House and Home Insurance in France
- Finding an Insurer
- Types of Insurance Cover
- Holiday Home Insurance
- Insurance of Valuable Objects
- Terminating Your Insurance Policy
- Making an Insurance Claim
- Disputes with Your Insurance Company
1. Finding An Insurer
As part of the purchase process of your property in France you will need to organise house insurance cover.
Perhaps because of concern about language, international buyers sometimes needlessly obtain insurance cover from an insurer in their home country when they would almost always get a cheaper price by using an insurer based in France.
To get house insurance in France the various approaches are as follows:
- Insurance Agent – An insurance agent (agents généraux/agent d’assurance) will act on behalf of an insurance company in connection with the distribution of their products. Their advantage is that they may be local, and you can discuss and modify more easily the precise terms of the insurance cover, particularly useful for initial insurance cover. However, you will not be offered a choice of insurance company.
- Insurance Broker – A broker (courtier) is not mandated by a single insurer, although they may be tied into to only a few insurers, so do not be misled into thinking that they will scan the whole of the market for you. As their income is commission based you also need to be careful you are not being offered a policy the scope of which exceeds your requirements.
- Mutuelles – These are non-profit making cooperative based insurance bodies whom it is possible to approach directly. They hold around 40% of the market. Their members include such companies as Macif, Mae, Maaf, MFA, and Matmut.
- Banks – A number of the banks (bancassurers) have either created their own subsidiary insurance companies or signed an agreement with an insurer to offer insurance to their clients. Thus, there is Pacifica/Credit Agricole, Banque Populaire/Maif, Société Générale/CGU and Credit Lyonais/Allianz. As a general rule their policies compare with those of the mutuelles, but they are less flexible in personalisation of the contract.
- High Street Insurance Companies – There is nothing to stop you going direct to the main insurance companies, although surprisingly few French nationals do so, perhaps put off by the lack of personal contact, as they are often obliged to either contact the insurance over the phone or via the internet. Companies include, Generali, Aviva, Groupama, Gan, AIG, and AXA.
- On-Line Insurers – These are insurers offering a service exclusively on-line. They may be either affiliated to one or more of the main insurers, or a dedicated subsidiary of a insurer. Thus, the insurance company Groupama has Amaguiz.com, whilst the mutuelle Macif has idmacif.fr. The indications are that these on-line insurers are offering very attractive rates, although you will need to read the small print and be careful of their policies and practices on claims!
If you can speak some French then one very useful place to start is with an on-line comparator site.
A newer entrant into the market is the French affiliate of British company Confused.com, called lelynx.fr.
Alternatively, look through your local French yellow pages under assurances and you will find several pages of insurance companies, agents and brokers.
Whilst in theory you can take out an insurance policy over the internet, it is not often an easy process to accomplish.
Moreover, most on-line insurance applications are limited to those with a certain profile; if you present unusual circumstances, and/or you are a high-risk client then most internet sites are unlikely to process your application.
Some insurance are also reluctant to broadcast too readily to their competitors their premium levels, so may require that someone making an enquiry on the internet makes contact with a local agent to obtain final details.
In all cases you will be asked to complete a questionnaire (proposition d’assurance), which will enable the insurance company to evaluate the level of risk and the premium payable.
The insurance company is then obliged to provide you with a clear written explanation (in French of course!) of the premium payable, the guarantees, and the manner in which they operate.
As might be expected, it is essential that you provide information that is correct and do not commit error by omission, failing which you may well not be covered in event of claim, or have the contract cancelled by insurance company.
At the best of times insurance companies anywhere in the world seek to minimise their risk, and this applies in no small measure to France, where procedures are often very strict and policies often narrowly interpreted.
You are going to need to try and understand some of the detail of the policy, or risk not fulfilling the qualifying criteria should you need to make a claim.
If you do not have a reasonable command of the French language, it would make good sense to get some assistance with translation before you sign.
The consequences of an inaccurate or false declaration depend on the level of intent in the declaration and its materiality as determined by the insurer.
Where you can demonstrate that it was an accidental error then, if the error is picked up by the insurer, or yourself before a claim, you may be asked to pay an increased premium. Where it the error is found following a claim the level of the compensation may be reduced.
In the case of deliberate false declaration the policy can be nullified, as though it had never existed. Where the insurance company has already paid out on a policy they can seek full reimbursement.
If you need immediate cover you can obtain provisional cover through a note/lettre de couverture, although the insurance company is not obliged to offer it to you.
All contracts will contain an excess charge (franchise), which is the responsibility of the insured party. The excess may be a fixed sum, or a percentage of the indemnity, or mix of both.
It is generally possible to negotiate the level of the excess, so that for a higher excess figure the premium is reduced, and for an extra payment you may be able to remove an excess altogether.
Cooling Off Period
House insurance contracts concluded over the internet, telephone or at home have a ‘cooling off’ period of 14 days, during which time it is possible to withdraw without penalty.
Otherwise, there is no period allowed for withdrawal after signature, unless specified by the insurer.
The Guides to France are published for general information only.
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