We Brits love a nice garden, and some people spend thousands making theirs look lovely, and on the gardening tools and equipment needed to do so.
From stylish garden furniture and sculptures, to barbecues, patio heaters and lawn mowers, the value of the items and tools we often kept outdoors add up to a surprising amount.
In fact, recent figures from the Halifax suggest that it would cost £2,000 to replace the average UK garden’s contents.
So if you came home one day and found burglars had made off with your garden contents, could you be certain you’d be able to claim for them on your home insurance?
Why it’s important not to miss your garden’s contents
Burglars love gardens as they’re often easy to get into. Items such as power tools, chainsaws and ladders represent a good haul for them.
However, while many standard home insurance policies provide some cover for items kept or left outside, or in outbuildings such as sheds and garages, they often won’t cover everything. And there’s usually strict rules about security which, if not adhered to, could mean you miss out in the event of having to claim.
Indeed, some insurers won’t cover your garden at all. This tends to be those policies at the cheaper end of the home insurance range, but it’s worth bearing in mind as lots of people assume they’re covered when in fact they’re not.
What’s covered in your garden
As gardens are generally less secure than main buildings, home insurance policies can have a greater number of exclusions and limitations when it comes to what can be claimed for and what can’t be, and under what circumstances a claim can be made.
Some policies include items which have been left in the open, while others won’t, insisting that they’re locked away if you’re going to be able to claim for them.
Also there are policies which provide cover for malicious damage (e.g. vandals breaking garden decking, pots and ornaments), but many don’t.
While the circumstances under which you’re allowed to claim vary considerably between insurers, the items you can claim are often similar and might include:
- BBQs and BBQ utensils
- Outdoor heaters
- Garden furniture and parasols
- Dining sets and benches
- Power tools such as hedge strimmers and chainsaws
- Manual tools such as wheelbarrows, forks, spades and ladders
- Fishing gear and other ‘outdoor’ pursuits type equipment
- Children’s play equipment
- Sports equipment
What to look out for
If you’re uncertain whether your current policy includes cover for your garden’s contents, or if you want to make sure a new policy has it, you need to look out for ‘contents in the open’ cover.
Not only will items then be covered that are kept in sheds and other outbuildings (usually only if locked), but also those things you might keep outside permanently in the open air such as garden furniture, barbecues and ornaments.
The protection provided might just be from theft, but can also be from accidental damage and malicious damage, if arranged, or if the policy’s more expensive it might come as standard.
What to do if your garden cover isn’t sufficient, or non-existent
If you find that a policy doesn’t include garden cover, or the cover levels are very low, with many restrictions, insurers may let you buy more expansive cover for a small charge.
However, a few may not offer garden insurance at all, no matter what, in which case you might have to buy completely separate garden cover, although this would be somewhat unusual to find. Or you could switch insurers at renewal time.
The claim limits for garden cover vary considerably between providers. Even among the major insurers, some standard policies might offer a maximum of £2,000, while others as little as £500.
The claim limits nearly always differ from those for the contents you keep inside the main building of your home, so you need to ensure you’ve estimated the value of your garden’s contents correctly and check it against the policy’s terms.
Particularly expensive items, such as sculptures or rare trees, might need specialist, completely separate cover.
Cover limits are usually different for items which are left out in the open as opposed to those in outbuildings (the limits are normally lower if left in the open).
Sheds and outbuildings
In all but the cheapest policies, the structures of outbuildings such as sheds, barns, separate garages, garden offices and greenhouses are usually covered under the terms of the buildings insurance element of your home insurance.
- Cover claim limits for outbuildings – Maximum claim limits vary and are often not as large as for the main building. So if your £15,000 summer house, or garden office, is destroyed by fire, you might only find you can claim half of that sum back, unless you pay to increase the claim limits.
- How much do you have in your shed? – There will almost certainly be limits for how many items you can claim for. There will definitely be limits placed on the amounts you can claim (see ‘cover limits’ later on in this guide). Check with your insurer if you keep a good number of items in sheds and other outdoor places.
- ‘Lockable’ and ‘non-lockable’ – Cover levels often vary between sheds and outbuildings that are lockable, and those that aren’t (e.g. ‘Open’ garages, or unlocked sheds). If it’s lockable, the chances are you’ll be able to claim for greater sums if anything is stolen or damaged.
Garden ornaments, shrubs and other plants
It’s worth noting, and as already mentioned, that policies vary considerably, especially when it comes to items such as garden ornaments, pots, trees, flowers, shrubs and other plants in terms of what you can intentionally ‘leave out’ in the open, and what you can’t (see exclusions further on in the guide).
Policies offering ‘contents in the open’ cover often allow for items such as sculptures, urns, pots and other garden ornaments (even gnomes!) to be claimed for, but not plants such as shrubs and trees. This would mean your expensive bonsai, bay or olive tree wouldn’t be covered.
So if have an urn stolen, with a plant in it that cost you a lot of money, you would only be allowed to claim for the replacement value of the urn, not the plant.
This can be an issue, especially for keen gardeners, and if you do have valuable shrubs, trees, flowers and other flora, you might need specialist cover.
Ponds and water features
Ponds are often particularly problematic when it comes to garden insurance. If you have a pond or any similar water structure that might leak, such as a fountain, bear in mind the following:
- Installation – Make sure your pond or water feature is installed properly, by professionals. Keep paperwork such as invoices and service records.
- Keep it well maintained – Your insurer will expect you to look after your pond or other water feature.
- Are leaks covered? – Work needed to fix leaks will be covered, assuming you’ve looked after the water feature and it isn’t just a case of wear and tear (i.e. it needs to be due to an accident, deliberate damage or theft!).
- Mechanical failure – As with leaks, any mechanical failure, such as those involving water pumps, for example, needs to be due to an ‘accident’ rather than it simply stopping working.
Swimming pools generally fall under the buildings element of your home insurance as they’re considered a building structure, rather than under garden cover (which falls under ‘contents’).
So you need to make sure the maximum potential cost of re-building and repairing your pool is factored into the cover levels you have on your buildings insurance.
As with ponds and other water features, leakage is nearly always covered.
How to value your Garden contents
When estimating the value of your garden’s contents, always do your sums based on the cost of buying items new, not on their second hand value or the price you paid for them.
You might have a mower that you bought 20 years ago for a couple of hundred pounds, but the equivalent now could cost double.
Anything in your garden that you think is particularly valuable will probably need specifying in your insurance cover so the insurer can work out how much of a ‘risk’ you are. For most standard policies this is for items worth over £1,000.
It’s a good idea to have valuations on some items, such as expensive garden ornaments, completed every few years to ensure you’re not under-insuring yourself as their value may come to exceed the claim limits on your policy.
Exclusions to be aware of
If you have particularly expensive and valuable plants and trees it could be worth finding a specialist insurer, as many policies won’t cover such items.
Other common exclusions include:
- Bicycles – Bicycles may cost extra to be covered if kept outside, particularly if they cost over £500.
- Tools – Tools often aren’t covered if they’re used for business use.
- Damage to plants such as trees and shrubs – Plant damage is so common it’s nearly always excluded.
- Storms or flooding – Damage caused by storm or flood common in gardens that insurers won’t pay out for it.
- Wear and tear – If something has simply worn out over time, you won’t be able to claim for it.
- Valuable plants – There’s a strong chance very valuable trees, shrubs and other plants won’t be covered by your policy.