Do I Really Need Home Insurance?

Question

I recently read that a French property must be insured in your own name, yet nobody including notaires, can tell me which law stipulates this. I have also asked what exactly I must insure my property for if this is indeed the law. Must it be for fire, subsidence etc, or third party liability perhaps? Can I insure it with a UK insurer?

Given the inability of anyone to give me proper answers to such questions I am inclined to believe that there is no such law. I would very much like to receive an official reply to these questions once and for all, and not one that simply stops at saying that it's the law. I should add that my property in France has never been insured and the notaire did not even raise the question when I bought it.

Answer

In our view, the answer to that question is that there is no law which states that you must insure your property. However, it is of course sensible and important to do so and not simply so as to have insurance cover against the risk of fire, water damage etc. Perhaps more important is to have public liability cover to protect you and your family members from claims arising from an accident or injury caused to a third party. This is called assurance responsabilité civile.

If your property is subject to a mortgage, the bank will insist on you taking out buildings insurance cover as the bank needs to ensure that if the property was damaged or destroyed by an insured risk, funds would be available from the insurer to cover the cost of repair or rebuilding. In the absence of such insurance, the bank's security for its loan would be worthless.

We are often asked whether it is possible to insure a French property via a UK insurance company. We believe that some UK insurers will provide cover however we generally advise our clients to insure via a French company with English speaking staff. This is for the practical reason that if you ever need to make a claim, French insurers have a nationwide team of loss adjusters and will be able to send one out to inspect the property relatively quickly. Obviously, it may not be so easy for a UK based insurer to organise this. In addition, if quotes for repairs need to be provided to the insurer, these will in all likelihood be in French and a UK insurer would then require them to be translated. This would lead to more expense and delays and so all in all, our advice is to choose a French insurer.

In our experience, when preparing to complete the sale and purchase of a residential property in France, the notary will always insist on having sight of an insurance cover note where the purchase is being funded with a mortgage. However, where the purchase is a cash purchase, the notary doesn't always ask for proof of insurance and this appears to be your experience too.

This article first appeared in Issue 242 of French Property News – April 2011

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