Home Insurance in France: What To Do In Case Of Water Damage
What should you do in case of water damage? How and when do you need to alert your insurer and ask for an indemnification? You will find hereunder a short guideline to help you better understand what to do to prevent such damage from occurring in your home. We will also help you find out how to act and ask for indemnification if, even after acting with caution, such situation happens in your home or apartment.
Water damages are one of the most common disastrous events that can happen in a home. In fact, more than 80% of the damages reported to insurances in France are linked to water damages. And to put things into perspective, there are between 500,000 and 1 million water damages per year in France, so, there is a risk that you might experience this issue at least once, in your lifetime… Therefore, in order to prevent and anticipate this kind of situation, we will help you with some advice and information about what to do to get indemnified by your insurance.
Firstly, witness the damage and identify the issue
It should be noted that water damage is not always caused by a large amount of water that comes out of your bathroom or your kitchen all at once. Water damage can also appear slowly, on the walls or the ceiling. It can come from your own home but also from your neighbours' apartment.
Therefore, if you witness any type of water ingress on the walls, humidity marks on the ceiling or mould, it can be due to water damage.
All types of water ingress that can be real water leaks or simple traces of humidity, must be taken into account as it can be part of a deeper problem. Usually, if the leaks appear on your walls or ceiling it means that you might only be discovering the tip of the iceberg.
The amount and the cost of the damages could rise very quickly, and worse - the damage can be spread to other people if you live in an apartment with direct neighbours. It is indeed very common, in buildings, to find several victims of one and unique water leak. As water trickles down, it might easily damage all the walls and ceilings on its way to the first floor.
Water damages are usually due to one of the following situations:
- A rainwater ingress,
- A pipe overflows
- A defective tap,
- A pipe issues,
- A sealing problem,
- An issue with any device or installation using water such as washing machines, bathtubs, dishwashers…
But some natural event can also cause water damage in your house or apartment:
- A storm or hurricane,
- Overflows from a river or a nearby watercourse…
Usually, as previously said, water damage will involve multiple people such as neighbours, tenants, landlords, who live inside the house or apartment or own it, and even sometimes co-ownership management in a co-property. As a consequence, multiple insurers will often be involved in all the process of finding and indemnifying the consequences of water damage.
If you live in a co-owned establishment and water damage appears in one of the common areas of the building, the insurance of the co-ownership scheme shall pay for the search costs and fees to find the origin of the water damage.
If the leak comes from a private part of the building, the owner of that specific area will be held responsible and will have to handle the procedure with his or her own insurance.
What if you do not find the source of the leak? You can ask a professional (such as a plumber) to come around and look for it. Some insurances include an option called ‘’leak search guarantee’’. This option will bear the costs of a technician coming to yours and searching for the leakage source and will be covered by the said home insurance contract.
Secondly, stop the spread of the damage
In case of water damage inside your home, the first steps will be to identify but also to prevent the leak from spreading as soon as possible, in order to avoid any worsening of the damage.
Take all the measures necessary in order to stop the spread of the damage:
- Turn off water taps or sources,
- Turn off your electricity (as it can create a high risk of electrocution),
- Stop the leak if it is a small and controllable one.
In order to avoid water to keep leaking and the damage to keep growing, once you stopped the water intake you should try to clean, dry and protect your goods by ventilating the room.
If the damage is due to a leak in a home near yours, another apartment or a neighbouring flat, and no-one is there, try to turn off the water from outside and notify the building custodian but also the co-ownership manager that water damage has occurred. Do not hesitate to call the emergency services if you feel an urgent intervention is needed. We can only advise you to keep as many proofs of the damage as possible, starting with photos of the leak and of the damage itself but also receipts of the damaged goods, testimonies or expert reports.
Thirdly, report the damage and take the first necessary measures
If you have multirisk home insurance (or MRH), you are automatically covered for water damage in your home. Water damage guarantee is one of the basic guarantees that all home insurances shall include. Nevertheless, we advise you to pay attention to the contract's fine print, as your insurance will not always guarantee every type of water damage. Usually, a typical insurance contract will cover the risk of water leaks, burst pipes or overflows. Carefully read the terms and conditions of your home insurance contract and, in particular, look for the exclusions. You may find a certain type of hazard that you're at high risk for is excluded.
