Engineers are engaged by insurers and homeowners to assess how a property has been damaged. They also assess how that damage can be reinstated to the standard required by the insurance policy.
What’s the engineer’s role?
The engineer’s role is to objectively assess how the property has been damaged and how it can be reinstated to the standard required by the insurance policy. It’s not the engineer’s role to interpret the insurance policy.
This means that engineers need to act without bias. Engineers are not advocates for their clients. Their role is to make sure that their client receives technically accurate advice, regardless of whether that advice aligns with their client’s interests or opinion.
How do I find an engineer?
We recommend you engage a Chartered Professional Engineer or a Chartered Member of Engineering New Zealand with experience in residential damage assessments related to the natural disaster you have experienced. Chartered Professional Engineers and Chartered Members of Engineering New Zealand are competence-assessed professionals who are bound to comply with the Code of Ethical Conduct and undertake continuing professional development.
Read the Code of Ethical Conduct
The type of engineer you will need to engage will depend on what you want them to look at. Usually a geotechnical or structural engineer will be needed to assess damage resulting from natural disasters. Talk to your engineer about whether they have the right competencies to carry out the assessment you need.
Use our template engagement letters
When you engage an engineer, it’s really important to be clear about what you're asking the engineer to do and the reinstatement standard in your insurance policy. We recommend using an engagement letter that sets this all out in writing after you've had your initial discussions with the engineer.
Using an engagement letter makes sure everyone has the same understanding of the engineer’s role and what they have been asked to do.
Engineering New Zealand has developed the following template engagement letters:
This template was developed for use after the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, in consultation with insurers and homeowners. It gives you a framework for engaging an engineer to assess and report on earthquake damage and reinstatement, with diﬀerent options for the reinstatement standard. It remains relevant for use after all earthquakes.
Download the post-earthquake engagement letter | 47.0 KB
Structural assessments after all other natural disasters
This template has been developed in 2023 by Engineering New Zealand for use after all non-earthquake natural disasters. It's still subject to review by insurer and homeowner representatives and may be amended as a result.
Download the structural assessment engagement letter | 59.3 KB
Geotechnical assessments after all natural disasters
This template has been developed in 2023 by Engineering New Zealand for use after all natural disasters. It's still subject to review by insurer and homeowner representatives and may be amended as a result.
Download the geotechnical assessment engagement letter | 56.3 KB
What happens after I engage an engineer?
When you engage an engineer, you can expect them to discuss with you what their role is and what you can expect from them. They should ask you about your property and how it changed through the natural disaster.
You should give the engineer any information you have about the condition of your property before the natural disaster and how it was affected by the natural disaster. This includes your experiences and any other evidence that you have; for example, photos. The engineer will also need to see any other reports you have about the property and how the natural disaster affected it. For example, if you are engaging a structural engineer, show them any reports from a geotechnical engineer, surveying reports, aerial photographs, and Cavity Critter footage of your underfloor area. The engineer should also look at a copy of your property file from the Council.
The engineer will visit and visually inspect your home. You should ask that the engineer who will be signing off the report to attend that site visit. They’ll be looking at how your home has changed because of the natural disaster. For example, they might need to lift carpet, go into the ceiling space, and measure walls and ceilings.
After their visit, the engineer will write you a report outlining their opinion on what damage your home has suffered and how it can be reinstated to meet the standard set out in your insurance policy. Engineering New Zealand’s report framework has been developed for assessment of earthquake damage, however it's a good guide for what a report should cover for all natural disaster damage assessments. You can ask your engineer to set out their report using this framework, or adapting this for the natural disaster you have experienced. Engineering New Zealand is updating the framework for all natural disasters. This will be available soon.
See our report framework | 226.3 KB
What happens if my engineer’s report is different from the insurer’s engineering report?
This type of engineering assessment is not straightforward. Engineers need to make assumptions about what the property was like before the natural disaster and how it has changed. This requires professional judgement. Sometimes it’s reasonable for engineers to disagree.
If your engineer has a different view from the insurer’s engineer, you can talk to the NZCRS about what to do next, and whether our facilitation service might be an option for you.
What do I do if I’m concerned an engineer hasn’t acted professionally or competently?
Engineering New Zealand has a fair and robust complaints process. Get in touch with us, and we’ll talk with you about your options for resolving your concerns.