Alerts raised over tradespeople cashing in after French storms in south-west

We look at some tips to avoid being taken advantage of by fraudsters preying on desperate homeowners

Recent storms caused damage to a number of homes in the south-west. Photo for illustrative purposes only

Residents in the south-west of France are warned to beware of fraudulent tradespeople after the recent stormy weather, as some unscrupulous builders charge up to €500 for 30 minutes of work. 

Continual bouts of storms – including hail, gales and heavy rain – hit departments in the south-west throughout May and June. 

Read more: VIDEOS: Hail, floods, and lightning hit France

Read more: VIDEOS: Rain, hail and even a tornado batter France, storm alerts raised

A particular severe storm hit the Médoc area of Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, on June 17 and 18, causing damage to many homes. 

Local residents reported that roofers began reaching out to people the morning after the storms, eager to offer their services. 

So many calls were made by traders that the mairie of Naujac-sur-Mer, one of the areas affected, posted on social media that residents should “be aware of malicious roofers,” targeting homeowners.

€500 for 30-minute job 

Residents told local media outlets of the roofers’ inflated prices following the storms. 

“They were very forceful,” said one resident to Actu Bordeaux. “Given the damage, we wanted to move quickly, so we said yes, but they took €900 from us and the insurance company won't pay it all back.”

Another homeowner described how a roofer charged €500 to temporarily install tarpaulin over their home, after their roof was partially destroyed by hail. 

“Installing a tarpaulin in 30 minutes and then charging €500 is theft,” said Sylvain Bozelle, a local roofer. He added that the correct amount should be closer to €150. 

What can I do to avoid scams? 

The first thing to do is contact your home insurance provider, to see what cover exists in your policy. 

Most policies do have storm damage cover (garantie tempête) included, however in some cases you may need to wait for a catastrophe naturelle to be declared in your commune. 

The insurer might direct you towards certain local traders they work with, or state which repair work they will cover, especially if the damage is severe and must be fixed immediately.

Read more: How do I make insurance claim after weather damage to French home?

In addition, The Connexion recommends that you:

  • Do not respond to traders who contact you, but search the local area yourself.

  • Get quotes from a number of companies – official quotes (devis) are free to request, and cannot be changed by traders or the recipient of the works once written down. 

If a devis is signed by both parties, the information stipulated within – including price – must be followed. 

More information about devis can be found in the article below.

Read more: Man does not have to pay for renovations as no quote signed in France

This is why you should also not sign any document handed to you by a trader without carefully reading it first. 

Anticipate the problem

Unscrupulous tradespeople might pressure or trick homeowners into signing quotes, arguing they are then legally binding, and charge extortionate prices for simple work.

One way to sidestep this problem is to anticipate it: try to know at least one handyman in your local area who can help with urgent repairs, particularly if you live in a rural area.

Ask your neighbours who they know and trust and make a list of tradespeople that you can fall back on when required.

In the event they are unable to undertake the work, they will likely direct you to another trader in the area you can also trust.