Home and car insurance in France: what’s covered and how to cancel your policy
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Household and vehicle insurance works slightly differently in France, including what’s covered and the procedure for cancelling policies, warns Paulette Booth
It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security about insurance in France, believing you have adequately insured yourself by doing the same things you would do in the UK. However French house and car insurance policies are not identical to their UK counterparts, although there are many similarities. Here are the main differences to look out for.
Home insurance in France is multi-risk as opposed to all risk. This means that there are many risks covered, but a claim must be as the result of one of the risk areas.
The main guaranteed events on a policy are usually fire, water damage, climatic events (including flooding), theft and vandalism, glass breakage, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, technological disasters and contents placed temporarily in holiday accommodation (excluding valuables, however).
Accidental damage, as you may be used to seeing on a policy in the UK, isn't included as standard in a policy in France. This is because a claim must be the result of one of the guaranteed events above. Some policies do include an element of accidental damage and this can sometimes be added as an extra option.
There are, however, extra things covered such as public liability insurance (Responsabilité Civile Vie Privée or RCVP) and assistance. RCVP is mandatory in France, and covers damage or injury caused to a person or an item. For example, if you are involved in a car accident as a pedestrian or while riding a bike, the RCVP of your house insurance will cover a claim on your behalf against the driver of the vehicle involved.
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This cover can also extend to non-domestic animals, a lake on your land, family celebrations, renting out all, or part of the property etc. It is important to advise your insurance agent about any unusual aspects or anything out of the ordinary. If you have children at school, the school will request a copy of an insurance certificate showing that your child is covered under a policy for RCVP, in case they cause damage or injury while they're at school. An example is a scenario in which your child causes another child to trip and the other child breaks their glasses. They will claim for the repair/replacement of their glasses. The school will also usually request a certificate to show that your child is covered for accidents too. School insurance is easy to arrange alongside your home insurance.
The owner of a vehicle must insure a vehicle with a minimum of third-party insurance, even if it is off-road. If you do not insure your car with the minimum insurance, be aware that you run the risk of a fine, having your licence suspended, having your licence cancelled, being banned from driving certain vehicles - even if they do not require a licence - or even having your vehicle confiscated.
Even if a vehicle is off the road and garaged, it must still be insured in case, for example, it gets stolen and causes damage or injury to a third party.
The minute you become the owner of a vehicle, it must be insured. The insurance rolls on automatically unless you go through the proper procedure to cancel it.
No claims bonus
The no-claims system does exist in France. Drivers receive a percentage deduction for each year they make no claim on their insurance. This deduction is generally up to 5% a year and it takes 13 years for a driver to reach their full no-claims allowance of 50%. Three years after this you will receive a 'good driver' bonus, which means your no-claims is protected if you make a single accident claim. After 19 years, you get what's called a 'longue durée' bonus. This is different for each insurer but often takes the form of an additional discount. The good news is that you do not lose your entire no-claims bonus if you do have an accident, even if it is your fault. Rather than your no-claims resetting completely, you just lose a percentage.
Traditionally, vehicle insurance in France covers the car and then anyone with a valid licence is insured to drive the car. However, in recent years the car insurance industry has changed and it is now possible to insure a vehicle for just a main driver or a main driver and partner, or any driver. Whereas you could generally be insured to drive a friend's car, it is no longer possible to just assume and you must check the contract.
Breakdown assistance is traditionally included with a car insurance policy. This has never been compulsory, but will be included most of the time. The breakdown assistance will carry out some quick checks to see if they are able to get your vehicle running, but the main aim of the assistance is to recover your vehicle to a garage. Depending on the level of assistance with your insurer the cover will start at 0km which means if your car breaks down at home you can still call assistance and have your car taken to a garage. Some policies only start at, say, 30km which means that it won't cover you if your car breaks down on a trip to a local supermarket, for example. Some assistance will provide a replacement hire car, train, taxi etc for you to get home, or continue your journey, for you and any passengers.
Renewals and cancellations
Home, vehicle and motorbike insurance policies automatically renew in France. Merely not paying for an automatically renewed policy is not sufficient to cancel a policy.
There are strict rules and guidelines regarding cancelling an insurance policy in France. The rules vary depending on the type of insurance but for the most common types of insurance - house, car and motorbike - you have three options, as follows:
Option 1. You can send a letter requesting the cancellation, on the renewal date, by recorded delivery (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception) to be received by your insurer no later than two months before the renewal date,
Option 2. (Under the Loi Chatel) you can send a letter requesting the cancellation, on the renewal date, by recorded delivery to be received by your insurer no later than 20 days from the date on the renewal letter. If there is a delay between the date on the renewal letter and the postmark date on the envelope it was in, you must send a copy of the envelope for the 20-day time limit to count from the postmark date, not the date on the letter,
Option 3: (Under the Loi Hamon) if the insurance is for a car, motorbike or rental property, the cancellation must be requested by the new insurer by recorded delivery giving 30 days' notice. This option is not applicable in the first year of the policy. If you own your home, you can send a letter by recorded delivery, giving 30 days' notice. This can also be done on your behalf by a new insurer. Again, this option is not applicable in the first year of the policy.
Paulette Booth is manager at Agence AXA International
Tel: 0033 (0)5 61 07 16 84