France has been affected by several extreme weather episodes recently, with many households suffering property and vehicle damage due to strong wind, flooding, and hail. You may be due compensation – here are more details.
Damaging episodes are also becoming more common in France due to global warming. Depending on the type of incident, the process for claiming compensation can vary, warns consumer website 60 millions de consommateurs.
Violent weather hit France last weekend on June 4 and 5, including ping-pong ball-sized hailstones, and flooding that killed one woman in Rouen after she was swept away by water and became trapped under a car.
For those who sustained property damage, housing information agency the Agence nationale pour l’information sur le logement (Anil) states on its website: “Whether you are a homeowner or a tenant, if you have taken out comprehensive home insurance, you are obliged to be covered for storm or natural disaster damage.”
Normally, insurers require you to submit a claim within five working days of the incident, but even if you have missed this deadline, you may still be able claim. Here are some tips.
Take photos of the damaged items and areas, and protect them from further damage
- You will likely be required to send photos and estimates of the value of loss to your insurer, says the site France Assureurs.
- An insurance inspector may attend your property to ascertain the extent of the damage, depending on the situation
- If repairs are urgent, let your insurance provider know as soon as possible, and keep all receipts or invoices
- Protect the damage from becoming worse as much as possible
Vehicles: Check your insurance
- If your car has been damaged by a storm, your car insurance will only cover the bodywork if you have taken out an 'all-risk' (tous risques) or 'all-accident' (dommage tous accidents) cover.
- If it is the windows that have been damaged, you can take out ‘glass breakage’ (bris de glace) cover.
- As with your home, an excess that varies according to the contract may be applied.
- You should, again, inform your insurer of the damage within five working days.
"If your vehicle can no longer be driven, hail cover generally provides for towing," said France Assureurs.
For damage to your car to be compensated after a ‘natural disaster (catastrophe naturelle)’ (see below), it must be fully insured.
You will not be compensated for a car with ‘third party’ insurance, which only covers your civil liability towards third parties or passengers.
- If your home has been damaged by severe weather, it should be covered by comprehensive home insurance.
- Most will provide cover for storms under the same conditions as fire insurance, which can include damage caused by lightning striking your home.
- The first thing to do is to contact your insurer to find out what cover you should receive, and submit all information possible, including photos (as explained above)
To trigger storm cover for buildings and external properties, insurers usually require that the wind has damaged a certain number of trees or 'well-built' (de bonne construction) buildings within a 5 km radius of the insured property.
- They may also require a certificate from the nearest weather station.
- This certificate of bad weather (for which a fee is charged) must indicate that the wind was blowing at more than 100 km/h.
- Most guarantees here also cover damage caused by rain inside buildings, as well as the cost of clearing trees if they have caused damage.
- If your house becomes uninhabitable, your insurer may cover the cost of rehousing (‘rehousing costs’ or frais de relogement cover), depending on the terms of your policy.
- Some policies even provide cover in the event that the power cuts result in the loss of the contents of your freezer.
Garages, verandas... and other exceptions
On the other hand, insurance policies usually exclude light constructions such as garden sheds or verandas.
Some also do not cover garages, barns and outbuildings. Shutters, blinds, gutters or fences as well as television aerials are usually excluded. Your contract will specify the particulars.
Cover under the natural disaster (catastrophe naturelle) scheme
The status of ‘natural disaster (catastrophe naturelle)’ is applied to events by the state on a case-by-case basis. This allows for the coverage of damage related to floods, mudslides, droughts, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
- However, it does not concern damage caused by wind (except in the case of cyclones) or hail.
- A natural disaster was declared in certain departments following the severe weather last weekend.
- This specified the areas and periods concerned, and other departments are expected to follow.
An official catastrophe naturelle declaration opens the way for compensation – for material damage caused by flooding due to storms – to be paid.
If you live in a commune outside the zone concerned by the natural disaster decree, you will not receive compensation even if you were the victim of the same bad weather.
In this case, you are advised to contact your mairie to request recognition of the state of natural disaster.
Declare within 10 days
- In the case of hail and storms, you should declare the loss to your insurer as soon as possible, and usually within five days, even if a natural disaster has not yet been declared
- Where a natural disaster has been confirmed, you have ten days after publication of the interministerial order (confirming the status) to declare
- Compensation will be paid within three months at the latest, but your insurer may be able to pay out sooner, especially if you request it
An excess of €380 for dwellings
In the event of a natural disaster, you will still likely be required to pay an excess.
- It is set at €380 for homes, motor vehicles and other property for private use.
- For property for professional use, it is 10% of the amount of the damage, with a minimum of €1,140.
Indirect damage, such as the loss of food in a freezer or the cost of rehousing, is not covered by natural disaster insurance.
However, they may be covered by your comprehensive home insurance policy, if it includes cover for this, or by another policy you may have taken out (such as through a high-end bank card).
Cars can only be covered by natural disaster insurance if they are under a tous risques policy.
Damage by neighbouring trees
If your neighbours' tree fell on your roof during a violent storm, you cannot hold them responsible, as this is a case of force majeure.
- However, it is up to the owner of the tree to put an end to the problem.
- They must therefore pay the costs of cutting down and removing the tree.
The owner can be held responsible for the tree falling if it had been threatening to fall for several months and you had already requested that they cut it down by a registered letter, such as via a bailiff's summons (‘sommation d’hussier’).