Can I be certain I am insured against flooding at French second home?

A number of heavy floods have recently hit the country

Insurers may increase premiums in areas prone to natural disasters
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Reader Question: The river close to our second home in France recently flooded, and I became worried I do not have insurance that specifically covers this. Is there a special policy I can take out?

Damage from flooding – both caused by rivers or the sea – falls under the assurance catastrophe naturelle system. 

This is a specific insurance system for property damage caused by natural disasters.

As well as flooding damage from many other natural disasters – hail storms, drought, earthquakes, etc – is covered. 

Damage from lightning strikes follow a slightly different requirement as claimants need an attestation de foudroiement.

Read more: How do I get a ‘lightning certificate’ for French home?

How do I get natural disaster insurance in France? 

This type of insurance is included as standard in all multi-risk home insurance policies (assurance multirisques habitation).

If it is not, you can appeal to the Bureau Central de Tarification (BCT) within 15 days of their refusal. 

This basic policy only covers the direct damage as a result of the natural disaster (i.e, to the property or your belongings). 

Cover for any indirect costs incurred (for example, temporary accommodation, loss of use of property, relocation costs etc) are unlikely to be included.

However, these can be added on top of the cover to your package, by speaking with your insurance company.

There is also an excess cost you must pay, that varies for the type of natural disaster.

How do I make an insurance claim in France? 

To apply for this cover, you need to wait until your commune is listed as affected by the disaster by decree in the Journal Officiel

The list specifies not only the communes added, but also the type of natural disaster and the exact dates this happened.

Local mairies usually make the request to have their commune included on the list, with government-appointed experts coming to assess the damage.

In some cases politicians can bypass this and automatically detail communes to be included on an upcoming list, as can happen after serious natural disasters.

Although your mairie will usually start the process it can help to contact them and provide evidence they can show to investigators, increasing the chances of the commune being added to the decree.

The assessment period can sometimes take weeks – months for shrinkage assessments – but for flooding it does not usually take too long. 

Read more: Second-home owners in France could soon face insurance surcharge

How long do I have to make a claim?

If your commune is added to the decree, you will have 30 days to inform your insurer. This time limit is the same for both main and second home owners. 

Payouts are usually made within three months.

You can make a claim following the usual procedure for your insurer. It is also useful to confirm the claim with the insurance company by sending a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt (lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception).

You should include these points in the letter:

Your full name and address

Insurance contract number

Description of the loss (nature, date, time, place)

A list of all lost or damaged objects, with documents proving the existence and value of the goods (e.g. invoices, photographs)

Damage to third parties (e.g. if a tree on your property has fallen and caused damage to a neighbour's house)

This will help create a paper trail of your claim. You can also include photographic evidence of the damage, and keep any items that are damaged as proof. 

Read more: How to send a registered letter online from home in France