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Insurance warning for garden owners

PUBLISHED: 19:03 12 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:11 12 July 2010

An Attleborough insurance expert is warning gardeners to check the small print on their policies.

The fashion for expensively furnished gardens is increasingly providing rich pickings for thieves, says a specialist adviser at the High Street-based Alan Boswell Group.

An Attleborough insurance expert is warning gardeners to check the small print on their policies.

The fashion for expensively furnished gardens is increasingly providing rich pickings for thieves, says a specialist adviser at the High Street-based Alan Boswell Group. And, as many gardeners found to their cost earlier this summer, freak storms can wreak havoc with plants, fences and furniture, leaving the owner with a huge clean-up bill.

The heartbreak is often compounded when the unfortunate householder tries to claim back the costs on their household insurance policy, only to discover they have inadequate cover, warned the company's personal lines manager Clare Waring.

“A typical standard policy will provide restricted cover, often capped at £500 worth of compensation for damaged or stolen garden contents,” said Clare, whose firm has handled individual garden claims of over £7,000. “On many policies storm damage is excluded altogether.

“Plants which are now the pride and joy of someone's garden have often taken years of careful nurture. The owner often forgets that the centrepieces of their garden would cost several hundred pounds each to replace on a like-for-like basis at a garden centre.”

The Alan Boswell Group, numbered among the top 25 independent insurance brokers in the UK, specialises in all kinds of niche insurance. It is one of very few companies which offers extended cover of up to £10,000 for savvy customers who realise how vulnerable their gardens and contents are.

Opportunist thieves know just how much easier it is to steal from gardens rather than houses and thousands of thefts from gardens, sheds and other outdoor buildings are reported every year.

“Lawnmowers, barbecues and garden furniture are becoming ever more sophisticated and ever more expensive, and unfortunately their owners often give little thought to their security and the cost of replacing them,” said Clare. “And don't forget how vulnerable gardens are to damage from extreme weather and falling tree branches.”

Storm damage is often excluded from standard policies said Alan Boswell Group director Richard Hartley.

And he cited the case of one homeowner who was left thankful that he had taken out extra garden cover when almost £8,000-worth of large sandstone and cast iron garden ornaments, wooden furniture and tools were stolen from his property.

“The claim was met in full,” said Richard.

Clare advised readers to check the small print of their household policies.

“Add up the value of your mature plants and garden belongings, check the total against the maximum cover your policy offers… and you might get a shock,” said Clare. “You will also need to bear in mind that most standard policies will not give you anything for equipment which is not securely locked in your shed or garage.”

TOP 10 TIPS

1Where possible keep items in a shed or garage fitted with solid doors and strong padlocks. Fit locks or bars to windows. Keep tools in lockable steel boxes or attach to anchor posts.

2Lock gates which give access to the rear and sides of your property. Use fencing or walls which have a minimum height of 2metres. Top with trellis.

3Use a security pen or Smart Water to mark your postcode on tools, machinery and, especially, any valuables left in the open.

4Install security lighting or CCTV cameras - or both.

5Use gravel on paths so that an intruder is more easily heard.

6Cut back trees and bushes to reduce hiding places in the garden. A thorny hedge along the boundary can act as a deterrent. Make sure that the front of the house is visible to passers-by so that a burglar can't work unseen.

7Check for weak spots where a thief could get in.

8Secure expensive plants with sturdy metal pegs driven into the ground around the rootball.

9Examine any trees for dead wood or loose branches that could cause damage in high winds.

10Keep an inventory of garden items, ideally with photographs, just in case a claim is necessary.

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