Reader experiences: Dealing with a burglary at second home in France

Couple’s house in Pays de la Loire was broken into while they were in the UK

Gendarmes only visited the house once after the burglary
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A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, has written in with an account of her experience of a break-in at her second home while she and her husband were in the UK.

Our house in Pays de la Loire was burgled in 2020 while we were in the UK.

The first we heard about the burglary was from a neighbour who called in the morning to say that our house had been broken into on the night of October 4.

Due to the Covid pandemic, we were unable to travel to France, forcing us to glean whatever we could about the state of our home from neighbours, who took photos to show us the mess and check what was missing.

The burglars had gone in through the window overlooking the quiet lane at the front of our home. They lifted the shutters off their hinges and forced their way in.

It appeared that they had failed in their attempts to open the external doors, which were securely locked.

However, another window, facing the garden, was also forced, apparently to let the burglars make a discreet exit.

Read more: Reader experiences: Dealing with a burglary in France

Almost stripped bare

The kitchen was almost stripped bare: coal-effect electric fire, television, washing machine, dishwasher, cooker, gas bottle, iron, rubbish bin, slow cooker, two kettles, soup maker, electric grill, all cutlery and crockery, all pots and pans, tins and packets of food and vast amounts of alcohol were all taken but no glassware.

The lounge was less affected. Only the coal-effect electric fire, television and all my husband’s DIY tools from a cupboard were taken, but again, not the glassware.

From under the stairs in the lounge we lost a hand-held hedge trimmer, four patio umbrellas and a vacuum cleaner.

The second bedroom and en suite, which are downstairs, were left relatively untouched, except for some dressing-table trinkets of my mother’s, along with another electric fire, and some brand-new sleeping bags.

From the upstairs bedroom and bathroom they took bedding, a computer, a very old nursing chair which had been my mother’s, and my toiletries - but not my husband’s!

At the back of the house, we had five locked garden chests and cupboards. The only one which was forced open was the one with two spare gas bottles in, which they took. None of the others were touched, which we found strange.

They took the ornaments from the garden and a long-handled electric hedge trimmer from the shed.

Basically, anything and everything which was electric was stolen.

Everything from inside the house was taken out through the back window, which is three feet off the ground, then carried up through our garden to a parking area, where, presumably, they had a van.

Read more: Are second homes in France more at risk of 'home-jacking'?

Filling an insurance claim

The gendarmerie visited our house on the morning of October 5. They provided a reference number, but did not return.

Our friends in the area all did what they could to put the house back to ‘normal’: righting the fridge/freezer and settees, which had all been overturned.

We then had to try and claim on our house insurance policy without being able to visit. The insurance company wanted a complete list of everything which had been stolen together with values.

This took a long time to compose but eventually we produced nine pages of stolen items.

The photos, which our friends had taken proved invaluable, as well as the numerous original receipts for a lot of the stolen items, which we had kept, and old photos showing the rooms prior to the burglary.

Read more: Burglaries in rural France: areas most at risk and tips to avoid

The insurance company refused to do anything with our claim until we could meet their assessor at our house, which, because of Covid, we were unable to do.

We eventually met her 11 months later but it took another six months before we received anything from them.

This was apparently because it was such a large claim and we had to provide proofs for all the items stolen.

Friends of ours, who had visited before the burglary, even had to sign affidavits to declare that items for which we did not have receipts or photographs were actually in situ!

Since the burglary it is now impossible to lift off any shutters, all windows have alarms, all window and door shutters are bolted and have padlocks, there are numerous detector lights and cameras on the outside and inside, plus a house alarm.

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