Research conducted by the Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture indicated that a good landscape design can increase a home’s value by 5 – 11%. However, many homeowners fail to check whether their homeowners insurance cover extends to protect their garden, placing themselves at an increased risk of financial loss caused by damage to their gardens.

This is according to Christelle Fourie-Colman, Chief Executive Officer of MUA Insurance Acceptances, who says that while some niche personal lines policies do include insurance for the garden, the cover involved is often quite limited. “The challenge with many expensive landscaped gardens is that they are not considered a permanent structure and any damage to them can result in hefty restoration costs.”

She explains that if a property, permanent fixture or home improvement is damaged by a fallen tree, homeowner insurance should cover the costs of reparation to the property. “However, if a tree falls in the homeowners’ garden and it doesn’t damage the house but the garden instead, depending on the type of insurance cover that is in place, the restoration of the garden might not be covered.”

In order to avoid the risk of underinsurance specialised garden cover should be taken out, says Fourie-Colman. “This form of insurance understands the intrinsic value of the landscaped property, as well as the value it adds to the home.”

She points to the example of a house fire which can cause extensive damage to the garden even if the flames did not reach the plants. “The trees and flowers could suffer severe damage from the toxic gasses that are released by flames. In addition, when the emergency service vehicles need to enter the property during a blaze, the vehicles might need to drive on the lawn or through the garden to get the water to the house, resulting in massive damage to the grass and plants.”

As a general rule of thumb, reinstatement of gardens is usually found as an automatic extension under policies specifically designed for high net worth individuals, points out Fourie-Colman. “Insurers will often specify what events are included, such as damage caused by emergency vehicles, earthquakes and explosions. They will also state the exclusions of cover, such as wind and storm damage.”

She says that homeowners fortunate enough to have large trees on their property need to consider the liability risk. “If a tree which is dying as a result of natural causes becomes a risk to insured physical property, the policyholder will be legally obliged to remove the tree on their account. Tree removal can cost anything between R10 000 and R20 000, and should removal be required as an effort to maintain the property in an insurable state, the costs will generally be for the insured’s own account.”

When homeowners are looking to purchase garden insurance, it’s very important that they talk to their insurance broker. “Keep in mind that garden insurance is limited. Before taking out personal insurance it’s important to understand and establish the personal insurance needs,” advises Fourie-Colman.

When it comes to garden insurance, however, homeowners need to read the fine print of their insurance policies. “Homeowners of landscaped gardens should never assume they’re covered by their current insurance policy. It’s very important for homeowners to go through their current policies, and establish exactly what they’re covered for in case of a disaster,” concludes Fourie-Colman.

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