Home insurance in France

Insurance specialist Roy Thomas answers some FAQs about house insurance for second homes in France...

Q. I have a second home in France that I visit regularly during the summer. However, it is left unoccupied for long periods outside of the holidays; does this cause a problem with my insurance?A. You have to bear in mind that different companies have their own rules. Check your policy but the sorts of things to be aware of are conditions that state you must turn off the electricity at the mains and water at the stopcock if you are away for a certain number of weeks. This is to reduce the risk of fire and minimise water damage in the event of a burst pipe. Some companies will even insist that you drain the water tank at the same time. You may also have a higher excess if the claim occurs while the property is unoccupied. It is always worth seeing if you have a neighbour who can keep an eye on your house; this is very useful if only to give you peace of mind. Q. I have central heating that I keep on low all year round and also a burglar alarm that uses electricity; does that invalidate my insurance?A. Most insurers are reasonable and both the central heating and alarm reduce the risk of a claim. So long as you advise your insurer, they should endorse your policy to avoid any problem and may even give you a discount on your premiums.Q. What is the advantage of insuring my French home with a UK company?A. Usually the cover is very similar to what you have on a UK policy so you will know what you are insured for. The cover is often wider on the UK policy with fewer restrictions. In the UK, insurance is covered by the Financial Services Authority who insist that everyone receives a Key Facts document before they are committed to a policy and that document should give a straightforward reading of what is covered and the main exclusions. The biggest advantage is that the UK plan will be in English so that you can fully understand it and also you will have English-speaking claims handlers in the event of a claim.Q. Does my policy allow me to let my property?A. Usually the policy does allow this but check first; there may be some restrictions such as not giving accidental damage when the property is let.Q. I see that I have cover for Public Liability: what does that cover me for?A. This is an important part of your policy as it covers you for your legal liability as the owner and/or occupier of a property. To give you an example: one of our insured let their property and the tenant needed to change a light bulb. He used a pair of wooden stepladders to reach the bulb but unfortunately the ladders were rotten, the tenant fell through the ladder and broke his leg. A claim was made against our insured as it was their responsibility to make sure that the property and the contents were safe. Damages were paid by us to the tenant.