Four million homes across France at risk of damage from droughts

Four million homes across France at risk of damage from droughts
Photo: budabar/Depositphotos
The consequences of the multiple heatwaves that have hit France over the past few years go beyond the obvious. After wildlife and farmers, home owners are now suffering from drought-related problems.

Following several years of scorching summers and water restrictions, thousands of owners could see their houses slowly deteriorate as cracks and fissures appear on every wall.

This issue originates from the foundations: in periods of drought, soils will contract, causing the house structure to move and damaging its walls. Homes build on clay-based soils are particularly vulnerable to movement.

According to French senator Nicole Bonnefoy, this phenomenon of gonflement-retrait, opposing the swelling of wet soils during wintertime to its contraction in times of drought, is likely to become commonplace in the coming years.


In a report to the Senate, she stated that ''four million houses have a high potential of being exposed'' to such damage. 

Senator Bonnefoy wants to speed up the process of decreeing a state of natural disaster and reform the system of insurance payouts.

Between 1989 and 2018, indemnifying owners of fissured houses cost insurance around €12 billion- €2.3 billion of which resulting from the memorable 2003 European heatwave. It is estimated renovation work on houses damaged by droughts cost between €35,000 and €75,000.


If your house is damaged because of droughts, you are not automatically entitled to a payout – only if French authorities classify your town as being in a state of natural disaster will your insurance company consider paying compensation.

However, all French insurance claims must be made within 10 days of the damage occurring, while the certification of natural disaster often comes months later.

Homeowners are advised to make the claim at the time that the damage occurs, and take plenty of photos of the damage caused.

The insurance company will then pay out later when the certification of disaster status comes. If your town is not given this status, your company can refuse to pay in certain cases.

Associations such as Les Oubliés de la canicule, (The Forgotten Victims of Heatwaves) guide damage victims through insurance procedures which tend to be arduous. They also underline the blurry process of how official bodies determine which towns are in state of natural disaster. 

Gérald Grosfilley, chairman of the association told the AFP he finds ''unacceptable'' that a town can be granted the status when another, sometimes no further than 10km away, is not.

The government recognised just under 10 percent of French towns as being in a state of natural disaster in 2018, a first for some northern departments such as Haute-Savoie.

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