Etat Des Risques Naturels et Technologiques

Etat Des Risques Naturels et Technologiques

by John Marshall FRICS MRAC

This is a report that has had to be provided to all buyers and tenants since the 1st June 2006.

It basically tells you if the property (with or without buildings) is within an area where there is a risk of a natural or technological disaster or accident. The standard natural risks are flooding, avalanche, earthquake, forest fire, flash floods, earth movement, cyclones, rising water table, drought and volcano!

The standard technological risks from nearby factories etc. are thermal, high pressure and toxic. The report will direct you to sources of further information. There is a central online registry of the risk zones at www.prim.net

As you might expect not all of the Communes have registered their information yet, so when you search there is a possibility that the answer will be blank. Also you may need to enter the INSEE no. of the Commune rather than just its name – this is not its post code! As an example have a look at my local town Quillan in the Aude, post code 11500 but whose INSEE No. is 11304, you will see not only a list of the risks but also a schedule showing the last occurrence of a disaster and how long it lasted etc.

There is also information available on the website about the purpose of the report and how to compile one yourself. A lot of this information is published in English. You will find the report useful if for example you have only ever viewed the house at weekends, and you would not be aware that during the week a constant stream of heavy quarry lorries passes the door.

Please don’t panic when you see that the house you are about to buy is in a flood and earthquake zone, so is a very large part of the Languedoc Roussillon!

The last major earth tremor was in 1986 centred upon St. Paul de Fenouillet in the Pyrénées Orientales. The damage caused was not great, but if you are ever in the village perhaps visiting the Gorges de Galamus, take a moment to look at the cracks in the church. For some time new housing has had to be built to withstand major tremors and reinforced escape routes are built into the structure. Minor tremors are quite frequent, though they are so deep underground that they are hardly noticeable on the surface.

Whilst a lot of towns and villages can be susceptible to flash floods, the risk for the vast majority is very small. Places that are most susceptible have special planning rules that apply to conversion and new builds that either completely ban development or stipulate that living accommodation has to be a certain height above the most probable height of a flood.

If your house is older look out for channels or grooves fixed to or cut out from the doorways. They are there to take panels that can be dropped in the event of a flood warning. If you are buying a holiday home that has provision for flood panels, then it is a good idea to make an arrangement with a permanent resident neighbour to keep and drop them in if you are absent.

At the beginning of 2007, the French Government announced that it would be introducing major changes to the system of household insurance for natural disasters, such as major storms, flooding and ground movement. Under the present system, the government must declare that an ‘official’ natural disaster has occurred before you could make a claim on your household insurance.

It is proposed that a decision as to whether or not the relevant clause in your insurance policy can be invoked will be left to the insurance companies to decide. At the present time, the premium element in a policy for natural disasters is controlled by the government. In future, insurance companies will be able to set their own rate.

This is likely to mean that the premiums payable by those in areas that may be prone to a natural disaster will be higher than those living outside these areas.

One beneficial effect of the change may well be that it will speed up the time it takes to get compensation, as an insurer will be able to declare a natural disaster within days of it occurring. At present, it regularly takes months (years in some cases) for the government to make up its mind. Conversely, there is the risk that similar claims within a locality may be treated differently by the insurers.

John Marshall has practised throughout Europe and particularly in France since 1984. He has lived on the borders of the Aude and Pyrénées Orientales since 2002. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors registered with RICS France and is amongst other things a member of their Building Surveying Faculty and Building Conservation Form. He is also a Chartered Environmentalist, a consultant surveyor to the Channel 4 programme, Selling Houses Abroad and a member of the Fédération Nationale des Experts de la Construction et l’Immobilier.

Contact him   

by telephone               +33 (0) 4 68 20 26 48
by email                      johnmarshallsurveys@wanadoo.fr

© John Marshall 2007

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