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France floods: what affected households need to do

As the clean-up begins, here's how to start an insurance claim

9 February 2021
By Connexion journalist

As the river Charente begins to recede, and the clean-up begins, many people affected by the recent flooding in parts of France are wondering what exactly to do next about claiming on their insurance.

Experts recommend contacting your insurance company as soon as possible, once you have been allowed to return to your property. A claim can be started by telephone, text, email or whatever method is fastest for you. Supporting documents can be sent later if a claim has already been opened. Your insurer will update you on your coverage and what procedures to follow to begin a compensation claim.

Confirm the procedure with the insurance by registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception) within five working days following the loss. It is also advised to inform your local town hall, which may then become involved in the process to have a catastrophe naturelle declared.

If the government declares a catastrophe naturelle, the deadline for claims is 10 days from the publication in the official journal of the decree. Such a declaration compels insurance companies to act, but experts advise not to wait for the declaration to be made because it is not guaranteed that such an order will be taken.

Coverage for catastrophes naturelles is compulsory in standard multi-risk house insurance policies. It covers payments for damage directly linked to an event. Indirect costs, such as the cost of rehousing and loss of earnings, are not covered unless they are mentioned elsewhere in the contract.

Before beginning cleaning work, you will need to put together a description of the damage to your property; a list of lost or damaged items and, where possible, proof of ownership and value, such as bills and photographs.

Take photographs or videos of damaged items but do not throw them out - especially in the case of valuable items as the insurer may call an expert to visit and assess the claim.
Consider taking overviews, then photographing each piece of furniture individually as well as the locations to prove the height of the flood.
Gather together any invoices and guarantees you have, or any other documents that can prove the value of lost property.

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