Four million homes across France at risk of damage from droughts

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.

Four million homes across France at risk of damage from droughts
Photo: budabar/Depositphotos

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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Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Towns and villages through France are raising property tax rates for second-home owners, with many areas voting for the maximum 60 percent increase.

Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Even though France’s taxe d’habitation (householders’ tax) is in the process of being phased out for most French residents, second-home owners are still required to pay it.

This year more towns have voted to increase it, and others have recently gained the ability to add a surcharge for second-home owners, with French daily Le Parisien reporting that the residence tax “continues to soar.” 

Municipalities in zones tendues (areas with a housing shortage) have the ability to choose to increase taxe d’habitation by up to 60 percent for second home owners.

From 2023, several new areas – including Nantes – will join the list of zones tendues, meaning they will be able to vote to increase taxes for second-home owners.

This year, large cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Arles and Saint-Jean-de-Luz saw their city councils vote to increase the tax at the maximum 60 percent.

READ MORE: Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

Some areas have still not chosen to apply the increase, but those looking to buy a second home in France should beware that these municipalities could vote to increase the taxe d’habitation in the future.

In 2020, cities on average voted to increase the residence tax on second homes by 248.50, in comparison to €217 in 2017. This year, that amount is expected to be even higher.

On top of the taxe d’habitation, second-home owners also have to pay the separate taxe foncière property tax, which is itself rising sharply in many areas.