Insurance in France

When you move to France, you may be legally required to insure your rented or owned home against certain risks. All you need to know about insurance in France.

Civil liability insurance

Under French law it is mandatory to have a civil liability insurance ("assurance responsabilité civile") to cover damage to another person or property. It is generally included with the home insurance but you should double-check. If it is not included (yet) you can subscribe it separately or add it to your home insurance.

A specific certificate (“attestation d’assurance scolaire”) is usually asked by kindergardens, schools, after-school activities etc. to be sure that you are covered if your child causes damage or injuries to another child. It can also cover the health or belongings of your child during school trips, sport activities such as glasses etc. Check your “multirisque habitation” if this policy is included.

Multi-risk home insurance - FAQ

When you move to France, you may be legally required to insure your rented or owned home against certain risks.

The MRH (“assurance multirisques habitation”) insurance is compulsory for the tenants of an empty rental (law of 6th July 1989). It is not obligatory if you’re the owner but hardly recommended. More specifically, the law requires tenants to subscribe to rental risks insurance that covers damage caused to the building and resulting from a fire, an explosion or water damage.

Make sure your insurance product covers also your personal goods or damage caused to neighbours or third parties. If it is not included, you may think about purchasing complementary civil liability insurance (“assurance responsabilité civile”) in your MRH.

To insure the content inside your home, most of the classical French comprehensive insurance policies “multirisques habitation” include buildings, contents and civil liability insurance.

If you are insuring your own holiday home, make sure your insurer is informed in writing that this is not your main residence. Some policies become invalid if the property is left for long periods of time, usually 90 days. But most insurers offer specific contracts for holiday homes. Check carefully that risks such as water damage due to burst pipes which is a common claim for holiday homes are fully covered.

Regarding seasonal rentals, three situations are possible: either the landlord has subscribed to home insurance for the property and its inhabitants, or your own home insurance (or other) covers for seasonal rentals, or you have to subscribe to home insurance for the rental period.

The landlords of seasonal rentals are then not obliged to subscribe to this kind of contract but they are strongly advised to do so.

Does the landlord have the right to ask for an insurance certificate?

Yes he/she does. The law of 6th July 1989 imposes compulsory insurance for rental risks (water damage, fire, and explosion) on the tenant (article 7g). In order to ascertain that the tenant has fulfilled his obligations, the landlord may require an annual certification of insurance. For the other types of rentals (furnished, seasonal) contracting an insurance policy is not required but the lease contract may still include it. Under these circumstances, the landlord may require the production of an insurance certificate.

The MRH insurance contract includes several guaranties that aim to ensure the goods of the policyholder (house or furniture) when this latter is either responsible or victim of a damage.

The MRH contract mainly covers:

  • Damage to buildings and, if applicable, their content (furniture) owned by the policyholder;
  • If applicable, the civil liability in case the policyholder or the insured individuals unintentionally cause damage to others;
  • The civil liability of the policyholder as owner or tenant of the dwelling, when he/she is responsible either for damage caused by living there, to the tenant or to the third party or damage caused to the goods they rent or to third parties (neighbours etc.).

Depending on the contract, the MRH contract can also include a guarantee for legal protection and assistance (home assistance, assistance to persons, psychological assistance etc.).

Attention: To better understand the risks covered by your MRH as part of property damage, you should always check the general terms and conditions of the contract. Usually, the warranties included in the MRH contract are the following: fire, explosion, water damage, theft, vandalism, glass breakage, natural disasters, act of terrorism or attacks.

The civil liability for your personal/private life is usually included in a MRH contract. The insurer replaces the policyholder in case of damage caused to third parties in their private lives. Therefore, it excludes in principle damage caused to a third party in their professional lives. Other exclusions can exist: damage caused while practicing an extreme sport, caused by a dangerous dog etc. Reference should be made to the general terms and conditions of the contract in order to know the exact extent of the guarantees. Please note that in most of the MRH contracts, the amount is unlimited for the bodily injuries and limited for material damage to the amount fixed at contract signature. But always check before signing!