As an example, all works performed inside your home or your neighbours home that cause water damage are excluded from the water guarantee. It is the professional liability of the company that shall be involved and not the home insurance.
Reporting water damage…
As soon as you notice water damage, you should notify your landlord and the co-ownership manager of the building (if there is one). Also, look at the conditions of your own home insurance agreement and find out if you are covered the damage in question. If so, you will have to report to your home insurance provider the damage suffered within 5 days of its acknowledgement.
- If the water damage is not visible in your own home but comes from your place, yet can be visible just in your neighbour’s apartment: your neighbours will probably come to alert you and you will have to prevent your own home insurer. Then, you should and act in order to stop the spread of the leak.
- If you suffer the water damage into your home but the origin seems to be coming from your neighbour's apartment: call your insurer and alert your neighbours, the landlord and the co-ownership manager. The leak can spread quickly so try to act as soon as possible.
As with all damages, it is always a good idea to look at the deductible that you will have to pay before your insurance will indemnify you for the damage. Sometimes, in case of small water damage, the deductible may be so high that it will be difficult for you to receive any kind of indemnification at the end. For this reason, we recommend that you only report to your insurer events that have caused major damages to your home!
As a reminder, a deductible is an amount that you will have to pay before your insurance bears the cost of the damage. For example, you suffered water damage for which the cost of repairs would be 400 euros and your deductible, as written in your home insurance, is 500 euros. In this case, you will not receive any kind of indemnification from your home insurance because your deductible is higher than the cost of the suffered damage.
Notifying your insurer by registered letter
You can report your water damage by phone, by calling the phone number written in your home insurance agreement, or by going directly to the agency of your insurance. But in all cases, you will have always, in addition, need to send a written insurance claim with a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt in order for your declaration to be taken into account by your insurer. With the receipt, you will have the proof that you made the report of the damage in time.
In this report document, you will have to write down the following information:
- Your name and address,
- Your contract number,
- The description of the damage,
- The damage suffered on your goods and furniture,
- The details of any damage caused to third parties,
- The address, name and contact details of the victims.
With a water damage report
You will have to download the water damage report file from the website of your home insurance, or just fill the one you received when you subscribed. It is made up of three different pages:
- The first page is to be sent by the victim of the damage to the insurer,
- The second page is to be sent by the person responsible for the damage to her or his own insurer,
- The last page is to be sent to the co-ownership manager or the manager of the building.
This report shall be very carefully filled up as it will be part of the common declaration of the damage for all the parties involved.
Therefore, pay attention to:
- The origin of the damage and what caused the water damage,
- The nature of the damage: what are the damages and where they are,
- The identification of any other people involved and the name of their own insurance…
As it is one unique document for all parties, pay attention to all the details before you sign it and send it to your insurer. Your signature will prove your agreement to the report.
Fourthly, get indemnified
Once your insurer receives the damage report, he or she will send you a letter to acknowledge the damage and inform you of the indemnification amount they are willing to offer. This amount is fixed in order to bear the cost of the losses you suffered from the water damage. If you accept the proposed amount, your insurer will provide you with the agreed refund.
Sometimes, your insurer will ask an expert to come and evaluate the damages. Therefore, you should not start any kind of works before the expert (or experts) come to witness the damages.
Your home insurance can offer you different options in order to repair the damage suffered:
- You are reimbursed and the insurer approves the quote you send, then the company of your choice comes for the repairs. Your insurer will reimburse you the amount paid for the repairs (less the deductible if these apply)
- You will be compensated through a free intervention, meaning your insurer will choose the company that will repair the damages and will pay for it. So will not have to pay for anything.
- You will receive indemnification for the repairs you made yourself. Your insurer will estimate the time and cost of the repairs and will pay you back for the money you spent.
Between the date of the damage and the date of your indemnification, up to 6 months can elapse, so remember to take pictures of the damage and if it happens to you, follow our guidelines!