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Garden furniture theft claims saw hike last year after surge in demand

In the last 12 months, Britons have been splashing the cash on their gardens, such as furniture, BBQs, fire pits, hot tubs and exotic, expensive plants, with more of us spending more time in our own homes. 

However, it appears criminals have wised up to this fact and are increasingly targeting gardens to potentially steal items to order, especially given the fact there is a potential supply and demand for outdoor furniture this year.

This is Money has been told by one reader that in the village they live, heavy furniture and BBQs are being lifted out of gardens in the night, as owners presume it is too bulky to remove, making it an easy target.

He said: ‘Burglars are simply taking a fence panel out and loading garden contents into a van. I’ve wedged cut wine corks into my panels now to make them harder to lift out – that is the world we live in.’ 

Insurers have reported seeing a rise in claims relating to garden furniture theft last year

Insurers have seen a hike in garden claims by as much as 46 per cent, including for theft of furniture, after a surge in demand for outside seating during lockdown.

Whilst more people have been stuck at home, they have invested in garden pieces including furniture, barbecues and hot tubs.

In 2020, they were so popular that searches for above ground pools increased 1,600 per cent, searches for hot tubs rose 460 per cent and searches for fire pits saw a hike of 1,050 per cent, according to Google Trends.

However, this has also led to an increase in these items being stolen, despite more households staying at home during the day and night.

Now residents are being warned to keep a close eye on their gardens, as theft could be on the increase as the evenings get lighter, people spend more time in their gardens and lockdown restrictions are starting to ease.

This is Money speaks to major insurers to find out how much claims have increased by – and what you can do to prevent your items being stolen.

Halifax Home Insurance said it saw a 46 per cent increase in garden claims last year, due to factors including fire, theft and storm damage, with a surge in February 2020 due to stormy weather.

Meanwhile, Aviva revealed ‘thefts in the open’ accounted for just 3 per cent of all UK home insurance claims in spring 2019.

By comparison, in spring of 2020, ‘thefts in the open’ accounted for 11 per cent of UK home insurance claims.

Similar increases were seen in the autumn 2019 compared to the same period in 2020 where ‘thefts in the open’ accounted for 4 per cent and 9 per cent of home claims respectively.

Aviva’s data also revealed 21 per cent of people bought garden furniture during the first national lockdown, with people spending on average more than £300.

Admiral said it saw a larger proportion of its theft claims being garden thefts in 2020 compared to the previous five years.

Some 4.9 per cent of claims were related to garden equipment whilst 6.3 per cent were determined as tools.

BBQs were a popular purchase last year when many were stuck in their homes and gardens

BBQs were a popular purchase last year when many were stuck in their homes and gardens 

However, LV= data has shown garden thefts aren’t necessarily higher than in previous years but actually slightly lower.

Last year, their research showed a 21 per cent increase in the proportion of thefts from gardens compared to the annual average over the preceding four years.

Meanwhile, in the first three months of this year, garden thefts are also on the rise, yet slightly lower than 2020 and previous years.

This proportional increase of garden thefts is closely related to overall home burglaries being down – which normally make up a much higher percentage of overall thefts.

Inevitably, whilst we have naturally spent more time inside, home thefts have subsided considerably, meanwhile garden thefts, which remain at consistent levels, may appear increased in comparison. 

Axa also said garden furniture and BBQ theft make up a very small percentage – less than one per cent – of its overall theft claims and it has not seen a particular rise or fall in the last 12 months.

In 2020, it found overall theft claims were down year-on-year across home insurance but the proportion of thefts from gardens and outbuildings was marginally up by around 3 per cent.

Experts are now warning households to be careful as the days get lighter.  

Sarah Applegate, head of risk for Aviva General Insurance, said: ‘Next weekend the clocks go forward and many people will be keen to get out in their gardens and spend more time gardening and relaxing outside.

‘This could mean garden furniture, children’s toys and garden tools will be brought out of sheds and garages, which may allow thieves an opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

‘So far in 2021, Aviva has seen claims come in for deer statues, brand new set of ladders, garden benches and an array of tools taken from a shed.’

Households are encouraged to see if their garden furniture is covered by their home insurance

Households are encouraged to see if their garden furniture is covered by their home insurance

Will your insurance cover any thefts?

For households concerned about garden thefts, garden insurance should come under your home contents policy and will cover things like plants, furniture and equipment left out in the open. 

This is Money asked Go Compare to analyse their data and find out how many policies would cover garden thefts.

The comparison site looked at 393 home contents insurance policies and found that only 36 did not provide cover for theft of garden contents left out in the open as standard.

A further 36 provided a maximum of £300 of cover and a further 12 policies provided cover of up to £500.

Some 298 policies include cover of £1,000 or more for garden contents left out in the open whilst 235 policies included plants in the garden cover as standard, with 34 offering it as an optional extra.

From those policies which provide plant cover, only two policies provide cover of £500 or less, 34 provide cover of between £500 and £999, 71 provide cover between £1,000 and £1,499 and 161 policies provide cover of £1500 or more. 

The cover usually extends only to theft of plants and not accidental damage.

Accidental damage to furniture and equipment left outside is rarely covered by additional accidental damage protection, even if you’ve paid extra to cover your home contents.

Ryan Fulthorpe, home insurance expert at GoCompare, said: ‘Last summer, we saw a huge increase in consumers looking to spend their unused holiday money on pools and hot tubs for their gardens. A year on, and it looks like those gardens will be in regular use again this summer.

‘If you have invested in new garden furniture during lockdown, it’s important to be aware of the limited cover provided by some home contents insurance policies, both for garden theft and accidental damage.’ 

As with all insurance policies, it’s important to check your policy documents or speak to your insurer if you think something might not be covered.

Homes are advised to lock away any expensive items in their garden and install security

Homes are advised to lock away any expensive items in their garden and install security

How you can protect your belongings

Aviva and Go Compare have provided the following hints and tips to protect your possessions around the home and garden:

• Put away your garden tools, children’s toys and bikes at the end of the day.

• Hide or cover bulky items which can’t be locked away, such as large barbecues, fire pits and garden furniture.

• If you’ve been to the garden centre and brought flowers, shrubs or trees, keep them out of sight until you’ve had the chance to plant them.

• Lock your sheds and outbuildings, and look at replacing any rusty padlocks. Also lock up ladders and secure wheelie bins – they are perfect for giving burglars a leg up into the rest of your home. 

• Keep boundary hedges and fences well maintained – this will help deter opportunistic thieves. 

• Plant prickly shrubs or hedges as a defence.

• Consider installing security lighting or CCTV. 

• Use a security pen to mark valuable items that are left in the open (garden furniture, hot tubs, ornaments and trampolines for example) with your postcode

• Avoid sharing images of your expensive outdoor investments on social media. 

• If you’ve got rare or exotic plants, statues or art in your garden, it might be worth looking at specialist garden cover.

Andrew Moore, home claims director at More Than, said: ‘Items of unsecured garden furniture can be easy pickings for opportunistic thieves. With many retailers reporting shortages, we could see a rise in theft of these types of items as thieves look to take advantage.

‘As the summer months approach, it’s good practise to store garden furniture in your garage, outbuildings or home when you aren’t using it. If you are using garages or outbuildings for storage, remember to lock them. 

‘Alternatively, you could use cable locks or ground anchors to secure your garden furniture to something sturdy. Motion sensor flood lights can also be a good way of deterring thieves.’ 

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