Be careful also of the requirement about the security measures which the insurer may impose. Check carefully if there are any specific conditions in the contract concerning security materials (system of door lock, security of the windows if you live on the ground floor). In case of damage, theft, if the necessary security measures were not implemented, the insurer will have the right to deny a refund.

Most of the lease contracts include the automatic termination of the contract through a one-month notice after a summons remained fruitless, in case there is a lack of insurance. So if you did not subscribe to MRH insurance, you are risking the immediate termination of the rental contract. Besides, you will have to cover the financial consequences of a potential loss, both for your own damage and for that of the third party affected by the event (neighbours etc.).

If you live abroad and if you want to subscribe a MRH contract for an accommodation in France, you can question the insurers of your country to know if they accept to cover real estate property located abroad. You have also the possibility to contact directly an insurer in France, through its website for example; some insurers propose the online subscription. Finally, you can call on an insurance broker.

The amount depends on the contract.

The insurer can apply an obsolescence-quota (“taux de vétusté”). The amount to be refunded will be determined by different criteria: age of the goods, the average duration of the product, state of the product at the time of the damage, characteristics of the item etc. The calculation basis and coefficient of “vétusté” must be mentioned in the terms and conditions of your contract.

Other method: The insurer can cover the replacement value. With this option the insurer will cover the damaged items at their purchase price. 

Attention: it is very important to read carefully the terms and conditions before the conclusion of a contract. The method of reimbursement can completely change the amount granted by the insurance in case of damage.

If you have already signed an insurance contract you have probably heard about the deductible (“franchise”) amount. This amount will determine how much money you will remain at the charge of the consumer. The rate or amount must be mentioned in the terms and conditions of your contract.

Those amounts can change depending on the insurance companies, so don’t hesitate to compare between insurers.

While you purchase your insurance contract, you will have to evaluate the value of your belongings. Be careful, if you underestimate them, the insurance will not be obliged to pay more than declared. The cost of the insurance will also depend on the amount of goods you will insure.

For valuable items you can ask for a specific insurance and in any case you should carefully keep a copy of the corresponding invoices to be able to prove the value of your items and keep also pictures of them (in case of theft). If you have inherited valuable items, you might draft a listing and estimate to communicate to the insurance company. If necessary you can upgrade the insured value.

Water damage insurance

If you moved to France either temporarily (studies, employment contract) or definitively, you surely have subscribed a home insurance. If you are renting your apartment, such an insurance is mandatory. If you are the owner, the law does not impose it but it is strongly recommended.

Water damage insurance is a part of the guarantees generally included in the home insurance. What does it cover? How to activate it? What to do in case of a disagreement with your insurer? Here comes a little overview.

The warranty coverage

The warranty coverage is not defined by law. Therefore, it is the contract that specifies the insured events. Please refer to the terms and conditions of your contract in order to know the covered situations.

Nevertheless, most contracts generally cover property damage caused by leaks, rupture or overflow of non-buried water pipes or by devices using water (bathtub, washing machine etc.) and heating appliances. Damage caused by water or grail ingress through the roof and gutter/eavesdrop swamping or overflow are usually covered as well.

The damage to property parts are usually covered (walls, roof, parquet etc.), as well as the damage to furniture, to household appliances, to your clothes or to embellishments (wallpaper, paint, floor covering). The loss of use of the lodging if you cannot stay there anymore due to the scale of the damage is also covered.

Attention: The costs of leak detection and the water loss due to water damage are not always covered by the contract. Regarding the water loss, it is useful to know that you can benefit from a capping, provided that you submit your water bill.

Your insurance terms and conditions may contain guarantee exclusions.

Most of the time disasters due to groundwater, infiltration by walls and windows, flooding, and disasters caused by lack of maintenance and surveillance are excluded from the package.

Therefore it is very important to look at all terms and conditions before signing your insurance contract.

