Guide to the French insurance system
PUBLISHED: 11:32 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:50 16 February 2016
You can buy insurance for pretty much everything in France, including car insurance, house insurance, health insurance, credit card insurance and even school insurance
Civil liability insurance
In France, third-party civil liability cover (responsabilité civile propriétaire) is obligatory for everyone and is usually included in house or car insurance policies. This will cover you against the risk of damage from an accident on your property to a third party (for example, a neighbour and their property). If you don’t have this cover you would be held personally responsible and be required to pay any compensation that may be due. When you buy a property in France, the notaire will ask to see this insurance on the day of completion.
If you are visiting France for fewer than 90 days per year your UK insurance provider will cover you with third-party insurance as standard and you can upgrade this to include breakdown and roadside assistance.
If you are planning to spend more than 90 days per year in France or if you are moving permanently to France then you need to get French insurance on your car. There are three levels of car insurance cover - basic third-party liability (au tiers), third-party, fire and theft (au tiers complet or illimité) or complete comprehensive cover (tous risques). Unlike in the UK, you will still need to maintain at least third-party liability if you have a car that you leave at your French holiday home and only use when visiting.
You should be able to bring over your no-claims bonus (bonus-malus) from your UK insurance company. All you have to do is produce a document showing the percentage no-claims bonus you had in the UK when you are buying car insurance in France.
House insurance (covering contents and buildings) in France is obligatory if you are renting or have a mortgage on a property, but not if you own outright. However, third-party liability insurance is mandatory and must be shown to your notaire on the day of completion, no matter whether you are buying outright or not.
Like the UK there are both buildings and contents insurance. With a multi-risk policy (assurance multirisque habitation) you are covered against the cost of repairs or rebuilding following loss or damage caused by earthquake, fire, storm and flood to the property which includes its walls, garages, sheds, gates and fences plus the property’s permanent fixtures and fittings within the building, such as fitted kitchen and bathrooms. Home contents are normally included in a multi-risk policy and ‘content’ is defined as any movable item. However, if you own more valuable items, such as jewellery, they will need to be valued by an assessor and separately listed in your home insurance contract. Accidental damage to household contents is not usually included in standard French policies.
A main residence is generally a property where it is inhabited for more than 90 days a year; again this should be checked with your insurance company. If the is your second home, or is empty for part of the year, you must make this known to your insurer. There may be implications on the level of risk cover which can be offered, particularly in relation to insurance against theft and concerning security of your property. You may be required to ensure that your property has double locks and security alarms, and that shutters and grills are fitted to windows. You may also be required to turn off your water and electricity supplies at the mains when you are away.
If you are going to rent your property out as a holiday let (for the entire year or for seasonal letting) you should inform your insurer of this. You will need to ensure that any damage, risk of fire and flooding caused by a holiday tenant to your property is properly guaranteed. Most comprehensive insurance policies contain a clause that allows you to let out on a seasonal basis to third parties for up to three months, but you should always clarify this with your insurer. Likewise, a tenant may already be covered in their own home insurance policy for their contents as well as their liability when renting. It is highly recommended you request such proof of insurance from the tenant. More advice on preparing your house for holiday lets
In France, school children need insurance for school trips and for some sport and extracurricular activities, so it is a good idea to buy it at the beginning of the school year.
Many insurance companies offer school insurance (assurance scolaire) but Mutuelle Assurance Élèves (MAE) specialises in this insurance which ranges from €10 to €35 a year. Cover includes: damage your child might to do to school property; to another child’s belongings; to him or herself, and to his or her belongings, for example loss of satchels, musical instruments, sports equipment or glasses. If you take the expensive option (up to €35 a year), the contract also insures your child 24 hours a day for accidents and damage. So it would cover replacing a sink in your house, were it to be damaged by your child, for example. Looking for information about French schools? Read 10 differences between French and British schools
In France, health insurance is obligatory for all residents. Those who are employed and pay social charges are eligible for state French health insurance, mainly accessed via the CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). This doesn’t cover all of your healthcare costs so many people take out additional personal health insurance to pay the remaining costs, called a mutuelle. This will mean that, in general, 100% of any medical expenses are reimbursed, and will also (depending on the policy) pay for little extras like lighter (more expensive) casts on broken bones and, if you were hospitalised, a private room with television and a non-stop supply of bottled water.
As with all insurance, there is a wide range of policies with varying degrees of cover and premiums so shop around for quotes and read the small print.
Credit card insurance
If you have a French carte bleue (ATM, debit or credit card) be careful to insure it. It is not expensive and you can usually do this at the bank. If the card was stolen, you’d have to pay to replace it and French banks don’t replace money stolen from your account by thieves, identity scams or any other criminal activities, unless you are insured.
Cancelling an insurance policy
The majority of insurance contracts in France are set up on an automatic renewal basis and will be automatically renewed unless you give the contractual amount of notice to cancel – usually between 1 and 3 months before the renewal date.
If you cancel at the renewal date you can either write to the company (in French) to cancel your policy at least 2 months before the renewal date or you can request a cancellation on receipt of a renewal notice, under the loi Chatel law. You have 20 days from the stamp date on the envelope of the renewal notice to send your cancellation request.
A new law, loi Hamon, was applied from 1 January 2015 and means you can cancel a private car or house insurance contract at any date. The cancellation notice has to be written in French and sent as a letter or email to the insurance company and the cancellation will take effect one month after receipt of the request.
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