.

The reason is that Dunedin City Council had given the neighbour a year to build the retaining wall, a timeframe that they then extended. The council argued that if the neighbour installed a container in the meantime, then that would be enough to make the Proctors house safe to live in.

The Proctors didn't feel safe at all, but after several weeks of squeezing in with their parents-in-law with their three children, two dogs, two birds and some goldfish in tow, they felt they had no option other than moving back home. They felt constantly stressed.

However, during this time, AMI sent in more engineers, loss adjusters, building consultants and surveyors. The insurance company says this is part of their comprehensive assessment programme.

Heidi believes it's because she and Ronnie kept hounding them, and that they had the backing of Fair Go, adding, "I think that made them take us seriously."

Either way, after 18 months of stress, it resulted in a revised offer to cover the cost of a full rebuild. At which point, Heidi says she "burst into tears, feeling like it was the end of a very long road".

The pay-out is more than they could have hoped for, and what's more, it's been paid out now, with no need to wait for their neighbour to finish his wall. Which is a good thing, because with seven weeks to go, it's still nowhere near finished.

The Proctors have a choice of what to do with their money, and it's probably not that surprising to hear that rather than rebuild, the family have decided to spend the money on a move. A new house, in a new place, and best of all, new neighbours.