Better safe than sorry
France has a slightly different attitude to insurance than the UK; it’s more likely to be obligatory, especially where liability is concerned. Karen Tait reports
Insurance is more likely to be obligatory in France, especially concerning liability
Whether you own a holiday home or are moving to France, or even if you’re just visiting, you can’t turn a blind eye to insurance. From buildings to cars, healthcare to contents, and even your children, the best policy is to have a policy.
Driving All cars in France must be covered for collision liability, regardless of where the car is registered and where you live, even if the vehicle isn’t in use (unless all four wheels have been removed).
If you are visiting France for less than 90 days a year, your UK policy should give you third-party cover for travel abroad but make sure you check before you go.
If you live in France, you have a choice of third party ( tiers collision), third party, fire and theft, or comprehensive ( tous risques) policies.
When driving in France, you are legally obliged to carry your insurance certificate ( attestation d’assurance) along with the vehicle registration papers ( certificat d’immatriculation). The green certificat d’assurance should be fixed to your vehicle windscreen. Don’t leave these documents in your car though, it will cause you all manner of problems should it be stolen!
Your insurer will also provide you with a carbon copy form ( constat amiable) to fill out in the event of an accident. It must be signed by you and the other party involved; both parties send their copy to their respective insurers, who will then establish who was at fault.
The French no-claims bonus
system is pretty strict; only after 13 years of faultless driving will you obtain a 50% no-claims bonus.
Buildings Home insurance ( assurance habitation) is compulsory in France for those who rent a property or have a mortgage, but not if you own your home.
French policies are all comprehensive, covering any damage to your home and contents, such as fire, water damage, theft and vandalism. Natural catastrophes are usually automatically covered.
You will be asked questions about your French property, such as the number of rooms, but not the value of the building as this is covered by a national building index. Make sure you’re covered for contents too.
If your property is a holiday home and will be left empty for periods of time, make sure you inform your insurer. They may require exta security measures. Fire alarms are not required by French law or most insurers.
In France, third-party civil liability cover ( responsabilité civile propriétaire) is obligatory for everyone and is usually included in house or car insurance policies.
It covers you against the risk of damage from an accident on your property to a third party (for example, a neighbour or their property). Without this cover you would be liable to pay any compensation that may be due. When you buy a French property, the notaire will ask to see this on the day of completion.
Healthcare This is another area of insurance that differs between France and the UK. While both countries have state healthcare, in France some of the costs of healthcare are borne by the individual (the state usually covers around 70% of doctors’ fees and 80% of hospital costs).
It is common for those living in France to pay into a top-up insurance scheme, known as a mutuelle, to cover those costs not covered by the state. If you move to France and don’t qualify for state healthcare – early retirees, for example (i.e. who aren’t working and paying into the French social security system or in receipt of a UK pension) – you will need a healthcare insurance policy to cover all your healthcare needs.
Not forgetting... This often seems strange to British expat parents in France, but schoolkids need liability insurance for any damage or injury they may cause while at school.
Some home insurance policies automatically include this liability cover, but check as you may need to take out it separately. The school will ask to see proof of this at the start of the school year.
You may also wish to consider life insurance. Note that in France, there is death insurance ( assurance décès) and life insurance ( assurance vie), the latter referring to a savings and investment product which can be used for retirement and long-term projects, but also pays out in the event of death and can be useful for estate-planning.
If you have any building work done at your property, make sure the builders and other artisans have insurance ( assurance décennale and dommages ouvrage), and that it covers the specific type of work they’d doing.
If you’re working in France on a self-employed basis, you will also need insurance such as professional indemnity.
See Axa and CA Britline at