Whether you’re moving to or purchasing property in France, taking out insurance will likely be on your to-do list. Our French Insurance Checklist and Essential Reading Articles cover everything you need to know, from essential insurance policies to choosing the right insurer for you. Use this beginner’s guide to get a general step-by-step overview of insurance in France, then follow the links to learn more.
Which Insurance is Mandatory in France?
Taking out insurance not only offers financial protection and peace of mind, but it is sometimes a legal requirement in France. Let’s start by looking at the French insurance policies that are mandatory for residents, workers, and homeowners in France.
Your Legal Responsibilities
Depending on your situation, there are a number of insurance policies that are legally required in France.
All residents in France must have some form of health insurance. The minimum requirement is to be registered with France’s Healthcare System, either under a scheme for workers, or under Protection Universelle Malade (PUMA), the state health insurance available to all legal residents in France.
Taking out a top-up health insurance or mutuelle is, in theory, optional, although there are many situations in which it is mandatory. All salaried employers must by law have at least a basic type of mutuelle top-up insurance (at least 50% of which must be paid for by your employer). If you are self-employed or a non-salaried worker, taking out a mutuelle is optional, however it is a prerequisite for becoming a micro-entrepreneur or setting up a business.
All homeowners in France must have Civil Liability Insurance (responsabilitée civile propriétaire), the most basic form of home insurance. This third-party insurance covers you for damage or injury to a neighbour or neighbouring property caused by an accidental, negligent, or unforeseen event (for example, a fallen tree or a water leak).
A more comprehensive home insurance policy is also a legal requirement for all renters (expect to be asked for proof when you sign the rental agreement) and homeowners using a French mortgage (expect to be asked for proof before signing your mortgage loan agreement).
See our article on Home Insurance in France
In France, all land motor vehicles in circulation must be insured with a minimum of third-party insurance (au tiersor la garantie responsabilité civile) even if they are not in use. This includes cars, motorcycles, tractors, ridden mowers, and quad bikes. Caravans and trailers must also be insured, with an exception of caravans that are permanently installed on private land (however, these must then be covered by Civil Liability Insurance, the same as any other property). Caravans and trailers under 750kg can be included on your car insurance policy, while anything heavier must have its own separate insurance policy.
While third-party coverage is the minimum requirement, it’s recommended to take out a Third-party, Fire and Theft (au tiers illimité, formule Médiane or tiers complet), or Fully Comprehensive (tous risques) policy. Car insurance policies often include breakdown services and vehicle replacement services.
See our article on Car Insurance in France.
All children attending school in France must have what’s known as ‘school insurance’ in France. This is another third-party liability insurance that covers your child for any damage caused by them to school property or other people. An attestation d’assurance scolaire (certificate of School Insurance) will need to be presented upon registration of your child in a French school.
See our article on School Insurance in France.
Depending on the nature of your business and business status, you may find there are certain insurance policies that are legally required to cover your business, employees, or customers. The best way to find out about these is to visit your local Chambre de Commerce—they will be best placed to advise you on the legal requirements and responsibilities pertaining to your specific business.
Read our article 10 Steps to Setting Up Your Small Business in France.
Sports and Activities Insurance
Many gyms, sports clubs and group activities in France require a minimum insurance to take part. Generally these insurances are included as part of your inscription fees or licence fees and will be provided by the relevant association. For example, if you wish to take horse riding lessons at an ecurie (stable), all riders must pay an annual fee for an FFE licence issued by the FFE (Fédération Française d’Equitation), which includes insurance cover for your chosen activities. If you wish to take part in official competitions, you may need to upgrade this to a competition licence, which will also insure you during competitions.
It is mandatory to insure major construction works carried out on your property by a decennial cover called dommages ouvrage.
Which Insurance Do You Need in France?
From home insurance and life insurance to pet insurance and travel insurance—there are many different types of insurance available in France. Now that we’ve covered the mandatory essentials, let’s take a look at all the other insurance options available in France.
Holiday Home or Second Home Insurance
Home insurance policies in France typically stipulate a maximum number of days that the property may be left empty (often as little as 30 days, but you’re unlikely to find a policy that covers you for more than 90 days of absence). As such, second home and holiday home owners in France should look at taking out a policy that specifically covers their needs.
These policies typically attract a higher excess amount and may come with certain requirements (for example, that certain security measures are carried out or security systems installed on the property), but they will ensure peace of mind in the event that something happens to your property when you are away.
See our article on Holiday Home Insurance in France.
In French, life insurance is known as ‘assurance décès’(literally ‘death insurance’), not to be confused with ‘assurance vie’ , which refers to a savings programme that sets aside and invests money for retirement or other long-term financial projects. Assurance décès will pay a premium to your family in case of your death through accident or illness (depending on the policy), and sometimes include provisions for funeral and burial costs.
See our article on Life Insurance in France.
Business or Professional Insurance
There are many different types of insurance available to business owners or professionals, and it’s best to seek specific advice from an insurance broker or legal advisor when it comes to protecting your business and assets. You might also consider taking out a ‘ contrat de prévoyance’, a personal or professional insurance policy that provides protection in the case of a hospitalisation, accident, death, or loss of income. These may also include legal protection insurance or ‘protection juridique’.
Many employers offer a ‘ contrat de prévoyance’, but self-employed professionals can also take out an individual policy – your mutuelle health insurer may provide such contracts, but as with all insurance, it’s a good idea to shop around and find the best one to suit your needs.
