256 new 'natural disaster' zones declared

Government declares state of 'catastrophe naturelle' for hundreds of towns and villages, paving way for home owners to file insurance claims

The government has declared a state of "catastrophe naturelle" for 256 towns and villages that were hit by floods, mudslides, landslides and avalanches between 2016 and 2018.

Decrees were published in the Journal Officiel on Friday, March 9, which means there are just a few days left for victims to file insurance claims, with claimants given 10 days from the date of publication to do so.

After catastrophe naturelle has been declared, insurers are required to send an advance on the payout for claims no more than two months after the claim is lodged, with the balance following within three months.

Links to the full list of communes, which are included on three separate documents, are available here

Most home insurance policies include cover for natural disasters (catastrophes naturelles). A typical “multirisques” policy will include damage from earthquakes, flooding, drought, landslide and surging waves – and an insurer cannot refuse to cover you for this, unless you live on land which is considered not fit for construction or the property violates planning laws.

However, insurers will only process claims once a state of natural disaster has been declared by ministerial decree (arrêté interministériel). This clearly defines the zones affected and the nature of the damage.

A claim can normally be started by telephone or fax and the supporting documents can be sent after the 10-day deadline if the case has already been opened. Special second home insurance policies often include a provision for an expert to visit your property and assess the damage themselves if you are away when a natural disaster happens.
You will need to describe the damage, provide a list of all lost or damaged items and proof of ownership and their value (bills, photographs).

Take photographs of damaged items but do not not throw them out - especially in the case of valuable items as the insurer may call an expert to visit and assess the validity of the claim.

If you need to carry out any urgent repairs or cleaning, you should take photographs first.

Read more: Am I insured for natural disasters?

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