Storms can cause various types of damage to properties, including floods, electrical and fire damage.
If the storm is severe, the incident can be classified as a natural disaster (catastrophe naturelle). In this case, there is a specific procedure to follow in terms of claiming additional compensation, which we briefly explain at the end of this article.
Otherwise, the property owner will fall back on their home insurance to receive compensation for the damage.
We outline details about what insurance policies are relevant, and what you should do if your property or goods are damaged by a storm.
Insurance and add-ons
Almost all homeowners in France are likely to have a multi-risk home insurance policy, known as assurance multirisque habitation.
This covers all the basics, including damage caused by theft, fire, water, snow, hail etc.
In the event that a storm causes damage to your property, it is likely to be covered by this multi-risk insurance.
For example, in the case of small-scale flooding in the home, your insurance will almost always cover it.
However, it can be more complicated.
If a lightning storm indirectly causes damage to your property, you may not be covered.
This could happen if the lightning strikes far from your home and causes electrical surges or issues with the electricity grid, etc.
For damage of this nature to be covered, you will need an addition to your standard home insurance package, such as cover for electrical damage (dommages électriques).
If you live in an area where there are frequent lightning storms, it could be useful to check whether you have this.
You should also consult your insurance policy or speak to your insurer if you are concerned about any other type of possible damage to your home that could be caused by environmental factors in your area.
It is important to understand what will be covered in the case of a storm or severe weather.
It should also be noted that in terms of goods inside your home, very valuable objects are sometimes covered separately from the main home insurance.
If you have expensive jewellery or artwork, you will have to specify it to your insurer and it may be necessary to take out an additional policy to cover them.
Steps to take in aftermath of storm damage
Report it to your insurance company
You should contact your insurer to report it.
You should also state the urgency of the problem as the reimbursement procedure can go faster depending on this. For example, for a hole in the roof caused by storm damage, you can expect to receive compensation within 48 hours.
In any case, you should report the problem to your insurer within five working days at latest.
If you are going to handle the insurance claim yourself, you will need to build a file of evidence to present to the insurance company. This is called a dossier in French.
You can employ an expert to help you handle this, called an expert d’assuré, as we will explain later in this article.
Your insurance company may also send out an expert to evaluate the damage. This person is known as an expert d’assurance. You will not need to pay for this person’s evaluation as they are sent at the request of the insurance company.
However, if you disagree with this expert’s evaluation, you can demand a second opinion (a contre-expertise). It is highly probable you will have to pay yourself for this evaluation.
Compiling your dossier
To compile your dossier, you should list all elements of damage to your home or to items in your home. You should also mark whether they have been directly or indirectly affected by the storm (although this is not always easy to clarify).
Evidence can include photos of the damage, witness statements (from neighbours, friends, etc.).
You should also gather all receipts you have to hand, either for construction work carried out or for appliances or items you have bought.
It is better to have too much evidence than not enough.
Another additional piece of evidence you can add is proof that a severe weather event took place in your area.
Certificates to prove weather events
France’s national meteorological service Météo-France offers two weather certificates that are accepted by all main insurance companies and provide proof of either bad weather or of lightning strikes in specific areas of the country on specific days.
The “bad weather certificate”, called a certificat d’intempérie in French, is what you can use if your home has been damaged by a weather event such as heavy rain, snow, hail, etc.
The certificate covers a period of two consecutive days, meaning that, for example, it can serve as proof that there was bad weather in your area on January 1 and 2, and that this bad weather is linked to the damage to your property.
This certificate costs €62.50. You can buy it from Météo-France’s website here.
The second certificate covers more specifically storms and lightning strikes, and is called an attestation de foudroiement.
It covers only one specific day.
This certificate costs €61. You can buy it from Météo-France’s website here.
Hire expert help
You can hire an expert d’assuré to help you in your insurance claim relating to storm damage.
There are several private firms offering this service.
They will help build your dossier, ensure that the insurance company’s evaluations of the damage are fair, and could speed up the reimbursement procedure.
This could also be useful for people worried about communicating in French with their insurer, as it may be possible to find an English-speaking expert d’assuré.
This service is unlikely to be free.
LAMY Sinistre, which offers this expert service, claims that some insurance companies may cover the fees of employing an expert d’assuré.
There is no guarantee that this will be the case. If you do wish to employ this service, you should ask upfront for a quote.
Coverage for natural disasters
Coverage for natural disasters is compulsory in standard multi-risk house insurance policies. It covers payments for damage directly linked to an event. However, you cannot claim compensation for damage related to this unless the government specifically classifies an event as a natural disaster in your area.
It should be noted that indirect costs, such as rehousing and loss of earnings, are not covered unless mentioned elsewhere in the contract.
France has a system where natural catastrophe insurance is paid out of a special fund, paid into by insurance companies and the government.
Cash for claims can only be unlocked after the government has declared a situation of natural catastrophe for the commune where the insurance policy applies.
It can often take a couple of months for the authorities to classify an event as a natural disaster.
Victims of natural disasters who wish to access these funds currently only have 10 days from when a natural disaster is officially confirmed (in the Journal Officiel) for a commune to file their claim.
A new law is set to push this deadline back to 30 days, although there is no implementation date for this law yet.