All French residents enrolled in France’s healthcare system are entitled to an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), or Carte Européenne d’Assurance Maladie (CEAM) as it’s known in France, which provides access to medical treatment for EU citizens travelling within the EU.
However, it is still recommended to take out dedicated travel insurance when travelling, especially if you are travelling outside of Europe. While many insurers will offer travel insurance policies, it’s also worth checking with your bank – some bank accounts (especially premium cards) include a basic travel insurance, along with cover for cancelled flights and luggage.
Read our article on Travel Insurance- European Health Insurance Card.
Pet insurance is not as common in France as it is in other countries, but while vets fees are not typically as high as they can be overseas, the cost of treatment for an illness, on-going health condition, or operation can still be significant. Taking out pet insurance will cover the costs in case your dog, cat, or horse needs treatment.
Head to our Pet Zone for more on keeping pets in France.
Taking Out Insurance in France
Once you have decided on the type of insurance cover you require, the next step is choosing the right insurance policy and insurer for you.
French Insurance Companies
There are 246 French insurance companies registered with the French Insurance Federation (Federation Francais de l’Assurance – FFA) and these include:
- Banks: all of France’s high street banks offer some forms of insurance, typically through subsidiary insurance companies or in agreement with a private insurer.
- Mutuelles: Mutuelle health insurers (les mutuelles de santé) and mutuelle insurance companies (les mutuelles d’assurances), which are non-profit cooperative insurance bodies owned by their policyholders.
- Private insurance companies (les sociétés d’assurances)
- Online Insurance Companies
- International Insurance brokers: these often provide more flexibility for expats or second-home owners with specific needs, and many provide English-speaking services to deal with contracts and claims on your behalf.
Which option you choose will depend on numerous factors, including the insurance policies available, the premiums and excess amounts, specific policy details and inclusions/exclusions, and convenience (you might prefer a local branch or a company with an English-speaking helpline, for example).
It’s a good idea to shop around to find the best deal for you, either by applying directly for a quote, or by using price comparison websites such as Assurland or Le Lynx. It’s also always worth contacting your bank or current insurer for a quote—as an existing client, you may benefit from preferrential rates.
See our guide to French Insurance Companies: Which One is Best for Your Needs?
French Insurance Policies
While many aspects of your French insurance policy may be similar to those in your home country, don’t make the mistake of assuming everything will be the same. It’s critical that you fully read your contract and understand exactly what is and, more importantly, isn’t included. Be sure that you understand the excess amount you will be required to pay, the claims process, and any optional inclusions.
Our Essential Reading articles will give you an idea of what questions to ask depending on the specific type of insurance you are taking out. However, here are a few examples that often catch expats out:
- When taking out French car insurance, the No Claims Bonus system works differently to that of other countries. In France, it takes 13 years to reach full No Claims with a maximum discount of 50%. Transferring your No Claims Bonus from the UK or US is possible, but you may run into difficulties with some insurance companies if you don’t have the necessary paperwork.
- A health insurance mutuelle does not equate to private health insurance: instead it serves as a top-up insurance to funds the part of your healthcare costs not paid for by your state social security contributions. There are many different tiers of payment options to choose from so it’s important to understand exactly what percentage your mutuelle will pay and for which treatments.
- There are strict time limits on home insurance claims – you must declare a theft within two days and damages within five days, and there’s also a special procedure for damages caused by government-declared natural disasters.
Signing your French insurance contract
The process of taking out French insurance is typically straightforward and your policy will often be issued on the same day or next day. Provisional contracts can also be put in place to cover transition periods, such as home insurance prior to the final Acte de Vente being signed, or car insurance that will cover driving the car home from the dealers.
Expect to be asked to sign a minimum 12-month contract and provide a number of documents, including:
- Your passport or ID
- Proof of address (a recent utility bill or, in the case of a new property, your rental agreement or Compromis de Vente)
- Details of the person or item to be insured such as your car registration document along with the odometer reading, or the square-meters of your home including details of any outbuildings and security systems.
Cancelling your French insurance policy
Most contracts are fixed for a minimum of 12 months, after which you may cancel it at any time. However, you cannot let it lapse or cancel at the last minute with a phone call – contracts will be automatically renewed every 12 months. If you wish to change insurers or cancel your policy, at least one month’s notice is required and the cancellation must be done formally in writing.
See our article on Cancelling insurance in France- the Loi Hamon.
Making a Claim on Your French Insurance
The claims process is slightly different for each insurer and insurance type, so it important to go over this with your insurer at the time of taking out the policy. The most important things to be aware of are:
- The time limit on making an insurance claim. For most types of insurance claim this will be within two and five days after the incident. The best advice is to get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible to start the claims procedure.
- The necessary proof or documentation. In the case of a theft, for example, a police report will likely be required by your insurer, while for damages on a property, photographic evidence might be requested. For car insurance claims, an accident claim form or constat amiable d’accidentmust be filled in by both parties at the time of the incident.
- If you are a second-home owner and not resident in France, check that the claims process can be carried out via phone or email, and that your presence is not required.
- Expect to be asked to fill in a claims application form detailing the incident, the damage, and the value of the claim, with documentary or photographic evidence to back each claim up wherever possible.
See our article on How To Make an Insurance Claim in France.
What to do if you are in dispute with your French insurance company
Your first step is to contact the mediator that works within the company. If you do not get satisfaction this way, then you can contact the Médiateaur de la Féderation Francaise des Sociétés d’Assurance. Telephone 00 33 (0)1 45 23 40 71; fax 00 33 (0)1 45 23 27; email [email protected]
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