Is your rental property really insured if it's contaminated with P?

Landlords be warned - you could be exposed to a huge loss on your rental property, even if you've taken out insurance.

Fair Go has been investigating insurance claims for meth damage.

The good news is that most of the big insurers now offer standard terms that explicitly cover 'chemical contamination' or something similar. It's usually capped at $30,000 and may come with an excess, but is still some comfort.

The bad news is that it may not yet be in effect -  especially if you are insured by Tower.

"We just wanted to give people a place to live. We're left out in the cold," said Nigel Roy, first-time landlord.

Fair Go is highlighting the case of three friends who went in together to buy a rental, suffered meth contamination and have so far been declined cover for the tens of thousands of dollars this has cost them.

"It's been heart breaking to have to go through that process," said Katherine Pierce.

The house is in an upmarket part of Christchurch close to a good school. 

A solo mum took the lease on Christmas Eve last year. The owners say they were keen and caring, but careful too.

"I think we did everything as landlords and more. We inspected this house every month, regular contact," said co-owner Diana Conner.

"It's not like we left it for three months and came back and went 'oh my goodness'."

Insurers recommend three-monthly inspections, but even being much more diligent, the trio never noticed any trace of drug use going on under their roof.

"There were no holes kicked in the wall or doors off or anything," said Nigel Roy, who was happy four children had a roof over their heads for Christmas.

The tenant left after four months, when armed police raided the house at Easter and charged a 34-year-old woman with possessing cannabis.

The owners had the property checked and sure enough it now had a positive meth reading that required a costly clean-up under new rules established this year.

Tower told them this wasn't covered -  their policy was for sudden events and this was case of gradual damage - like mildew, mould or a leaky pipe.

"Whether it was a one-off party, I guess we're never going to know that," Nigel Roy said.

Tower had hired a private investigator. He couldn’t track down the tenant, but he did interview the three co-owners, separately and at length.

He learned they'd checked one of the woman's references and it was good -  but Tower said: "The tenants who caused this contamination were evicted from their prior rental due to unpaid rent. Subsequent testing of that property showed that the tenants had contaminated it with meth. We understand that the prior landlord was not contacted for a rental reference. This important point should be made in your story."

Yes, it is important to check for yourself. That includes statements by insurance companies.  Fair Go followed up and found a very different story.

The former landlord said he couldn't recall anyone ringing for a reference check just before Christmas but it had been a tough time. 

The meth damage at his place wasn't discovered until months later, this year, well after any check would have happened - so he would have known nothing at the time.

He also told Fair Go the tenant was family, so in any case he would have given her a glowing reference to help his grandchildren into a home.

Tower also claimed that the property meth readings were consistent with habitual smoking and cited a 2008 academic paper to back that up.

The landlords say they're in an impossible position of having to prove it all happened suddenly.

"We've just been hung out to dry through a little bit, that's what we feel," says Nigel Roy.

Nigel found one more cruel twist to their tale.

The same day he was advising Tower of the meth test, Tower was writing to him to say it would be making next year's premium cheaper and granting them that meth damage cover we mentioned at the start of this story.

Just not for another four weeks.

Therefore, no help in this claim.

Nigel Roy wants to know when Tower decided to start offering that meth clause and how many others might be still on an old policy wording and exposed to a $30,000 loss like theirs.

Tower wouldn't say, but told Fair Go: "This case is a timely reminder that landlords need to conduct thorough background checks on their tenants, or engage the services of a reputable property manager."

A spokesperson pointed out Tower's decision to decline the claim had been upheld by mediation through the Insurance Ombudsman scheme.

"The customer paid for a one year insurance contract and this is the policy that the customer claimed against."

Fair Go urges anyone with concerns to contact their insurer and discuss a review of their policy. It may even worth shopping around and considering your options.

Tower announced an $8 million annual loss on November 14, following claims from weather damage and the Kaikoura earthquake.

Tower chief executive Richard Harding reassured the markets with the news: "We've had to work hard to keep claims costs flat."

