A recent High Court ruling has highlighted the need for property owners to make sure their outdoor ornaments and sculptures are included within their insurance arrangements.

The Dill v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (2020) case centred on a pair of outdoor stone urns, which were deemed to form part of a building's listed status and, by extension, part of the building.

Mr Dill had inherited a pair of early 18th century lead urns, which were originally in the gardens of Wrest Park from approximately 1735 until they were removed in 1939 and ended up at Idlicote House in 1973. The house was designated as a Grade II listed building in 1966 and the urns listed in their own right in 1986. However, there was no evidence of the owners being consulted and there was an unexplained delay in the appearance of this listing on the local land charges register. Mr Dill was unaware of the separate listing and had inadvertently breached listed status and the laws surrounding it by removing the urns in 2009.

Correctly insuring your assets

Insurance policies will usually define a person's buildings as follows:

“Your home and other permanent structures owned by you. Buildings includes utility pipes, cables, domestic underground and over-ground tanks supplying or serving the buildings and within the grounds of the residence.”

This makes no mention of any outdoor ornaments or sculptures which might fall outside what is deemed 'permanent'.

While the ruling doesn't actually redefine the term 'building', it does reinforce the need for a specialist insurance broker to advise on insuring your assets correctly and adequately. If any hold significant value then it would be prudent to specify them for the sake of clarity, or look at specialist cover. There may be instances when outdoor ornaments and sculptures are covered under the Art schedule of an insurance policy for good reason.

We recommend you seek advice if you are in any doubt about what should be insured and want to confirm you are correctly insuring your assets. Our Private Client team can conduct a thorough review of your existing policy, advise you and provide a solution when issues are found. Please get in touch with one of our team if you would like to discuss this further.

To read more about the Dill v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (2020) case, visit https://www.farrer.co.uk/news-and-insights/is-a-vase-a-building/