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Wellington renters struggle to get contents insurance

One of the country’s biggest insurers is limiting the amount of contents insurance policies it approves in Wellington, leaving renters trying to find coverage elsewhere.

IAG, the parent company of insurance brands AMI and State, has changed its policy and now will take on no new customers in the Wellington area.

But some Wellingtonians have been struggling to get insurance since last year and are having to consider more expensive means to get coverage, or simply go without.

Having heard of cases of renters turned down by AMI and State, RNZ made inquiries to their parent company IAG to find out why.

In a statement the company denied it was simply turning away prospective new customers wanting contents insurance.

“With regards to Wellington, we are still considering each insurance application on a case-by-case basis. We continue to be cautious and selective in our underwriting approach in Wellington.”

But when RNZ called AMI and State posing as a customer wanting a quote for contents insurance, to confirm the information from IAG was true, we were instead told unless we were a pre-existing or prior customer we could not take out a policy for contents insurance.

After approaching IAG again for clarification, they said in the wake of the damage caused by the Kaikōura earthquake, Wellington remains a high risk area.

“IAG continues to take a conservative approach in Wellington, although some applications for contents cover in that area are still being approved.

“We remain committed to providing cover in Wellington and across New Zealand.”

This latest policy has been in place since Monday last week, but Wellington renter Ruby Rowe said she had been unable to get insurance since moving into a second floor apartment in Central Wellington almost a year ago.

“I called up State first and they said they aren’t insuring that particular type of property at the moment, I said ‘is that because of the Kaikōura earthquake?’ and they denied that, but said they weren’t insuring this type of building without elaborating any further, so that was quite frustrating,” she said.

Ms Rowe then tried AA with no luck and then AMI, which insured the previous tenant, but again could not get any insurance cover.

Her flatmate got coverage through a private broker, but Ms Rowe said that’s simply not affordable for her.

She said the whole experience has been a nightmare, especially as she had been previously insured by State.

“When I was living in Dunedin all of my premiums went down, because I didn’t make any claims and I’ve paid a lot of money to them over the years, then I come up here and it’s like that loyalty is completely one-sided,” she said.

RNZ also called AA, which is not under IAG, and RNZ was able to get a quote for coverage.

Renters United’s Robert Whitaker said many people won’t have even considered insurance coverage before signing a lease.

“The situation in Wellington is so bad at the moment trying to find a place, thinking about whether or not somewhere may get insurance is probably quite far down a renter’s priority list,” he said.

RNZ