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House Insurance in France

A guide to house insurance in France

House insurance in France

House insurance can be a minefield of misunderstandings and disappointments in the UK, so you can imagine how much more complicated this issue becomes when you leave familiar shores and language behind you and move to France! There's no need to panic, however, because with a little help and understanding you will find that it's not so difficult to ensure that you have the house insurance cover you require, and that you will be able to claim in the event of a disaster.

Insurance companies in France offering house insurance in English!

For anyone who is not extremely confident in French (Learning French, Learning to speak French - Misadventures in a Foreign Tongue), it will come as great relief to know that there are a number of companies in France that can arrange house insurance for you in English. This way you will not only be able to ask questions and receive clear answers to your queries, but also be able to (perhaps!) understand the often complex legal issues of the policies... it can be difficult, even in English, but at least you have a fighting chance! Companies to consider include Franck Haloche who provides a great service for English speakers who are looking for insurance in France - for more details take a look at www.france-insurance.co.uk, GIE Generali Agences - http://www.insurance.fr/ (formerly Schreinemachers SARL), British Insurance Brokers of Aquitaine (BIBA), and Agence Eaton - http//www.french-insurance.com, all of whom offer English language services and are experienced in providing house insurance policies to comply with French law.

House insurance in France - what is obligatory

It is important to know what is obligatory in terms of house insurance in France, and what is optional. Some house insurance companies in France can take advantage of your lack of understanding of the French system and try to sell you policies which are not strictly necessary, or suitable for your needs. Firstly, it is a legal requirement in France to have insurance for your house by the time of the signing of the Final Act. This applies whether or not the house is to be a primary residence or a second home or a buy-to-let (Letting property in France, Buy-to-let Property in the South of France). In all cases, it is obligatory to have buildings cover, and this must also include cover for natural disasters such as earthquakes, forest fires and floods. Most house insurance policies in France will be what is known as multi-risk, but always check exactly what is covered, as not all multi-risks are the same!

House insurance in France and third party liability

French house insurance policies always begin from a point of third party liability, and this forms the basis of the house policy. If, however, you are letting your property as a business concern, make sure that you check with your insurers that the third party is sufficient to cover your tenants, as some policies in France require extra cover for commercial third party risks.

Key differences between house insurance in France and house insurance in the UK

The first and most evident difference between the two countries is that in France you will find that you are not discussing "insurance" but "assurance". The other differences between French and English house insurance policies are perhaps not obvious at first glance, but can cause no end of problems if you are unaware of them. We have already mentioned that you will not be able to sign the Final Act of purchase for your house in France if you cannot prove an existing policy, but it is worth saying it again as there are stories of people losing their properties in France through not having a policy in place.

House insurance in France and size of house

A further point to remember is that in France, houses are insured according to size and number of rooms, and it is essential that you declare these correctly. Cover can be declared invalid if you add rooms to a house and fail to inform your insurers of the extra space created (Building or extending property in France, House Renovations in France). Rooms that must be counted include bedrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens bigger than 30 square metres, dining rooms, studies and libraries, games rooms and even covered enclosed terraces or conservatories.

House insurance in France and type of property

Another important point is that your insurance needs can be different according to the type of house you own (Property in France - Types of houses in France). Villas, that comply with the standard types, unlike older or more unique properties, do not require a valuation for rebuild purposes, as they are covered with a "put back to standard" clause in the event of a rebuild being necessary. Older or less standard houses should be valued by an expert.

Renewal of house insurance in France

Before leaving our consideration of the differences between French and English insurance, it is worth looking at the question of renewal of house insurance in France. In the UK, it is up to you to make sure that the policy is renewed each year, with cover lapsing if you do not do this. In France, the house insurance contract is automatically renewed unless you give two months written notice that you wish it to cease. There are exceptions to this rule, for example, the notice period can be lessened (in some cases) by personal agreement with the company if you pay by automatic bank debits, but in general it is best to accept that you need to give the two-month notice should you wish to cancel your house insurance policy.

House insurance in France and contents cover

Just as in the UK, you will need to take extra house insurance in France to cover the contents of your home. French law defines contents as any movable items, and again, as in the UK, you will need to decide what level of cover you require. It is possible to insure new for old, but you will of course, pay a higher premium for this type of cover. If you have any especially valuable items you will need to have them valued by an expert. It is also worth noting that should you be insuring a Maison Secondaire, or holiday home, it may be difficult to obtain contents cover in certain high risk areas such as Paris (Paris Property Guide) and the Côte d'Azur (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Property Guide).

