Family finding it tough after unlicensed teen driver crashed into home

A South Auckland homeowner is outraged that her family is being left to suffer because of the reckless actions of an unlicensed teenage driver who crashed their car into her Flat Bush home.

Jasmine Wang, 44, is a single mother with two children aged 10 and 14, who also is also supporting her 70-year-old mother.

Wang’s home insurance had lapsed and she does not have the estimated $100,000 needed to fix the damage.

Since the crash on October 29 last year, Wang has been using a plastic sheet to cover the damaged part of the house and the family have been living without hot water or gas.

Repeated texts sent by Wang to police, as sighted by the Herald, have not been answered, but police had earlier told her “there is no quick solution here”, with the youth process being underway.

The officer told Wang she would be given a chance “to say how you feel face-to-face to the young person and his family when we have the family group conference”.

On the night of the crash, Wang said they were in the kitchen after dinner around 9.30pm when they heard the “very loud bang”.

“I thought it was an accident on the street, but when I walked out to check, I nearly fainted when I saw a car had crashed into the ground-floor bedroom,” she said.

“Usually we have a tenant staying in that room, it was just lucky that there was no one there at the time. Otherwise someone could be dead.”

Wang’s elderly mother, who did not want to be named, believed it was her strong Buddhist faith that had protected the family lives.

Originally from Chongqing, China, Wang said she was not proficient in English and depended on her 14-year-old daughter for help in dealing with police and the other parties involved.

“When I tried to make an insurance claim, I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t insured because payment had lapsed for two years,” she said.

“I have my mortgage with Westpac, and I had assumed that in order to have a mortgage the house had to be insured. The bank never once told me that I wasn’t insured.”

Wang said she was shocked to learn from police the driver was a 17-year-old with no licence, and as a result of his age, it would be unlikely that he would be made responsible to pay for the damages.

“I asked some builders to estimate the repair cost, and they said because it is structural, there is a need for an engineer’s report and the total amount could be around $100,000,” Wang said.

“I am a single mum and have been supporting my family alone for the last 10 years, I don’t have that kind of money.”

Wang said the plastic sheet over the broken wall had served its purpose over the summer months, but is worried about when the season changes.

“Even the last week of rain has been tough, and I am worried about when winter comes. How can I keep the family warm?” she said.

“I also haven’t been sleeping very well because I worry about security. With just a plastic sheet, anyone can just walk into our home and I don’t feel safe.”

Without gas, Wang said they had to use the kettle to boil water for the baths and depended on electric cookers and the microwave oven for cooking.

“We have suffered too much in the last three months, and there doesn’t seem to be any solution coming. I feel it is so unfair that we have to suffer because of the sins of others,” she said.

“I tried many times to talk to our insurance company asking if I could make up the lapsed payment to revive the policy, but they wouldn’t make any compromise. I don’t understand the New Zealand system well, and I’m so lost about what to do.”

An AMI spokeswoman said Wang took out a home policy with the company in January 2018, which was due to renew on January 31 the following year.

“Renewal documents and a request for payment was sent to Ms Wang on January 3, 2019 advising that her policy was due to renew on January 31, 2019 and that her premium was due for payment on the same date,” she said.

“No payment was received by the due date, so a final notice was sent to Ms Wang on February 10, 2019 advising her that as we had not received her renewal payment for the policy, she was no longer covered.”

The spokeswoman said the notice made it clear that Wang was not insured given her non-payment.

A Westpac NZ spokesman said the bank did not provide insurance for Wang, and this was arranged independently through another insurance company.

“We empathise with this customer’s situation,” he said.

“Customers are required to have insurance when obtaining a home loan and are obliged to maintain the insurance, as a means to protect themselves in the case of damage to the property.”

He said this responsibility lies wholly with the customer and it is their insurer’s responsibility to notify them – not the bank’s.

“This is the standard approach taken across the industry,” he said.

A police spokesman said an 18-year-old has been referred through the Youth Aid process for driving offences following this incident.

“Police are working to support the homeowner to achieve reparations through the resolutions process, which will take place in due course,” he said.

“While police recognise the homeowner’s situation is less than ideal, ultimately it is a homeowner’s responsibility to ensure their home is secure and that they have the appropriate insurances.”

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