Questions Of Cash: 'My flood-damaged house is still not repaired'

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The Independent Online

Q. My home was severely damaged in the Cumbrian floods in November. No repair work has started and my child and I are still living in rented accommodation. My insurer, Tesco, commissioned a report on the state of my property, then rejected it and commissioned a second. The first report said a water channel had been cut beneath my home: the second says there is no evidence of this and the insurer refuses to investigate further. I have been told the insurer will pay only for repairs to damage that can be seen and, even if it could be seen, I could not prove it had been caused by the flood. Despite their argument, water entered my property again in February. Before November, I had a 17th-century farmhouse that did not flood and was not a flood risk. All I want is my home reinstated to the condition it was in before. AT, Cumbria.

A. A further structural report, commissioned after we called Tesco, has now been examined by the insurance underwriter. A previous report by a structural engineer found no external damage that will give rise to repeat flooding; the latest report has confirmed this. To support its view that the house is not at increased risk of future flooding – and that the original flooding was the result of severe meteorological events that are unlikely to recur – Tesco is willing to continue insuring your property. It accepts that delays in carrying out repairs were caused by the processing of the claim and obtaining the various reports. It has apologised for this and given you £1,000 in compensation. It says it has put in place measures to ensure there are no further delays in fully repairing your property.

Q. I booked a holiday with Goldtrail, which has gone broke. I then booked a replacement flight through the same travel agency, Flights & Packages in London. Its representative said that if we paid £299 each for the four of us, instead of cancelling all of the holiday, he would send us paperwork to claim a refund from the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) for the flight, while the accommodation booking would stand. I did this, but I have not received new paperwork or a receipt for the money I paid by credit card. I am worried. SM, Gwynedd.

A. You are understandably nervous about after the Goldtrail collapse. But Flights & Packages makes the reasonable point that you are not scheduled to travel until next month and you must contain your anxiety. It emailed us a copy of your booking contract and says this will be with you in the post soon. As with other agencies, Flights & Packages is inundated with administration since the Goldtrail collapse, as well as the peak holiday season. Incidentally, it is the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol) rather than Abta that provided guarantees for Goldtrail and to which your refund application will be submitted. You should be liable for an £878 refund for the cost of air fares booked via Goldtrail.

Q. I took out a two-year mobile broadband contract with Orange via Carphone Warehouse in July 2008, at £25 per month for a laptop with dongle and limited download usage. The same mobile usage was available without the laptop for a lower fee of, I think, £12.50. So I paid £12.50 a month each for the laptop and mobile internet. Billing is direct from Orange. Last autumn, the laptop developed a fault (the battery won't charge). Carphone asked me to return it at my expense to the manufacturer for repair. The maker told me it was outside its six-month warranty and would cost £110 to fix.

In November, I told Orange that as the laptop was faulty, I wasn't prepared to pay the monthly fee until it was replaced by them under the Sale of Goods Act. I believe that as the contract was for two years, the laptop should be fault-free for two years. In December, we agreed I would cancel the direct debit and Orange would send me new bills for us to negotiate about. I heard no more until March when I received a demand for £82.02. I told Orange I was not prepared to make any payments until the laptop was fixed. Orange says Carphone Warehouse is responsible; Carphone says it is not because it is only the agent for Orange. Debt collectors are threatening legal action. MS, Surrey.

A. Orange investigated the faulty laptop but argues that any problems must be resolved with Carphone Warehouse. But Carphone insists it has no legal liability regarding the laptop malfunction and the fault occurred beyond the six months covered both by the manufacturer's warranty and your statutory rights. It says there is no evidence the product was faulty when sold to you, suggesting it was "of satisfactory quality at point of sale". However, as a gesture of goodwill the Carphone Warehouse is crediting you with the £82.02.

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