House insurance in France and letting properties

Properties that are to be let out, whether short term or long term, may have different insurance requirements. It is essential that you make it clear to your insurers that you plan to rent out the property, and take out any supplementary insurance packages necessary. You will, for example, almost certainly require additional insurance to cover you in the event of you having to cancel bookings due to unforeseen circumstances. In this event you will probably have to pay compensation of some sort to the prospective tenants, so it makes sense to ensure that you can claim this back from your own insurance. Companies such as Agence Eaton can tailor packages for you to ensure that you have comprehensive cover. (Owning Gîtes and Chambres D'Hotes (B&Bs) in France.)

Be aware of French law which may affect house insurance in France

It is also essential to be aware of changes in the law that may affect your house insurance in France. A case in point is the change in the law regarding swimming pools. This came fully into action in January 2006, and applies to all pools that are totally or partially sunk into the ground. It requires that all these pools are fitted with approved security measures, with a choice of alarms, roofs, barriers or covers. (All of these must comply with the regulations, available for perusal on various websites, including http://riviera.angloinfo.com.) If your pool does not comply with the law, any accident occurring at the pool will not be covered by your policy, and is likely to result in a prosecution. (Installing a swimming pool in France.)

Read the small print of your house insurance policy!

As with any house insurance policy, in any language and any country, it is vital to read the small print as a minor deviation from the agreement can provide the insurance company with the get out that they need to refuse your claim. If the policy states that you need a certain type of locks on the house, be sure that these are fitted. Declare any major changes to the house, such as number of rooms, addition of swimming pools and summer houses etc. Make sure that you understand fully the house insurance cover you have purchased, its requirements and its exclusions.

House insurance in France easily obtained

Using an English speaking firm in France can be a very good way forward for those whose French is not up to scratch, but if you do speak French you will find that it is very easy to obtain cover with even small towns having several "assurance" agencies. It is possible too, to take out your insurance policy with many banks (Banking in France), which can save hassle as you can monitor this along with your accounts. Whatever you do, though, don't underestimate the importance of having good house insurance cover. Insurance, it is said, can be very expensive, but if you ever really need to claim it can be the best deal you ever did!

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Life in France
Car Insurance in France
French Legal services and solicitors for those with property - business or a life in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about insurance claim procedures (added 6/5/10)...

We are at present in the middle of what appears to be a very long and drawn out insurance claim with our insurers MAAF. The matter is complicated by there being a third party in the event, EDF.We came back from a holiday in NZ proceeded by Christmas with the family in the UK. When we arrived at the house and turned the lights on, most of the electrical equipment in the house went bang including the boiler. Some works had been carried out on the pylon by EDF while we were away and it appeared that the technicians had not connected up the neutral wire on the pylon.

EDF accepted responsibility for the "sinistere" but instead of sorting us out, the insurance company are hanging back and are waiting for EDF to inspect the premises with their expert. This all happened of the 17th February and despite being promised by the expert for MAAF that we would be able to move back into our house by Easter with monies for a new boiler and a fridge, we are still waiting. Another meeting has been called for the 20th April with all parties concerned even though the MAAF expert has as yet not as far as we are aware, produced a report since his visit to the premises on 16th March.

In the meantime we are staying in a gite, the rent for which is going up and up as the season develops. We have now employed our own expert who will act on our behalf in the case, his fees being paid for by the insurance company. We should know more next week after the Bank Holiday. We cannot believe the way we have been treated and lied to by the insurance company. We have been to the Consumers Association in Perigueux, our local councillor, the local bank manager (Bank Populaire are the agents for MAAF) and have employed a french speaking "mover and shaker" who is assisting us. All this time and we cannot do anything to move the situation on. We have been keeping a diary of the events every day which records such communications for devis from firms for replacement goods, meetings and phone calls made. We have had to ask people not to come for Easter to stay as we cannot accommodate them and my big fear is that this will not be finalised by the summer when a large number of family and friends are planning to come and see us. We will at the very least be publishing the events of this French farce in an effort to shame all companies involved for their abysmal behaviour towards us.

