SIXTY-EIGHT communes, including some overseas territories have been officially classified as natural disaster zones, in a move that will open up insurance claims for those affected.
The all-important ministerial decree was published in the Journal Officiel on the evening of Thursday, February 1, opening a 10-day window for homeowners and businesses to lodge their claims.
It relates to damage caused by mudslides and floods caused by Storm Eleanor and Cyclone Berguitta, which battered the island of Réunion in January, as well as natural disasters that occurred in 2017 and 2016.
Insurers are required to send an advance on the payout no more than two months after the claim is lodged, with the balance following within three months.
The communes covered are in: Aude; Haute-Corse; Haute-Garonne; Hérault; Isère; Landes; Loiret; Lot; Lot-et-Garonne; Pas-de-Calais; Savoie; Haute-Savoie; Seine-Maritime; Tarn-et-Garonne; Vosges; Hauts-de-Seine; Val-de-Marne; Réunion.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb indicated on Thursday that he would begin an 'accelerated procedure' for the declaration of natural disasters for recent flooding in the Seine and its tributaries.
His comments contradicted some made previously by Secretary of State for Ecological Transition, Brune Poirson, who said the government had to "wait for [the floods to] recede" before it could issue a decree.
Mr Collomb told senators that the process will begin, "even before the damage has been fully assessed".
"I fully share your desire to ensure that victims receive the earliest possible instruction on requests for recognition of a state of natural disaster," he said.
The news will be welcomed by the thousands of people whose homes have been inundated along the Seine and the Marne. Forecasters warned on Friday that the two rivers were rising again following heavy rain in the past two days, with the latter expected to peak at over 6m at Gournay, in Seine-Saint-Denis. A total 11 departments - Aube, Marne, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines, Val-d’Oise, Eure and Seine-Maritime - are on orange flood alert.
How it works
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.
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