Better safe than sorry: the differences in the way insurance works in France

Whether it is for your French property, your car, you or your family, insurance cover will be on your ‘To Do’ list when planning your project in France.

As with banking there are differences in the way insurance works in France compared to the UK.
This article will help you to decide what you need to insure and how to go about it.

Home and Contents Insurance

Thinking of buying a property in France?
Whether it is for a permanent move, as a holiday home or as a rental investment, ensuring that your home and its contents are covered is important. 

Home and Contents insurance cover comes in various packages. Extra options are available to cover amongst other items: swimming pools, gardening and leisure equipment etc.

Holiday Home/Secondary Residence

Home and Contents insurance can range from very basic ‘wear and tear’ cover to ‘New for Old’ it is for you to choose the level of cover you wish to have and what is important for you to insure.  Unlike the insurance policies you may already be used to, contents cover forms an integral part of a house insurance contract; it cannot be removed from a policy and is not sold separately. 

When insuring your secondary residence for your House and Contents cover this will always include public liability cover. Public Liability on a secondary residence will usually cover damage caused by the property to a third party. For example, a plant pot falls from your upstairs windowsill and falls onto the head of a passer-by causing injury…

Rental Property

If you are purchasing a property to rent out for short term holiday lets your Public Liability cover would normally continue under the condition that the tenants at the property do not stay longer than three consecutive months.

In the event of a long term let the property will need to be insured by you ‘the landlord’ to cover the buildings and your Public Liability and on a separate contract by your tenants, for their contents and their Public Liability. 

Main residence

For those of you seeking to make a permanent move to France you will need to think about the extra level of Home and Contents insurance you may need if your home has been previously used just for holidays. 

Maybe you need to increase contents cover, insure precious items, jewellery or some artwork on your walls? You may now have invested in a ride-on lawnmower or are building a pool. Are you extending or renovating the property, adding extra rooms?

Don’t forget to mention all this when changing or putting a new policy into place with your insurer. And remember there is no Accidental Damage cover included in French Home and Contents cover. If you spill a glass of wine over your new carpet you cannot make a claim! 

Vehicle Insurance

If your main residence is in France and you have a vehicle such as a car, small van or motorbike, insurance is obligatory. You can choose from ‘Third Party’ to ‘Fully Comprehensive’ cover, which will include public liability and driver protection cover.

If you are moving to France, your car will need to be legally registered in France. You can find further information regarding what you need to do by reading this handy checklist. Registering a vehicle in France is now completed online. Go to the official French government ANTS website for registering vehicles or applying for a French driving licence.  

You may wish to leave a vehicle at your French residence, even if you are only there during holidays.  Do not be mistaken in thinking insurance is not needed on your vehicle when it’s locked away in the garage during your absence.

If you are planning on doing this, it is possible to opt for a minimum level of insurance that includes fire and theft during your absence. You can then increase cover to Fully Comprehensive when in France and driving your vehicle regularly.

Other vehicles such as boats, ride-on lawnmowers and scooters also require their own cover if kept at your French residence.  Think about asking for a quote when you are insuring your main belongings, otherwise in the event of burglary, or fire these items will not be covered. 

Dealing with a legal dispute can be very stressful and expensive, doing this in another Country where you are less familiar of your rights can been even more complicated.  Legal protection insurance gives you access to a team of French legal experts so that you can obtain advice and assistance for private, consumer and certain employment related disputes. Generally, the cover is inexpensive and often proposed alongside your Home and Contents insurance. Whilst this policy can in some cases be available to non-residents, it applies strictly to litigation in France. 

Télésurveillance Home Protection

Several insurance companies provide home protection systems that include video cameras as well as basic alarms. Companies using smart technology now enable you to monitor your property via a link to your smart phone: deter and prevent burglaries but also to let you know of potential problems like fire and flooding. Whether your residence is your main home or your ‘chez- vous’ for only a few months of the year, this is an ideal solution to guarantee security and peace of mind. 

Health Insurance

One of the important questions to ask yourself regarding insurance in France is do I have the right medical insurance when travelling or living in France.  Depending on your situation different solutions will apply to you.

  • Holidaying in France/Non-resident – Always carry your GHIC card (UK nationals) with you as this will cover you for any treatment you may need for up to 90 consecutive days. This card gives you access to state healthcare in France and other parts of Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes free.
  • Resident in France – Once you are registered with the French Social Security system your medical costs will be covered up to a certain percentage. You can then take out Top-Up health insurance to cover medical costs and treatment that are not covered by the French Social Security system. If you are employed your employer should provide you with a certain level of cover which for an extra cost can also cover your immediate family. You can increase this level of cover via a separate Top-Up cover.
  • 100% Private or Temporary Private Health Care cover is health insurance for those who may not be entitled to access to the French Social Security system. It’s often available by speaking to your bank or searching via the Internet.

Whatever your situation it is wise to prepare your health cover by visiting the website or speaking to your French bank and/or French insurer prior to travelling or making a permanent move. 

Not obligatory but well worth it!

Other types of cover available for residents in France: 

  • School Insurance – This type of insurance can be part of your Home and Contents insurance or taken out as a separate policy. This covers your children for Public Liability whilst at school.
    An upgrade to Personal Injury cover also provides cover for your children for extra-curricular activities, everyday accidents in and out of school as well as theft of your children’s property such as musical instruments, book bags etc.
  • Personal Injury cover: Each year 11 million people in France are victims of a domestic accident and regular and / or compulsory insurance policies do not cover such risks that can be costly not only for loss of income but also loss of quality of life.  Specific cover can be taken out for families, children and adults to give you peace of mind should something happen to you or your loved ones.
  • Pet insurance – when moving to France you may have a dog or cat to bring along with you. Vet bills can be expensive especially if your pet is ill or involved in an accident. Pet insurance comes in various packages to suit your budget.

What’s different about French Insurance?

The renewal process is normally automatic from year to year. This is unless you have informed your insurer in writing by registered letter within a certain notice period of your wish to cancel the cover on the renewal date.

For certain policies cancellation has been made easier in recent years following the implementation of the ‘Hamon law,’ allowing cancellation of a policy with 30 days’ notice as long as you can prove you have taken out insurance elsewhere. This law does not apply if you have sold your property of course! 

Check the details of your insurance policy concerning the eligibility and requirements for cancellation.

Non–payment of your premium is a no-no in France, therefore set up your insurance to be taken monthly from your account or pay the premium in one go. Cancellation of a policy for non-payment could result in no other company wishing to insure you thereafter.

It is important to remember that communication between you and your insurer must be easy from the outset and from wherever you may be. Understanding what is being said and explaining what you need is vital. You do not want to under-insure your belongings only to find out in the event of a claim you are not covered correctly. Ask questions and find out if there are major differences from the types of insurances you are used to.

First published: 04th August 2022