I have been unable to find any info from ex-pat sites on what to expect when dealing with insurance companies and house insurance here in France. If you have any suggestions we would be grateful. Or perhaps you could tell me if this sort of procrastinated delay is usual.

Joanna Simm, author the above article, replies...

I can't really help with this, but can say that delays for nit picking are absolutely the norm here... everyone requires a mound of paperwork and then more, reports, experts etc. All I can say is that usually everything gets paid and sorted in the end, although I can't comment on this individual situation. Sorry not to be more helpful... but we have found with most things here it takes forever but ultimately they pay.

2. A question about temporary house insurance (added 22/7/11)...

My husband and I are travelling to Provence (Cavaillon) in Jan/Feb 2012 and are renting a mas for this period of time. When we sign the contract we need to take out comprehensive insurance guarding against risks to the property (water, fire etc). We were wondering if you offered this type of insurance to cover us for the three and a half weeks that we are there? If so, can you please advise the sorts of insurance that we require and an estimated quote.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. You may like to contact the following assurance agents who may be able to help:

Claire Martinet or Frank Haloche
Agent General
1 rue Louis Blériot (formerly 37 Rue Amiral Courbet)
ERNEE

Tel: 02 43 05 21 82
Email: 4005417@agents.allianz.fr

They speak excellent English and explain things clearly at all times and are very helpful. They are happy to operate at a distance, so it doesn't matter whereabouts in France you are based, everything can be done through email, telephone and post.

Or perhaps you could contact one of the insurance companies listed on our site:

http://www.frenchpropertylinks.com/memberscat.asp?category=INSURANCE

3. A question about house contents insurance (added 19/6/13)...

Hi - I have just obtained a quote for buildings insurance for my property in France. I advised that I do not require contents insurance, but I have been told that I have to have it. Please could you advise if the above is correct?

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I was not aware that contents insurance was mandatory, but maybe certain companies insist on this. Perhaps you could try getting quotes from other companies (perhaps using our Business Directory), and indeed check with one insurance agent who is usually very helpful with all things to do with insurance. The company is called Schreinemachers:

Schreinemachers (http://www.insurance.fr/index.html)

4. A question about where to find a good house insurance company or broker (added 25/7/13)...

I am reading through this article mainly as a result of reading the appalling case of a lady who is currently going through the courts against a rogue agent who works for AXA in the south-west. (This blog is currently running in Angloinfo Midi-Pyrenees.) It has been a big wake up call for me - and I am trying to find a broker or insurance company that is reliable, above all, honest, and responsible for home insurance in the Ariege. Would the banks offer a more accountable service in France?

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I am not sure about banks offering a more accountable service, you would think so, but this isn't always the case. I would try Schreinemachers, who I seem to have heard only good things about, and who we mention many times in our article "Car insurance in France", and also above. This is an agency which specialises in providing French insurance (home insurance as well as car insurance) to UK ex-pats and English speakers (http://www.insurance.fr/index.html).

5. A question about running two insurance policies at the same time (added 1/9/13)...

Please can you tell me if it is legal to run two insurance policies on the same house at the same time? I think that I have been tricked into signing for a house insurance policy with Aviva from January 2014 BUT cover started from when I signed the policy in May 2013. I am already covered for this period with another company. This cover from May to Dec 2013 with Aviva will not charged for unless I decide NOT to take the cover with Aviva for 2014. If I decide to NOT take the cover for 2014 then I will be charged for the months May through to December 2013.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I do not think it is illegal to run two insurance policies on the same house at the same time, as long as you only claim through one of the policies, should you need to make any claim. Could you not just cancel your existing house insurance policy, and just stick with Aviva?

And having said this, I am no expert in these matters so would suggest, as above, you contact someone like GIE Generali Agences (formerly Schreinemachers) - http://www.insurance.fr/index.html - who deal with insurance of all kinds. I have heard only good things about them, and they might be able to advise you.

6. A question about NF certified products (added 7/5/14)...

Hi - I was wondering what the advantages were of having NF certified products in your home, eg: gas cooker, oven etc. Is there a chance that an insurance agency would refuse you compensation if you had a gas cooker or oven which was not NF certified and this was the cause of a fire? Thanks!

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand NF certified products are more environmentally friendly, so that you would reduce the effect you have on the environment by using them. I'm afraid I don't know the answer to your second question. You could check with some insurers for their advice, perhaps using our Business Directory.