Harding told analysts and investors at the results briefing the "positive" result on keeping the cost of insurance pay outs low was thanks in part to a "disciplined approach" and to "capping meth benefits", to avoiding paying out more than necessary.

Tower is seeking $70.8 million from investors to improve its IT systems after a merger with rival Vero/Suncorp failed to clear the Commerce Commission this year.

Fair Go has been investigating insurance claims for meth damage. Source: Fair Go

South Auckland charity The Aunties takes home top Women of Influence Award

The founder of a South Auckland charity group dubbed The Aunties has won the top honour at the Women of Influence Awards.

Jackie Clark set up the not-for-profit organisation six years ago to help vulnerable women and children who've experienced domestic violence.

The group's primary aim is to provide material needs to those they support.

"The Aunties believe everyone has the right to be safe, to have shelter, to be fed, to be loved, to dream, to read, to write, to have their say, and to be heard," the group proclaims on its Givealittle page. "Where any of those things are missing, the Aunties mission is to help provide them - the practical things, and also in terms of advocacy and pastoral care."

The group says it believes in manaakitanga - protecting the mana of the people they help so that they can find their way towards living independently, and with dignity and joy.

"Jackie and her fellow Aunties give without seeking anything in return and without judgement," said Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean, whose company co-sponsors the Women of Influence Awards. "She, and her core of other Aunties, ask vulnerable women what they need and then set about making it happen, in a completely selfless way.

"They have made an enormous contribution to our local communities at grassroots level."

The award ceremony was held last night at SkyCity in Auckland.

Here's the full list of winners:
Supreme Winner: Jackie Clark
Lifetime Achievement: Theresa Gattung
Arts and Culture: Miranda Harcourt
Board and Management: Dr Farah Palmer
Business and Enterprise: Angie Judge
Rural: Rebecca Keoghan
Public Policy: Charlotte Korte
Community/Not for Profit: Jackie Clark
Innovation and Science: Professor Wendy Larner
Diversity: Sarah Lang
Global: Sarah Vrede
Young Leader: Maddison McQueen-Davies

Jackie Clark set up the non-for-profit six years ago, which aims to help vulnerable women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Source: Breakfast


Eleven Glenorchy homes still without power 48 hours after early spring snowfall

Some resident in Central Otago's Glenorchy are still without power 48 hours after a spring snowfall caused major disruptions in the deep south.

Eleven properties remains with power this morning.

Aurora Energy is hoping to have power restored to the area by this evening.

Around 360 households in the central Otago town are affected, with Aurora Energy hoping to have electricity back on by this evening. Source: Breakfast

In many places power was cut, schools were closed and flights cancelled. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: Artist uses pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy around town

A Kiwi artist are architect is using a pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask people what makes them smile, but instead of rolling up to you on the street he's built a pyramid to help lighten people's moods.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp's Lucas de Jong went along to take a look and share a laugh in the video above.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask Kiwis what makes them smile. Source: Seven Sharp

Meet the transgender Wellington school caretaker brightening up kids' days

A transgender caretaker at a Wellington school has been using her musical talents to brighten up the kids' days.

Molly Mason was born as Michael, but soon discovered she was a female born in a man's body.

"I believe I'm a woman, and I associate as a woman, so I live my life as a woman," Molly told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Molly has a love of music that began when she was just six.

Now, in her role as caretaker at a Wellington school, she uses her talent to good effect by beat boxing with the kids at lunchtime.

"When I realised that beat boxing and making sounds was something I couldn't live without, that was it, nothing else mattered."

However, to be this woman - that little boy Michael, had a fight on his hands.

"I got bullied from primary school right through until the day I left college and left Blenheim."

Molly is now proud to be transgender and says the stage is her safe place. She performs as her drag alter ego called Bette Noir.

"Anything that makes me sad, makes me worried, makes me scared, anything that I find stressful, it's not there, it's gone." 

Seven Sharp’s Arrun Soma spoke with Molly Mason. Source: Seven Sharp