It's college move-in season. Are your student's possessions covered under your homeowners insurance policy?
If you're the parent of a student who is about to start or return to college, you may be experiencing some degree of separation anxiety. You want to make sure your child stays safe, out of trouble and up to date on schoolwork. You may also have concerns about the security of personal belongings in on- or off-campus housing.
And you may have questions about insurance for college students.
With computers, TVs, printers, smartphones and other valuable technology being shipped off to school with your college student, it's more important than ever to make sure these personal items are protected. Whether your student is living on or off campus, you should assess the potential risks at school and evaluate your insurance coverage before or soon after arrival.
Why renters insurance makes sense even for on-campus residents
As long as students live on campus, most of their personal possessions are covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. Keep in mind, however, that coverage for students living away from home is usually only 10 percent of your limit on the contents of your home. For example, if the contents of your home are protected for up to $50,000 in losses, your student's belongings are covered for up to $5,000. Limits vary by insurer, though, so you should check with your agent.
Students who move into a house or apartment off campus typically are not covered under their parents' homeowners policy. They definitely need to purchase renters insurance. And because homeowners coverage is limited, many colleges and universities recommend a renters policy for on-campus residents, as well.
Renters policies provide many of the benefits of homeowners insurance, including coverage of possessions and liability. In addition, a loss due to covered perils such as a fire, water damage or break-in triggers loss-of-use coverage on a renters policy, typically at 20 percent of your contents coverage. So a policy covering $20,000 in contents of the dwelling would also provide coverage of $4,000 in loss of use — money a displaced student can put toward a hotel stay, meals that ordinarily would have been prepared and served in the damaged dwelling, and personal items needed for immediate use.
These policies also extend beyond the house, apartment or dorm. Say, for example, your student's laptop is stolen at the campus library or away from campus during spring break. Your homeowners policy would cover the loss up to 10 percent of your limit on the contents of your home if your student lives on campus; a renters policy would cover the loss in full whether the student resides on campus or off.
Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive, typically costing as little as $10 a month, or between $120 and $300 per year. In addition, all roommates should have their own policy to cover individual possessions and liability.
Purchasing a renters policy may seem one more unwanted item on the back-to-school to-do list, but it's a worthwhile investment of time and money. Just ask the students who were displaced by a fire at East Stroudsburg (PA) University in 2017.
After the fire forced more than 100 students out of their on-campus apartments and damaged their personal property, an ESU senior told local news station WNEP that the plight of her fellow students convinced her that renters insurance is a necessary protection.
"I am definitely going to get it in the future," she said. "I can't even imagine not having it now because of what happened and what happened to other people."
Consider separate coverage for valuable items
Expensive items may be subject to coverage limits under a homeowners or renters policy, so you may want to look into stand-alone policies for computers, tablets and other valuable electronics. These policies may also provide coverage against accidental damage, spills, or any other accidents not included under a standard homeowners or renters policy.
You can also schedule items on your homeowners insurance policy for additional, worldwide coverage and no deductible. Scheduling personal property protects valuable items and ensures that their full value is covered in the event of a claim. If your child is attending a specialty school, such as Berklee College of Music, for example, you would want to specifically schedule their musical instruments onto your policy for an additional premium.
Before your student leaves for school — or shortly after arrivel — compile a list of the items that the student is bringing. An inventory will be helpful if any of the property is stolen or damaged. To file a claim, you'll need to know exactly what items are gone and how much they were worth.
When creating a list, include the brand, make, model and serial numbers (as applicable) of the items. We especially recommend taking photos of all items (furniture, electronics, bicycles, etc.) and putting the photos on a flash drive in safe storage. Additionally, try to keep receipts to establish value in case any items need to be replaced, as well as to prove ownership.
Wondering what other coverage your student may need? The flier "Insuring Your College Student" offers guidance on health insurance and auto insurance, as well as renters coverage.
One form of coverage not addressed in the flier is life insurance for college students. That's something to consider, as well, especially if you're a co-signer of a large student loan. The loss of a child is, of course, a tragedy in and of itself. Inheriting tens of thousands of dollars in debt as a result of a student's death makes a terrible situation worse, as reports by CNN Money and Forbes illustrate.
For additional information, please contact me. I'll be happy to answer your questions and offer some additional security for the fall semester and beyond.
About Gorete Cadieux and Sylvia Group
With more than three decades of experience serving the personal insurance needs of Sylvia Group clients, Gorete Cadieux works with multiple companies to find the best available coverage at a price that makes the most sense for your budget. Using SPS — the Sylvia Protection System — she takes a consultative approach to working with clients, enabling them to make informed, educated decisions about their insurance policies.
Sylvia Group helps businesses and individuals protect their future by designing insurance, benefits and financial planning programs. We’re a locally owned agency known for our commitment to our clients and our community, as well for our industry expertise. Founded in New Bedford, MA, in 1950, headquartered in neighboring Dartmouth, and serving businesses and individuals throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and beyond, Sylvia Group is certified as a Woman Owned Business Enterprise with the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office and has the distinction of being the first six-time recipient of the Five Star designation awarded by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) for all-around agency excellence.