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  • Big bill hits fire family

    Big bill hits fire family
    By BELINDA FEEK - Waikato Times Last updated 13:00 15/07/2010

    Waikato Times
    LIABLE FOR DAMAGES?: Piopio mother Toni Mita, 20, with children, Ryda, 1, and Layken-Leigh Mita-Ngauru, 4, outside their home which burnt down after an accidental fire in May. Miss Mita and her partner, Ngatoa Ngauru, now face damages of $200,000. A Piopio family who lost all their belongings in a May house fire have been slapped with a $200,000 insurance bill.
    Toni Mita, 20, and Ngatoa Ngauru, 24, were not insured at the time of the fire as they were in the middle of changing insurance companies after moving into the rental three weeks earlier.
    Ms Mita said they were still reeling from the fire, but their lives turned into a nightmare last week when they received a letter from her landlord's insurance company, AMI, stating it held them responsible and wanted them to pay for the gutted house.
    "My partner is worse than me at the moment," Miss Mita said yesterday.
    "He can't sleep at all. He's spewing, he's crying. I think he's going to have a nervous breakdown very shortly."
    The Insurance Council of New Zealand said insurance companies were entitled to recover their costs – but were also able to use their discretion.
    Ms Mita said the company had told her they were responsible for paying the $200,000 replacement cost of the house.
    "I asked them the reason why and they said `because you had your two children in the house they're held responsible for the fire'."
    The fire, which was ruled accidental by fire investigators, began after a clothes airer collapsed on to a pot belly fire.
    Ms Mita said her children were in bed at the time and could not have been responsible for what she considered an accident.
    "Things like this happen, accidents happen and we feel blamed now. We feel responsible like they're making us feel like we went and poured petrol on their house and set it on fire or something."
    Miss Mita was to visit Hamilton today to seek legal advice but in repsonse to Times inquiries AMI Christchurch-based manager products John McSweeney this morning said its Te Awamutu branch had "jumped the gun on this one" and would review its stance about suing for damages.
    "Now that myself and head office is aware of what's happened and where everything is ... we have put on the brakes."
    However, he stopped short of cancelling action all together.
    Insurance council spokesman Terry Jordan said there was only one thing for tenants to learn from this scenario – get contents insurance.
    "I think the message is tenants need to be responsbile for their actions and need to get contents insurance ... everyone who's flatting and renting should have it."
    AMI was perfectly entitled to recoup its costs from the party deemed at fault through what is known as "subregation".
    However, AMI could use its discretion and companies were usually open to negotiation.
    "It's sort of a case-by-case basis really. Insurers look at the circumstances of each case, especially people renting.
    "If they don't have contents insurance then they're not covered for damage they cause. But people renting don't generally have the deposit for a house."
    A worst-case scenario was for tenants to file for bankruptcy.
    "But I'm not sure if that's really in anyone's interests.
    "AMI are perfectly entitled to take the action they're taking ... it's probably an opening shot from AMI on the issue.
    "AMI will be looking to recover the whole lot or looking at their personal circumstances to see what they can recover. But obviously you don't demand $200,000 from someone lightly."
    - Because Toni Mita and her family had no contents insurance when their rented house burned down they have been left with the bill.
    - Although their landlord had insured the house and will get paid out, insurance company AMI is looking at recouping $200,000 from the family.
    - The Insurance of Council of New Zealand says AMI is perfectly entitled to recoup its costs from a tenant who it deems responsible for a fire and who does not have contents insurance.
    - Basic contents insurance costs roughly $180 a year, or $3.50 a week and includes liability cover which protects tenants for accidents including fire.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx

  • #2
    This is likely to turn out being a silly question.

    But what has contents insurance got to do with the house burning down.

    Unless you had built it inside an even bigger house.


    • #3
      I heard somewhere recently that a tenants contents insurance will cover the tenant in this situation, and landlords should be encouraging tenants to get it for that reason.


