French Home Insurance: Primary Residence and Holiday Homes
Home insurance (assurance habitation) is a legal requirement in France, whether you are a tenant in a rental property or a homeowner. Proof of homeowners insurance will often be asked for when signing the rental contract (bail or contrat de location), signing the Acte de Vente on your French property purchase, or taking out a French mortgage. Here’s what you need to know about French home insurance.
French Home Insurance: Options and Obligations
French home insurance policies are required for rental properties, primary residences, and second homes, although the policy details, coverage, and fees may vary depending on the individual circumstances.
Types of Home Insurance Policy
Home insurance policies in France fall under two main categories:
Third Party or Civil Liability Insurance
This is the minimum required insurance for all property owners or renters in France. Civil Liability Insurance (responsabilitée civile propriétaire) is a third-party insurance that covers you in the event that something that occurs on your property affects your neighbour’s home. This could be an unforeseen event such as falling tree or a water leak between apartments, or it could be accidental injury or damage caused by you to a neighbour or neighbouring property due to imprudence or negligence.
These policies typically cover all family members living in the household and children up to the age of 18 are the responsibility of the parents—this means a civil liability action could be brought against the parents for damage or injury caused by your children to third person.
These policies may also be expanded to cover the actions of others living or working under your roof, such as an au pair or carer, for example.
Multi-risk Home and Contents Insurance
The standard French home insurance is known as a contrat assurance multirisques habitation or assurance multirisques vie privée or la multirisque. This should cover you for the cost of repairs or rebuilding, including permanent fixtures and fittings within your home such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms, due to damage caused by:
– natural disasters
– burst pipes
These contracts typically include the above-mentioned civil liability insurance.
Which French Home Insurance Provider?
France has one of the largest insurance markets in Europe and you will find plenty of options to choose from when it comes to finding an insurer. The French Insurance Federation (Federation Francais de l’Assurance – FFA) currently represents 246 French insurance companies, which include mutuelle insurance companies (les mutuelles d’assurances) such as MAIF, MACIF, and MMA; banks (bancassureurs) including all of the French High Street Banks; private insurance companies (les sociétés d’assurances) such as Axa, Groupama, and Allianz; and online insurers such as Direct Assurance.
Almost all of the above-mentioned insurers will offer home insurance for your French property, but policy details and charges will vary between insurers. It’s worth shopping around, not only to secure the best price, but to find the best insurance policy for your needs. For example, some insurers might provide better options for second-home owners whose properties are empty for long periods of time, while others may offer English-language services. You may prefer to listen to recommendations from neighbours or other expats, or to use an insurer with a local branch where you can discuss your options in person.
You might also consider using an international insurance broker such as Asttral or Fab. French Insurance who provide English-language services and will be able to advise on specific queries for expats or second-home owners.
Read our article French Insurance Companies: Which One is Best for Your Needs? for all your options.
Your French Home Insurance Policy
As with all insurance policies, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right one, most notably the premium (cotisation), i.e. the annual fee; the deductibles or excess (franchises) i.e. the amount you need to pay before your insurance kicks in; and the coverage (les garanties) i.e. what is and isn’t covered by your insurance and for what amount.
Choosing an Insurance Policy
Home insurance in France is typically quite affordable, with annual premiums starting from around €170. Deductibles can vary considerably between insurers and insurance plans, while premiums will depend on a number of factors, most notably:
Whether the property is a house or apartment, the size of the property (in square metres) and number of rooms, its location (e.g. which floor your apartment is on or the proximity of your neighbours), as well as the area the property is located in will all be taken into account when calculating your premium. Gardens, access routes, outbuildings and garages, will also be taken into account.
Policies and insurance requirements will vary depending on whether your property is a primary home or second home, and it’s important to be clear about this from the start. Many insurance contracts are void if the property is left empty for a certain period of time—sometimes this is as little 30 days and there is likely to be a maximum of 90 days on a primary residence.
If the property is a second home or holiday home, you will likely need to take out a specific holiday home insurance. This may not be offered by all insurers and may include certain conditions, such as security measures that must be carried out. Similarly, if you are running a gite or chambre d’hôtes, or will use your house for guests (such as friends and family holidaying during periods when you are not there), you will need to inform your insurance provider of the details to ensure suitable cover.
What’s Covered by Your French Home Insurance?
All home insurance policies vary slightly, so you must check the small print and ensure that you understand it so you are fully aware of what is covered and for how much, as well as what isn’t covered. These are some of the main aspects to consider.
In regards to theft, valuable objects can only be insured up to a proportion of the total insured value of your contents (often 30 percent), so you may want to take out additional cover, especially if you have specific high-value items that you want covered. Some insurance will provide new for old (valeur à neuf) cover on contents, but there are typically limits imposed.
The current market value (valeur vénale) is used to work out the amount of cover and depreciation is taken into account.
Along with the responsabilitée civile propriétaire, some French home insurance policies also include additional coverage, such as school insurance for children, business activities, or sports insurance.
Optional additions that you may want to take out include accidental damage to possessions (‘accidents de vie’). You might also want to include outbuildings or a swimming pool in your policy, or include third party liability insurance for your pet.
Taking Out French Home Insurance
When taking out insurance you will be asked a standard list of questions about the property, including how large it is (measured in the number of square metres). Fire alarms are not required by either French law or most insurers, however they are recommended for safety reasons.
Expect to also be asked to your ID, proof of address (this could also be your rental agreement or Compromis de Vente). If you are moving into a rental property or purchasing a property, it is standard practice to take out home insurance before signing the final contracts and in many cases, you will be asked to present proof of insurance. Most insurers will offer a preliminary contract to be confirmed upon the completion of the sale or rental contract.
If you are buying a house, you can take over the existing insurance policy and in many cases if you say nothing it is assumed that this is what you plan to do, so if you want your own – which is always recommended – make this known to your notaire.
Cancelling your French Home Insurance
French home insurance is automatically renewed each year. Most contracts are fixed for a minimum of 12 months, after which you may cancel it at any time. If you wish to cancel it, you must give at least one month’s notice – in writing. Contracts can also be transferred between properties or inhabitants.
See our article on Cancelling insurance in France- the Loi Hamon.
Making a Claim on Your French Homeowner Insurance
The claims process is slightly different for each insurer, so it’s important to read your contract and contact your insurer as soon as possible to find out how to proceed. Typically you will need to provide proof of the damage and/or a police report if applicable. France’s insurance law states that you must declare the incident within five days of the event (or from the day you became aware of it) or within two days for a theft. However, in the case of natural disasters, you have up to ten days.
See our article on How To Make an Insurance Claim in France.
Ready to Get Insured In France?
Whether you need homeowners insurance, car insurance, or want advice on how best to protect your French assets, FrenchEntrée is here to help! Read the rest of our Essential Reading Articles, then get in touch with our trusted insurance providers for a quote or advice on your French insurance needs.
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