How do I challenge property drought damage insurance payout in France?

If there has been a recognised natural disaster decree then you can claim under 'catastrophe naturelle' in your home insurance policy

3 May 2021

One option for damage due to drought is to pay for a second assessment of your property – une contre-expertise (or a first one, in cases where the insurer did not send an assessor) Pic: rdlh / Pixabay

By Liv Rowland

Reader question: What happens if I am unhappy with the insurance payout for a sécheresse (drought damage to property) claim proposed by the official assessor? Is there an arbitration process?

An insurance claim for damage due to drought comes under the heading of catastrophe naturelle in your home insurance policy.

You can only make such a claim where there has been a recognised natural disaster decree, published in France’s legal Journal Officiel. The subsequent claim needs to be lodged within 10 days.

If the payout is likely to be substantial, the insurance firm will probably send an assessor, who will check, among other things, if they agree that the damage you are claiming for was caused by the natural disaster, eg. cracks in a wall resulting from an extreme period of dry weather.

The amount proposed will bear in mind the value of the property, the extent of the damage, and any insurance cover ceilings in your policy.

Some policies will also include cover for related expenses, such as the costs of rehousing or transport if you had to temporarily move out.

The value allocated will also depend on whether the policy stipulates that you are covered for the “new” value of the property or the value bearing in mind its wear and tear (vétusté). There is also a nonreimbursable excess element (franchise), which will be either €380 or €1,520, if the damage is due to movement of the earth linked to drought or subsequent rehydration.

You should receive part of the compensation within two months and full compensation within three.

If the insurer offers an amount you find unsatisfactory, you may try to contest the sum proposed informally in the first instance, with a recorded delivery letter stating your reasons.

You can also pay for a second assessment – une contre-expertise (or a first one, in cases where the insurer did not send an assessor).

You should go to an expert d’assuré, who will make a report, if possible, in your favour, highlighting factors that the first assessor did not properly account for.

This could persuade the insurance firm to review its offer, though it is not obliged to accept the result of the contre-expertise.

If it does not, you could try mediation. You should ask the insurer who its mediator is. Some have a specific one, and in other cases you go to the mediator for the professional body it belongs to, such as the FFA (see here to apply to FFA’s mediator).

Finally, if all else fails, you would need to go to court, a tribunal judiciaire.

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