      • #4
        Normal contents insurance includes a liability amount.

        If, for example, a home owner, rather than a tenant, causes the neighbour's house to burn down, there is some cover.


        • #5
          yes it's the public liability cover that is crucial in this instance.
          sometimes having a life insurance policy provides that too.
          so pays to check whether tenants have any form of insurance.


          • #6
            Couple wait on house insurance decision
            By BELINDA FEEK - Waikato Times Last updated 09:52 16/07/2010
            A Piopio family slapped with a $200,000 insurance bill after their rented home burnt down were pleased to hear the insurance company is reviewing its decision, but feel they should not have to pay.
            Toni Mita, 20, and Ngatoa Ngauru, 24, were changing insurance companies when the Moa St house they were renting burnt down on May 27.
            The couple, who have two children aged one and four, lost all their belongings and have been living in a spare room at Miss Mita's mother's Piopio house.
            Their landlord's insurance company, AMI, sent the couple a letter demanding $200,000 for the market value of the house as "the information given to us shows you were responsible for the damage caused". The fire was started after a clothes airer fell onto a pot belly fire.
            Miss Mita, who yesterday was seeking legal advice and sorting health matters, said the fire was an accident and the couple did not known how they would find $200,000.
            Yesterday morning, AMI's Christchurch-based head office manager products John McSweeney announced AMI would review the decision made by its Te Awamutu branch. The review would take about a week.
            "On my preliminary review of the circumstances of the fire, it was premature of AMI to definitively assume the negligence of the occupiers and demand the estimated house reinstatement cost of $200,000," he said.
            "All of the circumstances and information obtained so far will be reconsidered by AMI Head Office before a final decision is made regarding pursuit of the repair costs."
            The Insurance Council of New Zealand says tenants should invest in contents insurance which includes liability cover that protects tenants from liability for fire or any other property damage.

            "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx


            • #7
              Huge fire bill waived

              By BELINDA FEEK - Waikato Times Last updated 13:00 21/07/2010

              A Piopio family say they are relieved to hear that AMI Insurance has decided not to pursue them for $200,000 in costs after their rented house burnt down in May.
              Toni Mita, 20, and Ngatoa Ngauru, 24, lost all their belongings in the blaze and two weeks ago were slapped with a $200,000 bill by their landlord's insurance company, AMI, because they did not have contents insurance and its associated liability cover, meaning the company could recoup its loss from them.
              The damages threat only heightened the couple's already tumultuous life.
              Their health spiralled downhill and Mr Ngauru could not concentrate on his shearing job.
              They were in the middle of changing insurance companies when the fire happened.
              But Miss Mita was yesterday ecstatic after a phone call from John McSweeney of AMI's head office in Christchurch saying the company would not be seeking the money.
              "I can't believe it and all thanks to a newspaper article. It's taken a lot of weight off my shoulders and now we can carry on," Miss Mita said.
              Mr McSweeney said they had identified the cause of the fire as Mr Ngauru's leaving a clothes-drying rack too close to the potbelly log burner.
              "It is clear that Mr Ngauru did not appreciate the risk, and his responsibility, to place the clothes rack far enough away from the log burner so that it could not cause a fire ... (however) AMI has been in touch with Mr Ngauru and Ms Mita and told them we will not be seeking reimbursement for the fire damage costs."
              He urged tenants to take out contents insurance – which costs from $3.50 a week – which includes liability cover for any damage caused to property.
              Miss Mita and Mr Ngauru are now looking for a three-bedroom house to rent in Te Kuiti.
              The pair decided to move after Miss Mita this week began a rural technology course through Wintec and it was closer to Mr Ngauru's shearing work.
              However, despite generous donations from residents of Piopio, Te Kuiti and Hamilton, the couple still needed items – particularly appliances – to furnish a home once they found one.
              "And this time we'll look for one with a heat pump – not a fire," Miss Mita said.
              To donate items or get in touch with Miss Mita email:[email protected]

              "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx