Print Posted By Lost in France on 1 Feb 2008 in Living in France - Insurance in France

Is Your Property in France Protected This Winter?

Storm damageHoliday homes are particularly vulnerable to storm and frost damage during winter as they are often left empty during this hazardous period.

By following some simple winter maintenance tips, property owners can help reduce their risk of filing insurance claims this winter - advises Schofields a specialist provider of house insurance in France.

Below are 7 common house insurance claims and how you can avoid them this winter with some simple maintenance.

1. Burst Pipes and Water Damage

When temperatures drop, pipes can freeze and burst. The damage from burst pipes can be horrendous, especially if the burst happens when your house in France is unoccupied and the burst goes unnoticed for weeks.
  • One of the main causes of frozen pipes is switching the central heating off completely when a house is empty. Leaving the heating on a low temperature can minimise potential danger.
  • Ensure pipes are well lagged, wrap exposed outside pipes with insulating sleeves and make sure that water tanks get insulation too.
  • Simply turning off the water is not sufficient for a property that is to be left unoccupied for a long period. There is still a lot of water in the system, which can cause damage. Get a plumber to drain down the water and central heating system to remove the risk completely.
  • Washing machines, taps, showers, baths, dishwashers etc. should be checked from time to time for leaks. Even a few drops of water can cause rotting and damp.
  • Know where gas and electricity supplies can be turned off and where your stopcock is, as speedily shutting off the water in an emergency could prevent a great deal of damage.

If all else fails make sure your holiday property is fully insured for such losses.

2. Storm Damage

Storms and high winds can cause considerable damage to your property, which can go unnoticed, especially if you lock up and leave your holiday home during the winter.

Some things to consider:
  • Check roof tiles and slates are secure so you don't get water damage in the loft/roof space.
  • Don't forget to check that any outbuildings are weather tight.
  • Are the satellite dish and TV aerial fixed securely?
  • Gardens - Don't desert your garden during the winter months. Keep trees well pruned, remove dead/damaged branches and ensure they are clear of buildings and cables. Garden furniture should also be stored away.
  • Gates and window shutters should be well fastened to avoid damage.

3. Theft - Beating the Burglars

Most burglaries are carried out by opportunists when a holiday home is empty, or when your defences are down after just after arriving. Well secured entry points will discourage all but the most determined burglars. Some simple security measures include:
  • Fit locks or bolts to all external doors and locks to all downstairs or easily accessible windows. Consider installing iron grilles (set into the wall) on windows, or roll-down, reinforced metal shutters.
  • Never leave keys in locks or in obvious places, such as under a doormat or plant pot. Instead consider fitting a key safe if you have to leave keys for guests.
  • When you take possession of a new-build property have all the locks changed in case copies of the keys have fallen into the wrong hands.
  • Don't forget to lock outbuildings with proper security locks, after putting all your garden furniture, tools and ladders away, so they cannot be used to break into your house.
  • Ask trusted neighbour to check on the property from time to time and reward them for their troubles.
{loadposition contentad}Some insurers exclude theft and malicious damage after so many days unoccupancy, or if security warranties aren't followed so double-check your policy terms.

4. Fire Risks and Chimneys

An electrical fire caused by wiring faults could reduce your dream home to ashes. Have a qualified electrician check your wiring is safe.
Make sure your chimney top is sufficiently covered to avoid rainwater coming into the house through the chimney. Don't forget to have your chimney swept yearly to avoid chimney fires.
Fit smoke alarms on each floor, making sure they can be heard throughout the property.

5. Blocked Gutters and Drains

Clear gutters and drains regularly of leaves and dirt, as blocked gutters can cause overflow, resulting in flooding on the roof and damp problems.

6. Slip/Trip Accidents and Personal Liability Claims

If you are letting your holiday home throughout the winter, there is a danger that a guest could slip or fall on icy/slippery paths and decide to sue. Your public liability insurance (if you have it) will protect you against such actions. However, keep paths well lit, clear of slippery leaves and make sure that you have a good supply of grit or salt.

7. Electricity Surges and Power Failures

Rural holiday homes are more likely to suffer from power failure due to storms, which could leave you with a freezing house if your electric storage heaters fail. More commonly, French properties suffer from electrical storms and power surges, which could fry your electrical gadgets such as TV's, telephones, modems etc.

When you leave your holiday home unoccupied unplug electrical devices to avoid damage from power surges or electrical storms, or purchase surge protectors.

Unlike most other holiday home insurers, Schofields policies do not have security, heating or unoccupancy warranties. However, holiday property owners should check their insurance policies and any obligations regarding these three critical areas. Exclusions and restrictions in the small print can render a holiday home insurance policy worthless, just when homes are most at risk during the winter months.
With some sensible planning you can avoid nasty surprises this winter.

About the Author

Schofields have provided house insurance in France for more than 24 years. The company's policy offers full protection when your property is left unoccupied or holiday let. Visit for a quote or call 01204 365080 for more information


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