The days are definitely getting longer and milder so it won't be long at all until we can relax in the garden with a glass of something chilled, while the sun sets after a beautiful spring day. During lockdown, this simple ritual became an even more regular way to unwind after a different day's working for many – and quite possibly helped profits in the wine and spirits industry!

Staycations are predicted to become increasingly popular this summer and many may take the opportunity to purchase upgraded items for their gardens.

We have written about securing your garden machinery and now we take a look at the rest of your garden contents, from furniture to the all-important outdoor cooking area and not forgetting garden ornaments and sculptures – and the lockdown influenced shoffices trend (see our 'WFH' article here).

Creating comfortable and inviting spaces in our gardens has grown in popularity in recent years and the breadth of furniture now available is staggering, as are the types of outdoor heating and cooking apparatus.

At the same time, petty criminals have become more brazen in their efforts so it is worth taking some precautions to protect your property and we have outlined these below.

You may ask why there is a need to secure items which are easy to replace. We are hearing increasing reports that there is a shortage of barbeques and fuel, be it gas or charcoal and import tax changes since the UK left the European Union are having an impact on the cost to buy and replace them.

Where you keep your outdoor furniture and machinery should also be considered. The market for high specification garden buildings has seen rapid growth, with a spike during 2020, in particular where people have sought extra space to accommodate increased volumes of home working and schooling activity.

With materials ranging from timber, metal and brick/stone through to composite, there is a lot of choice and you should consider both the security of anything valuable kept inside your outdoor buildings and depending on the size/value/location, also the fire protections, in order to avoid or minimise loss and damage, but also reduce the chance of a potentially disruptive loss.

The following points may assist in preventing a loss and the inconvenience it causes.

Theft

  • Fit any access gates to your garden with good quality closed shackle padlocks.
  • When not in use or when the home is left unattended for extended periods, secure equipment inside a locked building or garage. Ensure that doors are fitted with locks rated either to British Standard or Sold Secure Gold level and that accessible windows are fitted with similar locks.
  • Consider extending your home alarm system to any outbuildings used to store your property; consideration needs to be given to whether wildlife can enter the buildings as this can cause both false alarms and damage to items such as furniture and cushions.
  • Store items which might be useful to an intruder and aid removal of equipment or exit from the building in a locked cabinet. This might include screwdrivers, other tools and ladders  which could be used to 'break out' of a building.
  • Use an identifying system to engrave or apply marks to the property, which can both identify the item as being stolen if recovered and enable its recovery to you.
  • Keep a record of anyone who has keys to the building.
  • Consult installers of any freestanding garden ornaments and sculptures and even items such as hot tubs – sales of which were reported to have increased significantly during 2020.
  • If you use your outdoor buildings for home working or schooling, remove any expensive IT hardware or make sure that the building is both physically secure and linked to your home intruder alarm/CCTV system.

Fire

  • Store fuel safely in correct containers and ideally separately to the equipment. If this cannot be implemented, then use a metal cabinet which can be clearly identified as containing fuel.
  • Store other flammables in a similar way – including paint thinners and any other fluids which contain volatile ingredients.
  • Consider where combustible waste is stored – ideally not adjacent to any buildings.
  • Faulty wiring is a factor in many fires. Unlike a commercial building, there are no regulations as regards mandatory and periodic testing of fixed wiring (although there are of course rules in place regarding the replacement and maintenance of electrics). It is good practice to have wiring checked by a qualified electrician to ensure that it remains safe.
  • If you are using outdoor buildings for home working and schooling, ensure that devices are switched off where possible when the buildings are not being used and particularly overnight.
  • Ensure that barbeques are completely cool before storing or covering. Store any gas cylinders in a safe manner where they are not susceptible to impact or puncture damage.

Lastly, check that your insurance policy provides sufficient cover for your garden and other outdoor items. Are any limits sufficient, either for items kept outside the main house or for individually expensive property? Are sums insured sufficient to take into account potentially increased costs to replace items purchased from outside the UK? Are there any restrictive conditions surrounding garden furniture or other outdoor goods? Are your outdoor buildings insured adequately?

If you are in any doubt that your property is insured adequately and correctly, then Lockton will be happy to review the cover you have in place.