A fresh round of Christmas storms are damaging homes and causing travel disruption across the UK.
If you've been affected, here are some tips on your rights and what to do. (See Home Insurance for help on getting cover and our Affected by flooding? Tips for claiming on insurance MSE News story.)
My property has been damaged. What should I do?
As long as you have adequate home insurance, you'll be covered for any damage. Buildings insurance will cover the structure of your home as well as fixtures and fittings, while contents will cover your possessions.
When claiming, you'll have to pay a small amount towards repairs and replacements – known as an excess – so check your policy for full information.
Insurer Direct Line suggests the following:
- Take photographs of the damage to your building and contents, or film it. This may help with the settlement of your claim.
- Don't throw away possessions without first discussing it with your insurance claims adviser, as they will need to be assessed. Do not use electrical equipment or the gas supply until it has been checked by a qualified tradesperson.
- With floods, make sure drains and gutters are clear of debris so rainfall can drain from your property effectively.
- Place valuable and electrical items in high cupboards or take them upstairs to reduce the impact of any flood damage.
- Make sure outdoor furniture and other items likely to float away are safely restrained to reduce the risk of them causing secondary damage or getting lost.
- Store important documents, including insurance policy details and useful contact numbers, in a watertight bag in a dry accessible place, preferably upstairs or high up.
- Use a plastic sheet or tarpaulin to temporarily repair storm-damaged roofs.
If you have emergency damage, such as a smashed window or a gas leak, don’t wait to sort the problem. But don’t do anything unsafe yourself – call a qualified tradesperson to help fix the damage. The Association of British Insurers says you should contact your insurer first as it should have a 24-hour claims line in operation.
But if you can't get through, or it won't be able to fix the problem quickly enough, arrange to have the damage fixed yourself by calling a plumber, electrician or builder. Make sure you keep any receipts.
My power's been cut, am I entitled to any compensation?
In England, Scotland and Wales, if severe weather means you're without electricity for 24 hours continuously (48 hours in some cases), you're entitled to £27 compensation plus a further £27 for each additional 12-hour continuous outage.
You need to claim from your electricity distributor, which is different from the firm you pay your bills to. To find yours, see the Energy Networks Association website.
Write to your distributor with the reason and dates of the problem. You need to complain within three months, so get in touch with it as soon as you can.
However some firms are paying more for the problems suffered this Christmas. UK Power Networks, which covers households in Eastern England, London and South East England is paying £75 to customers who were without power at any time on Christmas Day.
Those who were out of power for between 60 and 72 hours will receive £108, and for each 12-hour period thereafter, an additional £54 will be paid up to a maximum of £432. These customers will be proactively written to by the firm.
Electricity North West meanwhile is paying people between £54 and £235 for power lost anywhere between 0 to 48 hours.
Northern Ireland Electricity, which isn't regulated by Ofgem and therefore has different rules, says if it doesn't restore electricity within 24 hours households will be due £50 compensation, then £25 for every 12 hour period after that. You must make a claim within one month of the day of the interruption.
My trains have been affected. What do I do?
In the wake of Friday's storm, services in Kent and East Anglia have been among the worst affected. Southeastern has cancelled all its services until midday.
There was also disruption to services across the country on Christmas Eve.
If your train is cancelled, here are your options.
- Can I get another train? If your ticket is open, you can just get on the next train to your destination, whatever the weather. If your ticket is restricted, you can't get on the next train if yours is delayed; but if it's cancelled, you should be able to.
- Can I get my money back if I don't travel? Yes, you are entitled to a full refund if the weather means your train can't run so you can't use your ticket. This applies whether your ticket is for a specific train or if it is an open-ended ticket.
- How do I claim? You can pick up a form from the appropriate company's stations, or visit its website. Make sure you keep hold of your tickets, as you will need these when applying for a refund. You need to apply within 28 days.
If your train has been delayed, or a cancellation meant you had to take a later train, here are your options.
Technically, you are not entitled to money back where a delay is caused by bad weather. But some firms may still pay out, so it's worth giving these tips a try.
- What if I now don't want to travel? You are entitled to a full refund if poor weather means services are disrupted.
- What if I'm late arriving? If you travel and the delay is over half an hour, you may be entitled to a refund, but the amount varies. If you are booked on a specific train, you have more rights than if your ticket is open-ended.
- How much can I get? The minimum is 20% of your fare for more than an hour's delay. However, you can receive more, depending on the train operator. You may even get cash for delays between 30 minutes and an hour from some firms.
- How do I claim? Collect a form from the company’s stations or visit its website. Make sure you keep hold of your tickets, as you will need these when applying for a refund. You have 28 days to apply. Refunds are usually in vouchers, unless you didn't use the ticket, in which case you will be refunded via the payment method you used to book.
If train problems cause you to miss a flight, you may be able to get compensation from your travel insurance provider, though check first as different firms will have different rules. You will need to show you allowed a reasonable amount of time for your journey to meet the flight. If you're heading to Gatwick, remember that engineering works mean there is no Gatwick Express train service – there are more details on the Southern website.
My flight's been delayed. What are my rights?
Gatwick Airport says it has "additional teams of engineers, electrical staff and volunteers at the airport to minimise the risk of disruption from potential further flooding".
If your flight itself is delayed, you aren't eligible for compensation if it's not the airline's fault. But if you're held up for more than two hours, whatever the reason, you may be entitled to food, drinks, calls and accommodation. If you paid for these, keep your receipts, then claim. See Flight Delay Rights for full information.
My flight's been cancelled. What are my rights?
When a flight is cancelled, however long before it was due to take off, you have a right to either a refund or an alternative flight to your destination. See Flight Cancellation Rights for more details.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.