Fortunately they do usually pay out after there is damage due to trees being blown down in storms – this is typically covered under the garantie tempête, which is included in all multirisques habitation insurance contracts.
Such comprehensive cover is commonly included in contracts taken out by owner-occupiers and/or tenants, though not always if you opted for the strict legal minimums (owners of detached homes are not legally required to have insurance at all, though most do; tenants only legally have to be insured for damage they may cause).
Apart from specific cover against storm damage the other possibility is cover under a garantie catastrophe naturelles, which only comes into play if there is an official decree of a natural disaster having occurred (check with your mairie if unsure).
This may be announced by the prefecture in the days or weeks after a severe weather event commonly involving floods, landslides etc, however severe storms are sometimes concerned.
If your property suffers storm damage from a falling tree do not wait for an announcement of a natural disaster; you should contact your insurer within five days, ideally by recorded delivery letter with receipt slip, so you have proof. You will need to describe to them the nature of the damage and what objects have been damaged or destroyed.
It will be useful to gather evidence – photos, videos, receipts etc. You should also take any practical measures to avoid the damage becoming worse, such as putting a cover over damage to the roof.
A garantie tempête automatically covers your main home if it was damaged, including by falling trees and costs of clearing fallen trees will be included (but not actual damage to or replacement of trees, unless there was a specific clause about this in your contract).
If your home is damaged to the extent you have to move out, the insurer may also cover costs of staying somewhere else.
Furniture is covered and you are covered for costs such as rain damage inside the house due to a tree having fallen on the roof, though in some policies only for 48 hours after the event.
Depending on the contract, however, to make use of the garantie tempête insurers may need evidence that the storm caused damage to other well-constructed buildings in the area, or in some cases they consult a local weather station for confirmation of the severity of the storm.
If necessary the insurer will designate an expert assessor to come and inspect the nature and value of the damage.
What is not covered?
As a general rule certain ‘light’ constructions like sheds and verrandas may not be covered, as well as items like shutters and gutters (unless there is also heavier damage to the building as well). As for windows, cover for bris de glace needs to be included in your policy. Trees and removing fallen trees are not covered unless damage is caused by the tree.
What if my car was damaged by a falling tree?
Comprehensive car insurance covers such risks but not basic third-party insurance.
Storms may be classed as natural disasters in certain cases, especially if there are sustained winds greater than 145kph or gusts up to 215kph. Damage caused by a designated natural disaster is dealt with under the catastrophe naturelle cover, not the garantie tempêtes.
Natural disaster cover, which is included in all multirisques policies, does not always extend to secondary expenses such as costs of living somewhere else.
By law you must declare damage caused by a natural disaster, at the latest, by ten days after the natural disaster decree.
If a tree falls and causes damage outside the context of a recognised storm or natural disaster then the incident may be covered by the insurance of the owner of the tree (eg. if it falls onto a neighbour’s property).