Am I insured for natural disasters?

I am told there is a special insurance to cover natural disasters such as flooding. Is it included in normal insurance or, if not, how do I obtain it? F.A.

Insurers only cover natural disasters if you have specific cover for this AND an official state of a catastrophe naturelle has been decreed by the government. 

After incidents such floods, landslides, surging waves and earthquakes, ministerial decrees may be passed naming communes concerned and they are listed in le Journal Officiel and on

If you cannot find out with an internet or local media search, check with the mairie or prefecture. 

Once the status has been declared, policy holders have a limited window to start their claim – 10 days from publication in the JO – although insurers recommend you do not wait for the declaration and instead lodge the claim as soon as you become aware of damage, even if the payout will have to wait until the decree is published. The French federation of insurance companies FFSA states 10 days refers to calendar days starting from the day after the incident.

The first step is to check your policies. Some basic forms of property insurance do not include a garantie catastrophes naturelles, but if you took out (as most homeowners do) a multirisques one, it will be covered.

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 supply a description of the damage, a list of all the lost or damaged items and proof of ownership and their value (bills, photographs). Take photographs of damaged items but you should 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 photos first.

Note, however that wind damage is not considered a natural disaster and is covered by the garantie tempête part of your insurance policy. Similarly, damage to a house from a forest fire is not a catastrophe naturelle and comes under the garantie incendie

As for damage from water sources in the home  – an overflowing bath for example – that is covered under the garantie dégât des eaux.

If you have a garden, you might want to add extra guarantees such as a garantie jardin or assurance forestière, to reimburse damage to trees and shrubs.

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