Huge water bill looming!

Just had a visit from the sydicate d'eau who wanted to change our meter. On taking off the cover of the meter we discovered that the hole was full of water and that the meter had been leaking. When they calculated the usage, we had used over 1000 cubic meters since July! Once I picked myself up from the floor (after realising this was like filling our pool 7 times since the summer). I wondered why our games room floor carpet had gone mouldy and the walls looked damp, I had just put it down to the fact we had had a wet summer in comparison to previous years and that we do not have guttering, just the tile over hang that is common in this region!

As the meter is outside out backdoor and the section leaking seems to be between the house and the meter, it is I assume, our responsibility. Having swallowed the fact that we are likely to receive a huge water bill in excess of 800 euros, I wonder if we are able to claim on our insurance for the wet in the games room, as it is not now just damp but a leak that has caused the problem. Knowing how insurance companies try to wiggle out of paying any claim, I am worried that when I call to claim, if I say something wrong in the conversation in my not so great French I will loose out and really cannot face throwing all that money down the drain (litterally) as well as have to pay out for refurbishing the games room. Christmas is now officially cancelled!

I have turned the water off, filled up kettle and am not flushing loos as often as I should.

I know these questions have obvious answers but I have not had good previous experiences with insurance companies and have lost out big time in the UK by saying something that gave them an opportunity not to pay out. So.....

Is there a special way I should deal with this in the initial call and anything I should not specifically say?

I assume that I should wait for an insurance assessor to come and visit, however, they might not agree to pay out, in the meantime we have no water.

Does the job have to be completed by a plumber recommended by the insurance company or can it be done by my ever so handy hubby if possible?

Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thanks so much for all the info everyone, unfortunately, no digger possible in the section that is broken as it is too close to the house, so it will have to be dug by hand. I have asked hubby to stand down off duty for the time being and will call the insurance company in the morning. I have also spoken to a neighbour this afternoon who said to write to the local syndicate d'eau as they are likely to look favorably on the issue and reduce the bill, but until I get confirmation I will not get too excited. Feeling so much better now I have read all your kind word of encouragement and useful information, Long live SFN!

Hello Allison,

We had a leak earlier in the year, the guy from the water company actually dropped in to tell us when he read the meter (ours is read remotely).

The law changed around 2011 and I think that it is that the water company needs to inform you in case of over-consumption. Once the leak has been established you have one month to repair. If you do it promptly your bill can be only be double the normal consumption.

Our locals were brilliant, we only lost around 100 ltr and although the courtyard looked like the Somme after the digger had been in. The total cost as only a mornings digger hire and 125 euro for new pipe and connections. Luckily for us it as nowhere near any of the buildings so we did not worry about the insurance.

As Peter says you need to contact your insurance company before doing anything, as there is damage to the games room.

Good luck.

I would go and have a word with SAUR (or whoever you get your bills from). As in the UK they should have notified you that you seemed to be using an excessive amount of water or had a leak. I think also that you can have at least one or two leaks where they will guestimate what it would normally have cost you and they will pay the rest - similar to UK. I seem to remember going through this process when we had a leak. Don't despair, just get communicating. Also my mother claimed lots of internal water damage through burst pipes after a cold spell so it is no different. Take lots of photographs of obvious water damage. There is no reason for them not to pay out if you are covered for both contents and buildings insurance on damage to either for any reason. Never take no for an answer - perservere.

I wrote the above but have re-read your post and I would have thought the leak would be at the meter rather than further into the house. It may be that the leak is your side but I would get this verified. We had a hole full of water which we only discovered by accident and the joint which was leaking (pouring out actually!) was on their side so they were in no hurry to fix it and I managed to water a 50m hedge and more over the next few days. It still leaked when fixed so they had to return! Stick to your guns and if possible find a kind French person to come with you or talk on the phone if you have difficulties. If you search the internet you may find an English speaking phone number for your water company. Good luck.

Allison,I can't help you re. insurance claim although normally it would be considered a consequential loss & should be covered. I can say that several people I know around where I live have had similar experiences with water leaks & the subsequent large meter readings. All have successfully negotiated with the syndicate d'eau for a large reduction on what would have been an otherwise large bill.They do seem to look favourably on this sort of thing. Regarding the repair I can't see why your ins. co. would be interested in who did it but there again this is France!! Good luck

Hi Allison God awful news but some thoughts.

My experience of French insurers is that they are normally willing to pay up unlike the Brits who will do their best to avoid paying. You are probably entitled under your contract to make emergency repairs, which obviously that is the position you are facing.

Do not let hubby do the work as that will almost certainly invalidate any insurance claim

Call your insurer immediately and discuss the problem and get their consent that you can take emergency action. They should have a list of approved contractors. That at least will get you a water supply.

They will probably have an assessor come round to cost the problem. If the cost is less than a few thousand Euros, they may not bother so you might want to see if you can get a devis from a plumber that you know.

Now all this depends on your insurer and insurance contract so that must be your priority to see the Insurer and discuss the problem. If your French is not up to the task ask them to come to the house to see the problem.

I hope this helps and you get your water supply back soon.