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Insurance Concerns for Dorm Dwellers

Your “youngster” has left for college. Whether it’s the first semester away from home or they are a seasoned pro by now, sending your child off to school poses insurance challenges you’d be wise not to ignore. Communal living means items are exposed to new people and may be outside of your child’s control. Accidents happen and thefts occur, even among the most careful students. Here are some tips to help manage those risks.

Know what you have

There’s no way to protect your things if you don’t know what you have. Ideally, students will have made a list of what items they brought to school before they even left the house. This list should include the approximate value of all items and newly acquired items should be added to it as soon as possible. Students can also take pictures or video their items within the dorm room to document their belongings more easily.

Understand the coverage, how it would apply and any changes that would need to be made

Most times, college students who still list their parent’s address as their primary residence will have coverage for items in their dorm or on-campus apartment as long as they are a full-time student and under the age of 24. A standard homeowners insurance policy will provide coverage for the following exposures:

  • personal property, up to a percentage or dollar sublimit of the total homeowners policy;
  • personal liability, including the cost of legal defense or coverage for an accident that causes property damage or bodily injury; and
  • payments for medical expenses of others due to injuries occurring at your student’s dwelling.

Understand the coverage you may not have

Some insurance companies may no longer cover students away at school once they turn 24 during a semester, drop down to part-time status, do not live on campus, or are enrolled in graduate school. Your insurance company may also want to know how many other students will be living with your child as this directly impacts the risk to personal property. Because of limits within the homeowners policy on coverage for personal property, it may be necessary to purchase additional coverage for valuable items stored in the dorm. In some cases, especially if the student is renting a house or apartment off campus, obtaining a separate renter’s policy may be the best choice. Parents who do not have a homeowners insurance policy will want to speak with their insurance agent to find out the best way to cover their child’s belongings.

In all cases, it is very important to discuss your particular situation with your agent relative to the company providing your coverage as each company may vary on what they will provide.

Don’t forget the car!

Bringing a car to school creates an additional insurance concern. Presumably your auto insurance company will already know if the car is in your name or your child’s but this will make a difference when your child leaves for school. Be sure to inform your agent of the new garaging address for the vehicle, but understand that the new area may impact the rate for coverage. If your child attends school out-of-state, be sure coverage meets minimum standards for coverage in the state where the child attends school. If your child is not taking a car to school, you should still contact your agent and let them know – discounts can be available depending on how far away the school is.

The best protection is prevention, and taking the proper precautions to safeguard your things can certainly help. But many situations can cause an item to be damaged, lost, or stolen. Perhaps a door was left unlocked by your child or a roommate and something was taken. A room could also be burglarized. A small fire in the room next door could set off sprinklers throughout the dorm, ruining your child’s possessions.

As your child heads off to school, make sure you have the proper coverages in place to protect them, and you, from financial loss. These should be the best years of their lives – don’t let insurance uncertainty take away from this exciting time.

All insurance policies are different. Be sure to review your insurance policy for specific information about coverages available to you. Nothing in this post is meant to suggest a guarantee of coverage.