Your garden is vulnerable

Hammock in gardenWilfredo Lee/AP/Press Association Images

Forget the Good Life, and living off your back garden: if you have any interest in the outdoors, then your local garden centre will be a money pit to you, sucking your hard-earned cash from your pockets as you walk through the door and think 'oh that's a clever idea.'

But while we spend a small fortune on our garden paraphernalia, the vast majority leave it in unlocked sheds or out on the lawn, and a new study reveals we could be leaving ourselves very vulnerable.

Low levels of cover

Comparison website, Moneysupermarket,com, looked at all the home insurance policies on the market, and checked the garden cover. Although the vast majority have some kind of cover, it emerged that the level of insurance differed dramatically.

So, for example, the maximum protection for items kept outdoors is £250 with Churchill Insurance - which isn't going to cover much more than your hammock. Meanwhile, M&S Money offers unlimited cover for those with expensive furniture.

Again, providers offer differing levels of cover for outbuildings: Budget Insurance covers up to £2,000. Given that so many people store a huge range of tools and everything from expensive patio heaters and barbecues to lawnmowers in their shed, this can easily creep over the £2,000 mark. Compare that to Halifax and M&S Money which offer unlimited cover.

Peter Harrison, insurance expert at MoneySupermarket, added: "Considering the cost of some of the more expensive garden items, it's also advisable to look at the policy details to see if there is a single item limit within the terms and conditions. If it does not state a limit, it may be worth contacting your insurer to notify them of any more costly items to ensure you are covered should you need to make a claim.

"Additionally, for those who keep items such as bikes or gym equipment in their sheds, out-houses or other storage areas, these will also require cover so it's important to keep these as secure as possible to ensure your insurance remains valid."

Protect yourself

MoneySupermarket offers top ten tips to keep your garden and valuables safe:

1. Insurers are specific about what is and isn't covered as part of contents and outbuildings. Read the small print and ensure your open space is fully insured.
2. Don't let thieves have easy access to your garden; ensure all gates and fences are in a good state of repair, and kept locked and bolted.
3. Make sure your shed has a good lock.
4. Do not leave expensive tools or valuable items, such as bicycles, lying in your garden. Keep them locked away at night because if they are not properly secured, they might not be covered.
5. Make sure damage to walls, gates and fences are covered under your buildings insurance policy. Not all insurers provide this as standard.
6. Install a security light as a deterrent to any would-be thief.
7. Keep receipts for items purchased for the garden in case of future claims. It may also be worth declaring any single expensive items, such as a lawnmower, that may come above the single item limit on your cover if there is one.
8. If you have lots of expensive items in your garden then a normal policy may not cover you. Instead, you might be better opting for a high net-worth policy.
9. If you have a hot tub, jacuzzi or swimming pool make sure you tell your insurer as this is unlikely to be covered automatically.
10. Make sure you know what is excluded in your cover. Most will not cover you for loss or damage if your home is unoccupied.

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