Advice if home in France is damaged in storm - and what about cars?

We look at what damage you can claim for and how long you have to make a claim

Damage from trees is covered but only if it happens within a defined time
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Thousands of homeowners have already contacted their insurers to report damage to their property following this week’s powerful Storm Ciarán. We look at what you can do if your home or your car was damaged and how long you have to claim.

Powerful storms are relatively commonplace in France but Storm Ciarán struck with particular violence on November 2, with winds of up to 156km/h reported in Brest.

The storm resulted in two deaths in France and extensive damage, with over 500,000 homes still without electricity.

Read more: Warning to stay home as red storm alerts raised in France

As the storm began to subside, thousands of homeowners contacted their insurer to report property damage.

French mutual insurance company Macif says it received 10,000 phone calls resulting in 6,500 claims within the first day.

Estimates of the damage vary, with insurance expertise company Saretec saying that the storm caused €375m of damage, and Risk Weather Tech placing the total between €270m and €380m, excluding damage to crops and forests.

What damage can you claim to insurers?

Storm Ciarán’s violent winds caused much of the damage, ripping off roof tiles and slates and toppling trees.

Home insurance policies all include a garantie tempête, covering storms and damage from high winds, which are considered anything above 100km/h.

The record-breaking winds of storm Ciarán certainly qualify for this.

Read more: SEE: Dramatic scenes of storm Ciaran battering north-west France

The garantie tempête applies to damage directly caused by strong winds, including damage to roofs and any ensuing water leaks. It also covers damage caused by falling trees.

However, it only applies to damage that occurs in the first 48 hours after the storm hits. If, for example, a tree is damaged and falls on a house after this period, the damage is not covered by the garantie tempête.

Broken windows are covered by policies that include bris de glace.

Flood damage is more problematic. If a home is flooded, even during a storm, this is not covered by the garantie tempête.

Instead, homeowners must wait until the local prefect has declared a catastrophe naturelle, or natural disaster, before their claim can be addressed as such by the insurer.

For this, they must have assurance catastrophe naturelle, which is included in all multi-risk home insurance policies (assurance multirisques habitation).

Read more: France’s ‘catastrophe naturelle’ insurance system: how to claim

Damage to cars, such as dents and broken windscreens is covered by a tout risque (comprehensive) car insurance.

If you only have a basic third party, or tiers, car insurance policy, you will not be covered.

Read more: Six tips to reduce the cost of your car insurance in France

How long do I have to contact my insurer about property damage?

In most cases you must declare damage to your property within five days of observing it.

This means that people who own second homes and were not present during the storm can contact their insurer once they have visited the home and observed the damage.

However, due to the extensive damage caused by Storm Ciarán, the federation of French insurers, France Assureurs, says people are to be given longer.

"Due to the exceptional circumstances, and in order to provide better assistance to people who have suffered damaged property, insurers are to extend the delay up to December 1, 2023, or 30 days after the storm,” the federation announced in a press release.

In cases where a commune declares a catastrophe naturelle for flooding, people have ten days to inform their insurer of damage.

Insurers in the Covea group, which includes MAAF, MMA and GMF, have set up a crisis unit to address the high number of claims in order to offer immediate indemnities to affected people.

Similarly, Axa says it will make immediate payments of €1,500 to affected people, with or without individual appraisals.

Read more

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