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Canterbury earthquake drainage claims

Earthquake damage to drains can take several years to become obvious. If you have expert advice or evidence that your drains have been damaged because of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence, you can ask to reopen your claim. To do this, you need to have a prior EQCover claim or have been assigned the claim for a property you’ve purchased.

The information provided on this webpage is specific to the Canterbury earthquake sequence events and is in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Earthquake Commission Act 1993 (EQC Act), which was current at the time.

Why you should repair your drains

If not repaired, a damaged drain could contaminate your property over time. This is why fixing drainage damage is a priority.

Although damage may not be visible above ground, there may be unseen damage that could result in future blockages and environmental issues. Any future cost incurred by lack of action on current damage could cost you in the future.

Homeowners are responsible for the drains on the property up to the property boundary, and the Council is responsible for the drain from the property boundary to the sewer main on the public road.

Indicators of earthquake damage to drains

While each claim is considered on a case-by-case basis, there are some common indicators for earthquake damage:

  • lateral or vertical displacement of pipes and joins – forms of damage that may be considered as earthquake-damaged breakages in pipes are defined as cracks along or around the pipes, and split ruptures failure
  • crushing damage to pipes
  • fracture damage to pipes and joins (identifiable as ‘new’ damage)
  • blockage of pipes due to earthquake damage, these can occur where there is liquefaction within pipes. 

Earthquake damage is not consistent with:

  • wear and tear damage
  • gradual deterioration of pipes and joins
  • settlement or subsidence damage (unless clearly caused by earthquake-related land movements)
  • historical tree root damage.

Making a drainage claim

All drainage repairs should be carried out by a registered drainlayer (drainlayer).

Although damage may not be visible above ground, there may be unseen damage that could result in future blockages and environmental issues. Any future cost incurred by lack of action on current damage could cost you in the future.

You may already have a preferred drainage contractor that you want to work with, but if you don’t, the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board (PGDB) website has a list of registered professionals.

Their website also features PGDB’s Drainlayers Guide [PDF, 2.6 MB] – a helpful tool to ensure you have confidence in the service you are requesting and receiving – and their advice for hiring a contractor

To assess your claim, we rely on the information provided by your drainlayer who takes a video recording from inside your drains to identify any earthquake damage.

If found, your drainlayer must provide a report and recommended repair strategy for any earthquake damage.

We review the information they provide to make sure it’s a legal and appropriate repair strategy and the costs are fair and reasonable.

You’ll need to pay the inspection and report costs. If earthquake damage is confirmed, we’ll reimburse the fair and reasonable costs of obtaining the report, in accordance with the EQC Act.

We have templates that outline the information we need to see on the drainage diagnostic assessments for your property.

We’ll accept these assessments in different formats, however it’s important the information we require (which is listed on the templates) is included in any assessment reports to prevent any delays in progressing your claim.

Standard Drains – Instructions and Forms [XLSX, 94 KB]

Shared Drains – Instructions and Forms [XLSX, 94 KB]

Drainage Assessment Report – Template [DOCX, 34 KB]

Sometimes repairs can be a little more complicated than first thought. If your drainlayer identifies extra costs during the repair of your drains, they’ll need to submit a variation request. There’s a Drainage Variation Request Form – Online Lodgement to make this process easier, however as long as the request contains the same information contained in the form, it can be submitted to your claim manager.

Once we’ve accepted your property has earthquake-damaged drains and the proposed repair costs are fair and reasonable, we’ll confirm this in writing to you. You can then arrange for your drainlayer to repair your drains. Once we receive notification of the completed repairs from you, along with the drainlayer’s invoice, we’ll pay you within 7 working days. 

We recommend drains are repaired as soon as possible, to ensure your property’s Land Information Memorandum (LIM) is updated to accurately reflect the condition of the drainage system on your property.

If further damage is discovered after the repairs have started, please contact us immediately.

If it’s found the additional damage was caused by an earthquake or needs to be reinstated as part of the earthquake repairs, an additional payment may be available to cover additional costs in accordance with the EQC Act. We will confirm this in writing.

A claim will not be accepted if:

  • the property was not at least 50% residential
  • the property did not have the appropriate insurance
  • the damage was not earthquake-related
  • the lateral damage is greater than 60 metres in a horizontal line, from the dwelling.

If you’ve already had the work completed by a private contractor and paid them, we may reimburse you to the extent liable under the EQC Act. It must be proved the damage was caused by an earthquake.

If an area on your property needs to be dug up for repairs to earthquake-damaged drains to proceed, we may pay for the land to be reinstated, in line with the EQC Act.

If your earthquake-damaged drains are repaired, and then damaged again in another earthquake event we would cover them again to the extent liable under the legislation at the time. You would need to lodge a claim for new damage.

Earthquake-damaged drains come under EQCover for dwelling damage. Any land damage cover is dealt with separately. If the repair cost for your drains pushes your claim over cap, we will work with you and your insurer to find the best solution.

However, if the damage exceeds our liability cap and you have already received a full and final settlement by your insurer, you will need to reach out to them again to find a solution.

You can still make a claim for drainage even if you weren’t the property owner at the time of the earthquakes, providing you have been assigned the benefit of claim by the previous owner.

The documentation that is commonly used for this is a Deed of Assignment, but any legal document can be used if it is clear about what has been assigned.

If you purchased your property 'as is, where is' post-earthquake, you are still required to fix any drainage damage, as failing to repair damaged drains could affect future insurance cover for a property.

If you have shared drains, any damage could affect your neighbour’s drains. If left unrepaired, over time, your neighbour’s property could become contaminated. The same applies if your neighbour’s drains are damaged.

If you share a damaged drain with your neighbour, calculations are based on an overall cost to repair the entire shared drain. The cost is then allocated to each property based on the one, or more, section(s) of the shared drain each property uses.

Your repair does not have to be completed at the same time as your neighbour if that’s what you and your neighbour decide. However, it may be easier to use one contractor to complete all the repairs in one go.

In cases where your neighbour’s property is over cap and their drainage claim is with their insurance company, their contribution may come from their private insurer.

If your neighbour was not insured, they would need to fund any contribution they have to make towards the cost of repairing the shared drain themselves.

If they refuse to repair their section of the shared drain and you are unable to come to an agreement on how to proceed, we recommend you seek independent professional advice.