The Chelsea Flower show opens next week, and will prompt more people to get out and spend money on their gardens. But with garden theft rising, how do you know whether you are protected if your visitors turn out to be more light-fingered than greenfingered?
"Burglary is increasing, and gardens are a soft target," said Bill Seddon, managing director of garden security group Gardien. "Generally, insurers' requirements ensure that houses are pretty burglar-proof, but often anyone can get into your garden, break into the shed and take things," he added.
Mr Seddon said that thieves often target heavy items such as expensive garden trees and shrubs, shed contents, and even newly turfed lawns – which can be rolled up again and sold on. His website, www.gardien.co.uk , sells devices such as rootball anchors, which claim to protect plants against being stolen. It also sells security lights.
If the worst should happen, most people assume that damage to their gardens will be covered under their home insurance. However, this is not always the case, and different policies have very different exclusions and limits.
Patios, conservatories, outbuildings, sheds, garden walls, fences, hedges and gates will usually be covered under the buildings part of your household insurance, because they are classed as fixtures and fittings. Moveable objects, however, count under your contents insurance. That includes garden furniture and equipment.
Darren Black, head of insurance at financial comparison site Confused.com, said: "You should always check your policy as they vary very widely. For example, Churchill covers garden loss but only up to £250. Lloyds TSB Options cover includes £2,000 of garden cover as standard but this will not include your lawn if that gets stolen."
Other exclusions from many policies include plants in pots, such as expensive olive trees, and ride-on mowers – so it always pays to check whether the cover you have is suitable for your circumstances.
According to Saga, the average cost of replacing items stolen from gardens is £378, although some large gardens may contain more valuable items. A spokesman for the insurer said that the top five garden claims are; damage from storms, theft, malicious damage, impact (for example from a car), and accidental damage.
Some popular insurers will only offer cover for your garden as a separate add-on to your policy. Saga, for example, offers garden cover for an extra £30 a year, which includes plants, shrubs, vegetables, turf and lawns, rockeries, tools, equipment and furniture. The policy will also cover damage caused by theft, damage by smoke, fire, vandals and wild animals.
eHome, another popular insurer, will add on garden cover for £25, and will pay up to £2,500 if you need to have your garden relandscaped after a fire. Kwik Fit insurance includes garden claims of up to £500 in its standard cover, but you can buy one or two tiers of extra cover if you need it. Tier one cover is an extra £35, while tier 2 cover is an extra £50. Tier 1 will cover you up to £1,500, Tier 2 takes the cover up to £2,500 – necessary only for those with the very largest gardens.
Halifax offers up to £500 for replacement of stolen plants, trees and shrubs and a further £500 for garden furniture, ornaments and barbecues. Contents stolen from garages, outbuildings and greenhouses are covered up to £2,000. Insurers pay separately for items stolen from a shed or outbuilding, but this usually only applies when the building has been securely locked and forced entry is evident.
Choosing what cover is right for your garden is more than a matter of checking your insurer's small print. The first thing to do is assess how much cover you need. The Gardien website has a printable inventory which may prompt you to remember all items in your garden – including often forgotten extras like statues, bird tables and patio stones.
"People are gobsmacked when they fill it in," said Mr Seddon, at Gardien. "They just don't realise how much everything in their garden is worth until they add it up."
Some large items, such as ride-on mowers, may need to be listed separately in your insurance policy. If you have very expensive statues or antiques in your garden, even this may not be enough. In this case you should consider an insurer that specialises in high net worth individuals, such as Hiscox.
Of course, the best thing to do to avoid problems with your garden is to take sensible security steps. Tim Downes, regional manager for Halifax Insurance, said that garden owners should be proactive. "Garden theft increases in the summer by 63pc, so now is the time to think about garden security," he said.
(Reproduced from the Daily Telgraph May 12th 2009)
GARDIEN TIP: Follow all the free advice at http://www.garden-security.co.uk