Gar­den in­sur­ance crit­i­cal to avoid tak­ing a fi­nan­cial bath

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

RE­SEARCH con­ducted by the Michi­gan State Univer­sity’s Depart­ment of Hor­ti­cul­ture shows that a good land­scape de­sign can in­crease a home’s value by 5 to 11 per­cent.

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 gar­dens.

This is ac­cord­ing to Chris­telle Fourie- Col­man, chief ex­ec­u­tive of MUA In­sur­ance Ac­cep­tances, who says that al­though 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. If a property, per­ma­nent fix­ture or home im­prove­ment is dam­aged by a fallen tree, home­owner in­sur­ance should cover the costs of re­pairs 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.”

To avoid the risk of un­der­in­sur­ance spe­cialised gar­den cover should be taken out, she says. This form of in­sur­ance un­der­stands the in­trin­sic value of the land­scaped property, as well as the value it adds to the home.

An ex­am­ple is a house fire that 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 gases 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.

“In gen­eral, re­in­state­ment of gar­dens is usu­ally found as an au­to­matic ex­ten­sion un­der poli­cies specif­i­cally de­signed for wealthy home­own­ers. 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.

“Home­own­ers for­tu­nate enough to have large trees on their prop­er­ties need to con­sider the li­a­bil­ity risk. If a tree that 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.”

Fourie-Col­man says home­own­ers need to keep in mind that gar­den in­sur­ance is lim­ited, and it’s im­por­tant to read the fine print in the pol­icy. “Own­ers of land­scaped gar­dens should never as­sume they’re cov­ered by their cur­rent in­sur­ance pol­icy. It’s very im­por­tant to go through the pol­icy and es­tab­lish ex­actly what they’re cov­ered for in case of a dis­as­ter.”

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