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NZ Kingsland character on the line

Property Here - Wednesday, March 06, 2013

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Kingsland property owner Pam Willis says insurance premiums may reach the point where owners start tearing down commercial buildings.

Ms Willis and business partner Andrew Turpin own four buildings in the vibrant inner-city suburb of Kingsland, including the heritage-listed Pages Building.

Several buildings in the suburb are classified as "earthquake-prone buildings", mostly two-storey Victorian and Edwardian buildings held together by brick and mortar with no reinforcing.

Kingsland Business Society manager Christine Foley said insurance costs were becoming a huge issue with owners of old buildings, which give Kingsland its character and cool factor.

Building owners in Kingsland were reluctant to talk about insurance costs given the sensitivity around the dangers of old buildings in an earthquake. One owner threatened to sue the Herald if it named him or his building.

Ms Willis and Mr Turpin did, however, discuss the rising insurance premiums on their four buildings, but were unsure how much was due to the building risk and general increases arising from the Canterbury earthquakes.

Ms Willis said the insurance premium on one block of 100-year-old shops, which had had an art deco facelift in the 1930s, had increased in the past year from $11,994 to $17,392. Insurance on another building, housing a French restaurant, had gone up from $1854 to $3028 and a wooden villa they had spent more than $300,000 upgrading and strengthening saw an increase from $2896 to $5830.

Mr Turpin said the near doubling of insurance for the wooden villa when it was done up four years ago to around 100 per cent of the building code showed insurers were raising premiums following the Canterbury earthquakes because they could, not because of Auckland's low earthquake risk for old buildings.

Ms Willis said the excess for broken windows had risen to $2500 and rates had gone up. "Kingsland is struggling. These costs are killing businesses. It would be a shame if insurance premiums got to the point where owners started tearing down old buildings."