Garden insurance critical to avoid taking a financial bath
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.”