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Home insurance deemed invalid despite France’s travel ban

Some insurances can become invalid if you have been away for more than 90 consecutive days

Prolonged absences are considered an increased risk of burglary by insurance companies Pic: Julia Kuznetsova / Shutterstock

Reader question: I have a second home near Limoges. Last year, we were able to visit it only once because of Covid travel restrictions. We found it had been broken into and €3,000 of contents had been stolen. Groupama, our insurance company, made a ‘goodwill offer’ of €700. We were told that because we had left the property unoccupied for more than 90 days, our insurance was technically invalid. They did not accept we could not visit because of travel restrictions. Can we challenge this? 

Many home insurance contracts include a clause d’inoccupation, which might mean no pay-out if you are away for more than a set number of days, as prolonged absences are seen as causing an increased risk. 

It is possible to negotiate to extend the days or remove the clause, at extra cost. 

The regional caisse of Groupama considered that the €700 offer, which they said they raised to €1,000, was a “good effort” given the breaking of the rule, and said their inspector had evaluated the claim at €2,000, and not €3,000 (without being able to explain the difference, as the report was “not available”). It said it was paying out as a goodwill gesture.

Trade body the Fédération Française de l’Assurance said unhappy clients can go to mediation, but only after getting two written refusals of a claim from two levels in the hierarchy of the company. 

In 2020, the mediator received 17,400 complaints but found only 5,220 met its requirements. Of those, just 3,600 resulted in recommendations and only 700 cases ended happily. 

In an annual report the mediator said clients should read the conditions before signing but accepted that this was difficult and that non-specialists may struggle with the vocabulary.

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