Should anyone reading this be able to offer further advice, please do get in touch.

7. A question about house insurance cover (added 26/6/14)...

I have been told by my house insurers (Credit Agricole) that the only risk the house is insured against is if some external force happens, like a tree falling on the house. I am not insured for "age-related" "wear and tear of the fabric of the house" occurrences, like you would be with UK house insurance. If the house burns down, they will rebuild like for like, but considering the house is 150 years old, stone built, I find the idea of it burning down hard to imagine, let alone being rebuilt the same. So how do I get proper house insurance that covers age-related property risks? Thanks for any advice.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I wonder if you have tried the companies we mention above in our article? Or perhaps those listed in our Business Directory. They should be able to help and advise.

8. A question about insurance covering a property after it has sold (added 8/9/14)...

Coverage after sale. Is it common for French insurance companies to indemnify owners after sale of home? I am thinking of scenario when future claim may arise (e.g., construction defect). If so, is this standard or must this type of coverage be specifically requested? Thank you.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I am not convinced that French insurance companies would normally do what you are asking. As you say, I would think this type of coverage would have to be specifically requested. However, as I am no expert in these matters, I would suggest you contact some insurance companies to find out. Perhaps try asking Generali/Prevencia (http://www.insurance.fr/) who are usually very helpful.

9. A question about selling a property with no insurance (added 10/3/15)...

We are due to complete on the sale of our property and the notaire has asked for a copy of the house insurance on the property. We don't have insurance - will this cause a problem?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I did think that house insurance was compulsory in France, with buildings cover a minimum requirement, and usually third party liability cover included in this, which is also a minimum requirement. Certainly when buying property in France, Notaire's insist on the buyers having insurance in place before completion, but I am not sure if this is the case with the seller. Perhaps you can check with your Mairie, or indeed your Notaire, or you could use our Business Directory and check with some insurance companies.

10. A question regarding a claim for a house that was almost burnt down (added 1/7/15)...

Our house in France burnt almost down. Roof and upstairs completely gone with only some downstairs left! We are with Groupamma who are dealing with the claim. What are the rules? Will they offer us a walk away price and take over the remaining property and land or will we need to rebuild? The house is a large stone farmhouse and our second home. Thank you.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us, though I'm afraid I can't help you here. You will need to talk to Groupamma to find out what their procedures are. You could perhaps also talk to some of the insurance companies we mention in our article, and get their advice on your situation.

An update...

Thank you. I have had an email from Groupamma who tell me that they will give us the purchase price of the house in the beginning (we have had the house for fifteen years!) plus an amount for the contents and then after we have rebuilt they will give us another payment. They say we have two years to rebuild!

I think we are in for a lot of stress and problems as we live in the UK, plus we are pensioners not builders.

Our reply...

This doesn't sound great. Is it worth checking with a legal advisor to see if Groupamma can do this? Or maybe you could check your contract with them, to see if this is what you signed up to. I wish you all the best with it.

11. A question about insurance for a holiday rental property (added 4/3/17)...

We are British residents and we want to rent a house this summer. The agency asks us to provide insurance in case of fire, water damage and theft. I have contacted several French insurance companies including Claire Martinet and Franck Haloche, and they say they cannot insure us. Who would you advise us to contact? Thank you.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I am surprised Franck Haloche couldn't help, did you ask if he could recommend another insurance company who might be able to? Other than trying the others we have mentioned in articles, Generali/Prevencia (http://www.insurance.fr), British Insurance Brokers of Aquitaine (http://www.ericblairnet.com/) and Agence Eaton (http//www.french-insurance.com/) - have you asked the letting agency you are wanting to rent from, who they could recommend? They must know of companies if this insurance is something they require.

12. A question asking if house insurance is compulsory (added 27/4/18)...

We have just purchased a house in France and our agent has told us we MUST have house insurance. The house is not on mortgage and I would like to know if house insurance is compulsory by law in France. I have been unable to find a clear unequivocal answer to this. I hope you can help.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I do believe that house insurance may not be compulsory on houses that you own in France, unless you are renting them out or have a mortgage on the property. It is of course recommended. Third party liability cover (responsabilité civile propriétaire) is however mandatory. (Our article was written a while ago and we will look into updating this.)

It may be worth checking with your Mairie or Notaire however, to confirm this, as I am no expert in these matters.

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