Do you need insurance when you open your garden for charity?

Posted By: Alexandra Campbell On: May 8th, 2014 In: Gardening know how

Opening your garden as part of a village or town group is a great way of raising money for charity. Even if the gardens aren’t quite Chelsea standard, everyone loves having a nose about. And it draws communities together. But there is one fly in this otherwise delightful ointment. Insurance.

insurance for open garden teas

Are you providing refreshments? Or selling produce? Your insurers will want to know if you are planning a Waco-style mass poisoning

You have to have insurance. It’s unwise – these days – to open your garden to the public without it. And, unless you have a relevant professional liability insurance, your household cover won’t, er, cover it. We open our garden as part of Faversham Open Gardens & Market Day (last Sunday of June every year – put it in your diary!). When we told our household insurers, they reacted as if we were opening a terrorist training camp on the lawn and turning the potting shed into an arms store.

insuring open gardens potting shed

Are there dangerous chemicals in your potting shed? And did you know that fertiliser is an ingredient in some explosives?

The event is a fund-raiser for the Faversham Society, and many charities – such as the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – have insurance that will cover you if you run an open garden event. But some charity insurance cover only covers the volunteers working on the day, and doesn’t cover anything that happens on private premises. So check!

insuring open gardens - trees

Are there any broken branches or tree hazards in your garden?

While we were waiting to hear if the Faversham Society’s insurance covered public liability to the visitors to our garden , I contacted a few insurers to find out how much it would cost for us to insure the event ourselves. It would be about £150-190 for our 30 gardens and expectation of fewer than 100 visitors per garden. That’s a big chunk out of any Open Gardens funds.

insuring open gardens - tools

Tidy away gardening tools before opening your garden – this rake could hurt someone

You will also have to spend about fifteen minutes on the phone answering questions. Is there access to the house? Will there be a bouncy castle? Will dangerous sports be held? Is there a pond? Or a swimming pool? Will refreshments be served? Are you selling produce? Or dancing girls? Or drugs or firearms? Will there be extremists preaching under the pergola? etcetera. (I admit to having made some of these up….)

paving stones insurance for gardens

Uneven paving stones can be hazardous for those in high heels or anyone who’s had a bit too much to drink.

The NGS (National Gardens Scheme) insurance covers those opening their gardens for the NGS. They also field dozens of calls a week from people organising town or village open gardens. Many have, presumably, have been daunted by the CIA-style interrogation from their own insurers on the subject of doing something as dangerous and irresponsible as allowing people to see their garden. The NGS can’t give insurance advice themselves, but refer people to their own insurers, Pavey Group Insurance (call them on 0800 0746187 rather than ringing the NGS). Lycetts also specialise in this kind of insurance.

Water feature insurance

Even the smallest water feature can be dangerous to toddlers – watch children carefully.

Just as the Faversham Society’s insurers confirmed that they would cover public liability for visitors to the open gardens, our own insurers got back to us to say that they would put a note on our files to say we would have no cover at all on the day of Open Gardens.  But what if the house burns down and it’s nothing to do with the people in the garden? I asked.

‘You are not covered for anything that happens as a result of the Open Gardens,’ she said, patiently. ‘but if something happens that is not connected to the Open Gardens, then your normal cover is in place.’  Phew. So we’re safe. As is everyone else opening their gardens for the Faversham Society.

The Faversham Society has been running an Open Garden Scheme for years. So far no-one has been poisoned by home-made cake, knocked out by stepping on a rake or been tripped over by uneven paving stones.  But there’s always a first time – so if you feel brave enough, do join us at the end of June. Tickets from the Faversham Society, 10-13 Preston St, Faversham ME13 8NS

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