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Dordogne winter floods: Special insurance claims allowed until May 17

Householders in nine communes need to act quickly after government unlocks additional insurance help

Time is running out for householders affected by winter flooding in south-west France to file insurance claims after the government declared a catastrophe naturelle for nine communes. 

The declaration, published in the Journal Officiel concerns the Dordogne communes of Beynac-et-Cazenac, Le Buisson-de-Cadouin, Cénac-et-Saint-Julien, Domme, Peyrillac-et-Millac, Roque-Gageac, Vitrac, La Roche-Chalais and Eymet. 

It relates to flooding and mudslides that occurred at the beginning of February when the Isle, Vézère and Dordogne rivers all broke their banks after Storm Justine battered the region. 

Read more: Thousands of homes at risk as flooding hits southwest France 

The declaration unlocks a special fund for insurance companies to use, and covers more than standard insurance. 

Those whose homes were damaged should now lodge catastrophe naturelle insurance claims with their home insurers. They should make contact with them as a matter of urgency, giving information on the loss, if possible accompanied by photos. 

Read more: Video: Floods in southwest France sweep boats away 

Once the status has been declared, policy holders have a limited window to start their claim – 10 days from publication in the Journal Officiel – 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 declaration was published on Friday, May 7, so anyone who has not already started their claim should do so now. 

For second-home owners, there is no extension of this deadline, but 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. 

Many claims will already be in the process of being examined, but now the government has declared a catastrophe naturelle, insurance companies are compelled to act. A claim can normally be started by telephone, text, email or whatever method is fastest and supporting documents can be sent after the 10-day deadline if the claim has already been opened. 

Read more: Am I insured for natural disasters? 

You will need to supply a description of the damage, a list of lost or damaged items and where possible, proof of ownership and value such as bills and photographs. 

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

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