July 23 2014 Latest news:

It might be hard to believe, but we are less than a month away from Midsummer’s Day.

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It remains to be seen if the weather will pay ball, but even if the sunshine fails to materialise, the criminal fraternity will still be gearing up for their summer garden days.

As far as they are concerned, the longer days give a perfect opportunity for them to strike – and with more garden furniture and plants on display, the risks of falling victim to thieves is greatest over the next few months.

Statistics published by Aviva, the insurer, show that thefts from gardens and outbuildings shoot up by more than 25pc when the clocks go forward.

Claims then increase as the days get longer and lighter, reaching their peak in July and August. At this point, the number of claims is normally up about 40pc from the start of the year.

Meanwhile, the Aviva statistics suggest the average haul is worth about £850.

Sheds and garages are often targeted, with children’s toys, bikes and garden tools – ranging from expensive lawnmowers to basic rakes – among the thieves’ favourite items.

“Extra hours of sunlight are obviously very welcome after months of darkness, but it also means that your expensive power tools, bikes and golf clubs are more visible than ever to a passing thief – as is your home security, or lack of it,” said Peter Ketteringham, household underwriting manager at Aviva.

“So try not to advertise what you’ve got, make sure sheds and summerhouses are properly secured, and clear up your garden every evening so there’s nothing lying around that could tempt a criminal on to your property.

“And bear in mind that loose items such as ladders and wheelie bins are perfect for burglars to use to get into your home, so shut them away, out of sight if you can.”

Mike Powell, an analyst at Defaqto, said: “It’s easy to forget that home contents policies can include our gardens.

“Water features, decking, garden furniture, outside lighting, gas barbecues, children’s playthings and plants can be expensive to replace and run into hundreds of pounds.

“It is essential that you check your policy to ensure that you have the correct cover in place.”

According to the experts at Moneysupermarket.com, the levels of garden cover under home insurance policies vary considerably.

For example, the maximum protection for items kept outdoors is £250 with Churchill while M&S Money offers unlimited cover.

There are also wide variations in the cover provided for items in outbuildings. Budget Insurance covers up to £2,000 but unlimited protection is offered by Halifax and M&S Money.

Peter Harrison, an insurance expert at Moneysupermarket, said: “When you think about the items you may have in your garden, it can be quite surprising how much they add up to.

“Many people have tables and chairs as well as gas barbecues and patio heaters – all items that carry hefty price tags.

“Homeowners should beware that garden items can be easily targeted by thieves so it’s essential to have the right amount of cover on your home insurance policy to make sure you’re not underinsured.”

He added: “Considering the cost of some of the more expensive garden items, it’s also advisable to look at the policy details to see if there is a single-item limit within the terms and conditions.

“If it does not state a limit, it may be worth contacting your insurer to notify it of any more costly items to ensure you are covered should you need to make a claim.

“Additionally, for those who keep items such as bikes or gym equipment in their sheds, outhouses or other storage areas, these will also require cover so it’s important to keep these as secure as possible to ensure your insurance remains valid.”

Meanwhile, Mr Powell, at Defaqto, said: “Many policies also offer cover for ‘plants in the garden’, which can typically provide cover for loss or damage caused by perils such as fire, flood, theft and malicious damage to plants, trees shrubs and lawns.”

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