Last thing you have to look at when you conclude the contract is the possible company’s deductible (“franchise”). Some insurance contracts may apply a certain amount of deductible which must be detailed in your terms and conditions. Depending on the amount of damage you are suffering it could heavily reduce your compensation.

What to do in the event of damage?

If you are a victim of a water damage, conduct the necessary emergency procedures: notify your neighbours – or the caretaker ("concierge") if you cannot reach them directly – in case the leak seems to come from their apartment, turn off the water, protect your furniture, call the fire-fighters if the flood is significant. If you rent the flat, notify the landlord.

Whether it is your neighbour or the co-ownership property representative who informs you of the problem, or if you notice it yourself, you have to react quickly. Contact your insurer to report the claim as quickly as possible and call a plumber in order to take emergency measures so that damage does not get worse. If you don’t react quickly, your insurer or the victims of water damage could accuse you of negligence and your insurer could refuse to take over a part or the whole amount of damage; your neighbours or the co-ownership property representative could sue for payment of damages.

If you have caused water damage, your responsibility is engaged if

  • You subscribed a home insurance including water damage insurance (for instance multi-risk home insurance, see above), your insurer replaces you to compensate the third parties.
  • You did not subscribe any insurance (remember it is mandatory if you are a tenant!), then, you shall compensate the third parties at your own expense.

What is the compensation procedure if you are the vicim of water damage caused by someone else?

Two solutions can be found depending on the damage assessment based on your statement and on the written proof you will be able to provide (bills etc.):

Your insurer shall send you an expert so that the damage can assessed the reasons identified. On the basis of this investigation, the insurer will make a proposal for compensation.

If you refuse this proposal or the expert’s report, you need to send your insurer a registered letter to justify your refusal. Failing an agreement, you have to ask for a second expert’s opinion according to the procedure mentioned in the contract. You should then choose a new expert, but this time, you shall bear the fees.

There are agreements between insurers (CIDRE and CIDE COP) that allow a quick compensation of the insured, without needing an expert, by the home insurer or the insurance of the third party responsible for the damage. These agreements shall not be binding on the insured.

If the insurance of the third party refuses or delays to compensate for damage, you can send a formal notice to your insurer, as mentioned in the general conditions of the contract, so that your insurer compensates for damage.

Health insurance

If you do not live in France but visit regularly, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will give you the same rights as a French resident while you are in France.

Important to know: this EHIC is not a travel insurance. If you get sick while being on holiday, this will not cover missed flights or accommodation because you are sick or if you need repatriation. You might want to check for a travel insurance, but first look at the conditions of the credit card you booked and paid your flight with.

If you are living in France and you are affiliated to the French health system, a proportion of the cost will be reimbursed by the French Government. The amount reimbursed can vary so there is a possibility of contracting an additional cover via a private complementary insurance “mutuelle”.

More information on health in France.

Cancellation procedures for insurance contracts

The French law on emergency measures to protect purchasing power facilitates the cancellation of insurances for consumers.

Currently the notification of termination is usually made by registered letter or directly at the insurance representative. If the contract is concluded online, usually the consumer can also contact the insurer online for the cancellation.

As of June 1, 2023, the consumer will be able to terminate the insurance contract online, thanks to a "three-click rule", whether or not the contract was initially concluded electronically. For further information read our article on "Electronic termination of contracts".

Good to know

For certain types of insurance contracts (in particular, motor and home insurance) which are subject to automatic renewal, the consumer may cancel, at any time, without cost or penalty and without notice, at the end of the one-year period from the conclusion of the contract. The law also obliges insurers to inform their customers between 3 months and 15 days before the termination deadline of the approaching anniversary of their contract. Consumers can then apply for cancellation before the tacit renewal of their contract, if they wish to change. The cancellation is effective one month after receipt of the letter by the insurer. The insurer must send a notice of cancellation within 30 days.

In the future consumers will also be informed about the date on which the contract ends and of the effects of the cancellation, on a durable medium and within a reasonable time.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.