Now that college students are settled into housing and fully equipped with all their books and gear for the school year, they should ask themselves a question: Is all this stuff insured?
Insurance for college students depends on a number of variables, including:
- Whether they’re living on or off campus
- What possessions they store in their living quarters
- The crime rate at and around their school.
Students living off campus absolutely should protect themselves with Renters Insurance. Students living on campus should at least consider doing so. Here’s why:
The personal property of most students living on campus may be covered by their parents’ Home Insurance, but such “off-premises” coverage typically is only 10% of the policy’s limit. If, for example, the parents’ Homeowners policy covers belongings up to $100,000, coverage for an on-campus students’ property would be limited to $10,000, with a deductible of about $1,000. The property of a student living in an off-campus apartment, frat house or sorority residence probably would not be covered at all.
For $10 to $20 a month, a Renters Insurance policy would provide between $2,000 and $5,000 in coverage, with a deductible of only $100 to $500. Given that the contents of a typical college student’s backpack – laptop and charger, a couple of textbooks, headphones or earbuds, smartphone charger and other personal items – alone can be worth several thousand dollars, a Renters policy certainly seems like a good investment.
Renters Insurance and On-Campus Residents
Colleges and universities agree, with many formally recommending Renters Insurance whether a student lives on campus or off. Roommates should have their own policy to cover individual possessions and liability.
After a 2017 dormitory fire displaced more than 100 East Stroudsburg (PA) University students due to smoke, fire and water damage, the school’s director of residential life told local TV station WNEP, "In our housing agreement that (students) sign, we do tell them specifically we are not liable for personal items that are damaged and destroyed and that they should get Renters Insurance."
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, including clothes.
Renters Insurance also provides liability coverage in the event the insured student is determined to be legally responsible for damage to another person. That includes damage to a person’s reputation, as well as physical damage – coverage that may be all too necessary amid the Wild West of social media.
Roommates should have their own policy to cover individual possessions and liability.
For East Stroudsburg students who had followed the university’s recommendation before being displaced, Renters Insurance proved to be invaluable. For those who hadn’t, the dorm fire and its aftermath were convincers.
“I am definitely going to get it in the future,” one of the displaced students told WNEP. “I can’t imagine not having it now because of what happened and what happened to other people.”
Separate Coverage for Valuable Items
Expensive items are often subject to coverage limits under a Homeowners or Renters policy, so you may want to look into a stand-alone policy or endorsement for computers, cameras and video equipment, bicycles and musical instruments. Such coverage may also provide protection against accidental damage, spills, or other accidents not included under a standard homeowners or renters policy.
You can also schedule items on your Homeowners or Renters 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.
Like homeowners, college students should compile a list and or video of the property they store in their dorm or off-campus apartment. An inventory will be especially helpful in the event of extensive property loss, such as in a fire. To file a claim, you'll need to know exactly what items were lost and how much they were worth.
When creating a list, include the brand, make, model and serial numbers of the items. Take photos of all items – including furniture, electronics, books, clothes, a bike if you have one — and keep the files 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.
Where to Find Savings
A great way to offset the cost of Renters Insurance or scheduled coverage is to get good grades. Many insurance carriers offer “good student” discounts on Auto Insurance – typically about 10%, as PolicyGenius notes in “How to get a good student discount on car insurance.”
As ValuePenguin reports in “Should I Take My College Student off My Auto Insurance Policy?,” families also can save $1,000 to $2,500 a year by removing coverage for a student away at school. Another savings option: Carriers commonly provided premium discounts on Auto policies covering college students, though eligibility typically requires that the student’s college or university be at least 100 miles from home – where that Renters Insurance is so important.
About the Author
Matthew Boyle, CISR, CPPL
Sylvia Group, an Alera Group Company
Matthew Boyle is a Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) and Certified Professional in Personal Lines (CPPL) with nearly 20 years’ industry experience. He specializes in Property and Casualty Insurance for individuals, families and small businesses.