Conal Gregory: Gardens that can blossom into a gold mine forever

Welcome to Yorkshire's garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016
Welcome to Yorkshire's garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016
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Millions worldwide will be inspired by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which runs next week. The riot of colour, stylish landscaping and profusion of plants will encourage so many to upgrade their gardens.

Yet there is a hidden aspect to Britain’s favourite hobby which hardly anyone mentions: the insurance is likely to be totally inadequate.

Presumably no underwriters ever visit Chelsea or such delightful shows as Harrogate and Tatton as otherwise they would design policies which properly reflect the risks involved.

Rudyard Kipling’s lines for The Glory of the Garden still strike a resonant note today but have by-passed most insurers.

A well-tendered garden can increase the value of a property by 10-15 per cent, advise property specialists Knight Frank. Each year gardeners spend £1.5bn on plants. Most such stock will be youthful but in time can grow into splendid trees and shrubs whose cost to replace is rarely recognised.

“The garden has become an extension of our homes with many homeowners investing in expensive ornaments, trees and furniture to enhance their outdoor space,” says Ross Gardner, home insurance specialist at NFU Mutual.

“Unfortunately, many people forget that the cost of these items can soon mount up and, in the event of a claim, some homeowners could find themselves seriously underinsured.”

Check your policy not only to see the overall sum covered but the individual allowance for a tree, plant or shrub. Look at restrictions, such as the level of protection expected and follow advice on deterrence.

Cover for any contents in outbuildings – such as a mower and garden tools – and the open is up to £2,000 with Halifax Home Insurance Ultimate but half this sum with its standard policy.

Such protection is automatically included with the former but an optional add-on under the latter policy.

LV= is fairly typical in covering up to £1,000 for loss or damage to hedges and trees, shrubs, plants and lawns caused by:

Fire, lightning, explosion or earthquake

Vandalism or malicious damage

Impact excluding falling trees or branches

Theft or attempted theft.

Its single plant or tree limit is £250. The worst offenders are the budget insurers, many of whom will only protect for an unrealistic sum like £500.

Frequently, the comparison websites do not properly reveal the single article limit and key exclusions. In all these cases, the insurer appears to be addressing those with window boxes and nothing more.

Instead obtain advice from an experienced insurance broker.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association maintains a list. They are likely to suggest such companies as Covea (which used to be Sterling before January 2016), Hiscox and Oak Underwriting.

NFU Mutual offer several policies with its bespoke one accepting liability up to £50,000 for a garden contents or ten per cent of the total rebuilding cost, whichever is the higher.

Often insurers known for their high volume and good value might appear to not offer realistic levels but, upon enquiry, have more upmarket subsidiaries. Direct Line Insurance, which is underwritten by UK Insurance of Leeds, is just such an example with its ‘Select’ arm.

Its professional appraisers will not only check on the level of cover required but give advice and make no charge for their visit and report.

Just as a professional valuer would be used periodically to examine articles like antiques and jewellery and give a judgment as to the replacement cost for each, so a garden needs to be regularly appraised.

Not only will such information help the owner to know the current values, often for stock which they may have inherited or been given, but the insurance company is then aware of its liability.

Scott Brown Risk Management Services is just such a company used by insurers.

They are specialists in professionally assessing the value of a garden and their expertise will be accepted by an insurer, just as a member of The British Antique Dealers’ Association is for describing and valuing period furniture.

It is important that homeowners treat each major item in their garden and outbuildings in the same way as they treat articles inside their homes.

Draw up an inventory, record any maker or serial numbers, note key dimensions and photograph as many individual items as possible.

Keep such a record away from the property, both so that a thief cannot access it and in the event of fire or other loss it was damaged.

Whilst statues and mowers may seem obvious items to specify, trees may be overlooked and need to be named. Do not forget garden furniture and moveable items like a barbecue and children’s toys.

When not in use, such articles should be kept in a garage or locked shed.

Gates are often forgotten and yet one of the easiest items to remove. Beyond theft, which is a major worry, storm damage is one of the major reasons for claiming.

NFU Mutual advise to not underestimate the cost of rebuilding a garden wall, which can be vulnerable to impact from vehicles as well as damage from a storm or flood.

Where a home is listed, apart from walls, ensure such structures as sundials and dovecotes are not forgotten.

Pots appear to be so useful to a garden but they are so easily transported that they appeal to thieves who take any plants and shrubs within them. As summer approaches, daylight robbery increases and yet a staggering 44 per cent have either no home cover or unsure if their garden is insured.

In a survey, Lloyds Bank revealed that the top most commonly stolen garden articles were tools (15 per cent), bicycles (14 per cent), flowers and plants (14 per cent), barbecues (13 per cent) and statues and ornaments (13 per cent).

With the majority of such thefts opportunistic, good protection should ensure losses are kept to a minimum.

Consider displaying signs which advertise your security measures which should work as an additional deterrent.

Smaller properties in a garden have become more fashionable following former Prime Minister David Cameron’s revelation that he is using a shed. Huts equipped to live in have the benefit of a lower five per cent VAT.

Planning permission is not likely if wheels are fitted. A summerhouse is a permanent structure and would come under the buildings section with an RICS accredited valuer able to assess it for insurance purposes.