Are outdoor living areas covered by home insurance?
From ponds to pergolas, barbeques to bar fridges, here's how insurance can cover your outdoor living area and the things you keep outside.
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Outdoor living areas make our lives at home better. These can include permanent structures like verandas, ponds and swimming pools or decorative add-ons like statues, potted plants and paved areas. The total value of those structures and features might be higher than you'd think.
By definition, outdoor living areas are more exposed to the elements and the things we keep outside are more vulnerable to theft. With home insurance covering your home's outside spaces, you'll be able to relax and enjoy the fresh air.
Protect your outdoor living area with home insurance
Why should I get home insurance for my outdoor living area?
If you've invested in your backyard or garden, embellishing it with "furnished" living spaces and decorative touches, then outdoor living home insurance could be for you.
Helpfully, insurers tend to treat many outdoor areas as part of the home, which means you can get the same levels and types of cover for lots of outdoor assets as you can for your indoor ones.
Outside the main structure of your home, insurers generally differentiate between:
- Permanent fixtures
- The things we keep in permanent fixtures like a barbeque and outdoor furniture
Which insurance is right for you will depend on what you need to cover:
Can protect permanent outdoor structures like pools, sheds and pizza ovens from physical damage
Can cover the things you keep in those structures and elsewhere outside like prized potted plants or a bar fridge
Provides cover for both the physical structure of your outdoor setting and the contents within it, giving the broadest protection
What's a permanent fixture?
Home insurers' definitions can vary slightly, but basically, if it's permanently attached to the property, it's a permanent fixture. Examples include:
- Outdoor kitchens (including any cupboards and drawers)
- Barbeques and cooking areas
- Pergolas and gazebos
- Decks, verandas and balconies
If one of the above is damaged or lost in an insured event, home insurance can cover it, whereas a straight contents policy won't.
Keep in mind there's a difference between:
- Fixtures, which are permanently attached to the property, like (in an outdoor kitchen) built-in shelving, light fixtures and stovetops.
- Fittings, which are freestanding and/or not permanently attached. Examples could include desk lamps, coffee tables and fridges.
Can my outdoor kitchen set-up be covered?
Yes, absolutely. Just make sure the structure and what's in it are listed in your home and/or contents policy, or included in your sum-insured amount.
Again, home and building insurance and contents insurance cover different things. So when you're itemising your outdoor assets, you should – like the insurer – differentiate between permanent fixtures (structural elements) and their contents (including fittings).
A combined building and contents policy can cover the kitchen structure as well as its contents.
What about my barbeque?
You can definitely include your barbeque in your home and/or contents policy. The insurance you need might depend on whether it's a built-in (building) or portable (contents) unit. If you have a combined home and contents policy, you can be covered either way.
How do I cover outdoor structures like patios, verandas, gazebos and pergolas?
You just have to make sure they're listed in your home and buildings policy and that you're happy with the amounts they're insured for.
Do that, and if a structure is damaged in a storm or by a falling tree, you can be covered.
Your home and contents insurance can also cover more or less anything of value you might keep in these structures (e.g. outdoor furniture, potted plants, cooking equipment).
Will my water feature be covered?
Whether it's a pond, fountain or statue, it can be insured just like your other valuables. Just make sure it (and its full value) are listed in your policy.
Home and contents insurance can cover the damage or loss of a water feature because of things like vandalism, theft and storm and impact damage (e.g. from a falling tree or branch).
It could also cover any damage your water feature caused if it happened to go haywire and flood the property.
A heads-up: goldfish, koi and other aquatic friends likely won't be covered.
When will I be covered?
With combined home and contents insurance, you can be covered for repair or replacement costs if an outdoor structure and/or its contents are damaged, destroyed or lost because of:
- Escape of liquid from your plumbing system or water features
For example, you could be covered if:
- A barbeque or outdoor gas stove malfunctioned and caused fire damage
- A tree or branch fell and damaged a pergola, outdoor table or garden ornament
- An antique statue was stolen from your garden
You'll also have the option to include various add-ons, such as accidental damage insurance, that can broaden your cover.
When won't my outdoor living area be covered by home insurance?
Exclusions to your cover might apply if:
- You haven't listed an outdoor structure or item on your home and/or contents policy or you haven't included its full value.
- A pet damages an outdoor structure or item.
- An outdoor structure or item is damaged or lost because of something that was foreseeable and preventable (e.g. you had a backyard bonfire that got out of hand).
- An item in a garden bed is damaged or lost – home and building insurance generally ends where your garden beds start. If you have precious plants you want to insure, you can think about garden insurance.
Renovating your outdoor living area? Don't forget this!
If you're renovating an outdoor area, don't make the common mistake of forgetting to update the relevant maximum insured amounts in your policy so they'll reflect:
- The money you've spent on the upgrade
- Any new structures to be covered by your building insurance or items to be covered by your contents insurance (e.g. for a new furnished pergola and paved barbeque area)
After pouring money into a renovation, the last thing you want is for the upgraded area to be damaged and then to find you're not covered for its full value because you didn't update your policy.
Keeping the buildings, contents and all-important sums insured in your policy up to date is a key way to get the most out of your insurance.
When you do update your policy, take the opportunity to check whether you could be getting a better deal on your home insurance.
Picture: Getty Images
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