Opportunity to take cover in the garden: Move against loophole in home insurance

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The Independent Online
DO YOU remember the storms of 1987 and 1990, when tiles were ripped off roofs, trees uprooted and fences flattened by 100mph winds? And when people discovered, much to their disgust, that they were unable to claim on their insurance for much of the damage, which ran into many hundreds of millions of pounds in total?

Research published last month shows that the British spend about pounds 2.6bn each year on their gardens. Yet household insurance policies generally do not cover much beyond a person's front door. This can lead to seemingly bizarre exclusions, where a garden shed is insured against storms but fences are not.

An Eagle Star spokesman explained: 'Although we do cover outbuildings on the same household policy, fences are much riskier.

'There were companies that used to include them, but that was stopped in the 1970s, after a series of storms. It was found that the cost of cover would be too expensive if they were included in the policy.

'It does make sense. A shed, for instance, is a solid structure, usually built on a solid base, with a fairly small surface area.

'Fences have a broad surface area open to the elements, with several parts in contact with the ground and potentially subject to rot. The weight-to-wind-resistance ratio is different in both cases.'

Theft from outbuildings such as sheds may be covered by insurance, but companies are increasingly demanding to see proof of forced entry before paying out, claiming that security in gardens is much laxer than in homes.

One consequence of the insurance companies' exclusion policy is that other areas of potential damage to gardens are also not covered, as Colin Brown, a telecommunications sales manager, discovered to his cost.

Mr Brown, who lives in Burbage, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, said: 'Our cottage is thatched, with about three-quarters of an acre of mature garden, with a lot of trees. We have two young children, Adam and Katie, and - as we are on the high street - we need to have secure fencing. About three years ago, one of the mature trees in the garden blew down. It took with it part of the garden wall and an electricity cable.' The Browns found that their household insurance covered none of the expense incurred in repairing the damage.

'We had to get a tree feller to deal with the tree and the electricity board to deal with the cable.

'Someone reported us to the council, saying the wall was not safe and we had to go out that same day and hire a set of traffic lights. It was a complete nightmare, and it cost us hundreds of pounds.'

Earlier this year, Mr Brown's household contents insurer, CGA Direct, launched a garden policy. Mr Brown said: 'We were very interested because it seemed such an excellent idea. It gives us security without massive cost.'

CGA Direct, based in Horsham, West Sussex, charges an annual pounds 15 premium for its Garden Gard scheme, which covers items normally excluded from most household policies.

The cover includes damage to hedges, fences and lawns from fire, lightning, storm, flood or explosion, to a full replacement value of pounds 750 in any one year.

The company is also hoping to extend the theft cover offered by the policy for an extra pounds 20 a year.

Richard Playle, the company's managing director, said: 'We have been thinking about doing this since the storms a few years ago.

'We were finding that people spend more and more money on their gardens, only to discover that they are not covered for damage, or in many instances of theft.'

Mr Brown said: 'From our point of view, our experience meant that it became a question of whether we could afford not to have this kind of cover.'

CGA Direct: 0800 525200

(Photograph omitted)