Home insurance in France

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- Credit: Archant

Security is a key matter to consider - especially for a second home. Guillaume Poissant outlines 10 things you need to know

As in the UK, French insurance companies offer a variety of home insurance coverage for different premium amounts. The variations depend mainly on the department you live in, the type of property you own (or rent) and the condition and age of the property.

point of sale

It is a legal requirement to have house insurance in place at the time of signing the compromis de vente. You will be required to provide proof of insurance (une attestation d’assurance) by the notaire handling the sale of the property.

under cover

Home insurance is obligatory if you rent your property out, but it is not obligatory on your own home. However, it is highly recommended you take out some form of third-party liability cover (responsabilité civile propriétaire) as a minimum. This covers you against risk of damage that an accident on your property might cause to someone else or a neighbour’s property (e.g. falling trees, tiles falling off the roof and hitting someone on the head). This would then form the basis of a home insurance policy which covers risks like fire, theft, water and other damage. Otherwise known as a multi-risk policy (assurance multirisque habitation) this will also include public liability cover for you and your family.

HOUSEHOLD Contents

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Home contents are normally included in a multi-risk policy and in France, as in the UK, content is defined as any movable item.

However, if you own more valuable items (e.g. jewellery, artwork and antique furniture) it will need to be valued by an assessor and included separately in your home insurance contract. Accidental damage to household contents is not usually included in standard French policies, which means that your television will be covered if there is a fire but not if you accidentally drop it.

Some policies offer a ‘new for old’ option (rééquipement à neuf étendu) allowing you to get an equivalent new item as a replacement. An age limit on new for old items may apply and, for example, a washing machine might not be covered if it is more than 10 years old.

It is always advisable to take photographs of your appliances and keep receipts when you purchase them, as it is likely you will be asked to provide proof of purchase and condition if you make a claim.

home and away

If the property in question 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 security of the property. This may include ensuring double-locks and security alarms are fitted, that the property is inspected regularly and ensuring shutters and grills are fitted to windows. You may also be required to turn off your water and electricity supplies from the mains while you are away.

keep it current

Property in France is insured at the value of rebuilding the property at current building costs. The rebuild value is the full cost of reconstruction of the building in its present form. It is extremely important therefore that you inform your insurer of changes to your property, especially if you are renovating an old cottage or farmhouse, as your policy contract will need to be updated so that it includes the new additional bedroom or converted attic space.

structural damage

Building insurance generally covers the actual structure of the house in France, its walls, garages, sheds, gates and fences. Policies tend to cover against the cost of repairs or rebuilding following loss or damage caused by earthquake, fire, storm and flood. Building insurance should also cover permanent fixtures and fittings within the building, such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms.

count your rooms

The French system of insurance calculates the premium of your house insurance according to size and number of rooms. Bedrooms, sitting rooms, studies, games rooms, offices and conservatories are all rooms and counted.

Kitchens are excluded but kitchen-diners will be included if the dining area is between 6m² and 40m². Extended cover may be necessary for below-ground and semi-sunken swimming pools and certain outbuildings (those larger than 50m²).

make a broad sweep

Your home insurance may not cover you in case of fire if you cannot provide proof that you have had the chimney swept within the last 12 months. Each insurance company has its own rules so always check to see if chimney sweeping is mentioned.

resigned to change

Insurance policies in France are renewed automatically which means your cover will never lapse. If you wish to cancel an insurance policy you will need to give formal written notice (une lettre de résiliation) two to three months in advance. This is generally around the time of the policy renewal date, of which you will be reminded by your insurance company by way of written notification (un avis de renouvellement).

Guillaume Poissant is an ‘agent général’ at AXA Poissant Insurance in Locminé, Brittany

Tel: 0033 (0)2 97 60 08 23

www.axapoissantinsurance.com