April nearly over already! Soon we will be half way through the year and thinking about Christmas. Work is moving along at a steady pace, the main legal topics being Employment, Family, Civil and Immigration.
Last month Consumer.org.nz launched a campaign in New Zealand targeting “sneaky fees”. These fees in question but not limited to are often called ‘booking’ or ‘service’ fees. The fees are added just before payment which is misleading to the consumer as the fees are not included in the advertised price.
Consumer are calling for all-inclusive pricing rules to make companies disclose the full purchase price upfront and have started a petition to get the law changed.
More information about the campaign, and the petition can be found at;
Recently Community Law Marlborough has had the privilege of hosting JohnGoddard from Morrison Kent a Wellington law firm, to deliver a couple of seminars on "How to Navigate Earthquake Claims". John is an expert in this area, having worked as the supervising solicitor for the Residential Advisory Service (RAS) in Christchurch. This service was established in response to the Christchurch quakes of 2010/11 but will not be available to assist claimants from the November 2016 earthquake (the Kaikoura earthquake).
The fact sheet below sets out the main points of John's presentation.
Ensure you have a copy of your insurance policy wording that was in place at the time of the earthquake.
You can request your file from your Insurance Company (Privacy Act) and information from EQC under the Official Information Act (OIA).
You can assemble your own team of experts for example geotechnical engineers (how the land will support buildings), structural engineers, builders, architects, quantity surveyors (who estimate building costs) and other professionals as required.
Once you have chosen the people for your "team", check with your insurance company to make sure that they will accept the opinion of the experts you have engaged. If they do not, ask them for a list of people whom they will accept reports and expert advice from.
These earthquake claims may be more complex now because of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which enables insurers to settle claims on behalf of EQC.
Minimum standards for Insurers are contained in the Fair Insurance Code 2016.
Engineers work to a brief. Ensure the brief you give your engineer results in earthquake repairs meeting the correct standard of repair.
Ensure scopes of works are accurate and contain sufficient detail.
Professional fees form part of the insurance claim; while there may be an upfront fee to pay, these costs should be reimbursed later.
Before applying for a building consent, you may be able to request a pre-application meeting with the council. There may be a fee for this. It could also help to apply for a Project Information Memorandum to streamline any building consent applications.
If you have had work done as part of your claim, and engaged and paid for the services of trades people, the insurance company has an obligation to settle that part of your claim (ie where the damage has been quantified).
Settling an earthquake insurance claim involves participating in a commercial negotiation.
Claimants are encouraged to prepare themselves to take part in negotiations.
There may be some elements of earthquake claims that are appropriate for resolution through Disputes Tribunal (small claims court).
From 1st April 2017, amendments made to the Employment Relations Act last year will come into effect;
where the employer and employee agree to a set number of hours, they will be required to state those hours in the employment agreement, if agreed hours are not included in the employment agreement the employee may apply to the ERA for a penalty against the employer;
reasonable notice must be given to employees where shifts are cancelled, if not the employee is entitled to compensation;
loosening up of the restrictions on employees gaining secondary employment; and
preventing employers making unreasonable deductions from employees' wages
the employer must consult with the employee for each specific deduction (baring deductions for Kiwi saver, student loans and the like)
employers will not be able to require employees to be available to work for more than the agreed hours without having genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds
if employees are required to be available for work for more than the hours agreed, employers will have to pay reasonable compensation for those hours the employee is required to be available.
If you require any further information or would like to discuss any issues you have, please call or come into the office and see a Caseworker.