What to do when the drop breaks the camel’s back (and yours)

Imagine you’re sipping your well-deserved Friday night’s glass of Bordeaux while enjoying the breath-taking view from your sofa – something you’re now quite used to, thank you lockdown.

And then suddenly something hits you: what the heck is that dark and wet stain on the ceiling? Or, way worse: your angry neighbour from downstairs comes ringing your bell to ask why HIS ceiling is wet and water is leaking into his pot of soupe à l’oignon?

In both cases, the bad news is you’re experiencing the cortisol-infused nightmare called “dégât des eaux” or water leak damages.

The good news is, we’ve got your back!

Call us now, and we’ll assign you a handler within 2 hours, who will professionally take care of the situation and will prevent further damages, all while tapping your shoulder and telling you that everything will be alright.

If you wish to do it yourself, follow this step-by-step guide, but remember: time is essential.

Here’s a quick overview from the French Government, detailing the procedure to follow.
In short:

1) Minimise the water leak damages

If the damage comes from your side, try to locate the source: it’s a poorly installed washing machine or the shower? It might be necessary to disconnect the appliance or, in the worst case, to close the water tap altogether.  
Be also careful with electricity, as it can be dangerous to have electrical appliances (for example a heater) close to a flooded floor.

2) Alerting the interested parties

Contact as soon as possible all the potentially involved parties : 

  • Your neighbours (the leakage can extend to more than one flat) – this is especially important if you’re on the receiving end of the damage;
  • Your landlord, if you’re renting;
  • The management of the building (Syndic and/or Gardien);
  • Your insurance company.

What if it’s 14 of July and you’re the only poor soul in Paris while all the building is on holiday? If you can’t get a hold of the likely author of the damage, and you suspect it can get worse, you can contact the Firemen (Sapeurs-Pompiers, call 18 or 112) and have them access to the apartment. Drastic, but still better than have a pipe overflow for two weeks until the ceiling collapses.

Water leaks insurance is compulsory if you’re renting, and it’s included in the contract your landlord needs to complete the tenancy (“assurance multirisque habitation”), whilst it’s optional if you live in your own apartment.

Your insurance company can guide you through the next steps and often has a dedicated hotline, such as : 
Maaf : 3015
Axa: 01 55 92 26 92
Generali: 01 41 85 81 19
BNP Assurance: 0800 30 33 33
Macif: 0800 774 774
Direct Assurance: 0155 922 720

Important! You have a deadline of 5 days to alert your insurance company, and it’s best to have a written proof: so, after giving them a call don’t forget to send an email or a message via their website, keeping a printscreen of the correspondence.

3) Get your paperwork ready

In order to speed up the procedure and obtaining the quickest and highest reimbursement from the insurance, you will have to fill in a “Constat amiable dégâts des eaux” which is basically a form signed by you and other parties involved (the neighbour who caused or suffered the damage, and/or the building management) describing objectively the accident. It’s not compulsory, but we advise you to do it.

Struggling with French and the admin jargon? Let us do it for you!

Your insurance company might provide you with one, otherwise, you can use the official template. There are three copies, one for each insurance company (author and victim) and one for the building management, and they have to be sent within 5 days.  

4) Finding the leakage

Your insurance company can send over a plumber to find and stop the leakage, or it might be up to you to appoint one.

Want to find a competent plumber who won’t ask you to sell your kids to pay him?

Call us 00 33 6 51 08 42 19 and benefit from our large network of trustworthy craftsmen!

5) Assessing the damage

For important water leak damages (normally when the rough estimate exceeds 1.600 €, which is mostly the case) the insurance company will send over an expert to identify and assess the extent of the leakage. Get ready keeping the damaged objects and the proof of the value (invoices etc).

The assessment can be done via video call, given the current sanitary restrictions.

6) Getting the reimbursement

Once the damage is assessed, the insurance companies will propose you a lumpsum to settle the claim, depending on your coverage and contract. It will be up to you to accept it, knowing that often the repairs can’t start before the walls are completely dry (it can take up to 1 year).

Attention: this is a cash-free system. Beware of greedy landlords asking you to directly pay for the repairs, you can end up with thousands of euros paid for no reason at all.


How can I find a reputable plumber?

If you have talked with your landlord and your insurance and they have not provided a recommendation for a good plumber, there are a few ways to find a good one. All professional artisans or companies in France must have a SIRET number, ask for this before agreeing to hire a plumber and look them up on Infogreffe. This should give you some details about them and verify that they are a legitimate professional.

What if my water damage is coming from a neighbor?

Contact the neighbor and put them in touch with your landlord and insurance. In these instances the neighbor’s insurance should cover the damage, but it’s best to let the landlord and insurance company work this out.

Be safe and sound!

Elena Ferrari
Elena Ferrari
Legal and Administrative Associate

Born in Genova, Italy, and adopted by la Ville Lumière, I’ve been a corporate lawyer in London and Dubai, a burn-out mum in Singapore, an event manager in the fanciest art galleries and boutiques of Paris: now I am here to avoid you the cortisol-infused nightmare that my previous 9 relocations have been.

The sunrise over Oman desert, the sunset on Bali ocean, a pint in Notting Hill or a Martini on a New York rooftop: I won’t trade a croissant in Latin Quarter for any of it, and more!  

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