Do Students Need Insurance for Their College Belongings?

As college students are unpacking and arranging their belongings in their dorm room for the new school year, they may wonder whether those personal items are protected. With high theft rates plaguing college campuses, it’s important to know if personal possessions are insured while the student is away at college.

Check Coverage under the Parents’ Policies

Most student personal possessions are covered under their parents’ homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance or credit card policies, if the student lives in a dormitory. However, some homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to 10 percent of the policy’s coverage for personal possessions or require full-time enrollment. The rules vary by insurer.

Many homeowner’s insurance policies cover possessions up to 70% of the home-coverage limits – so if the parents have a $200,000 homeowner’s insurance policy, they’d have up to $140,000 in coverage for their possessions in their home, and up to $14,000 in coverage for items that are off-premises, such as in a dorm room. There may also be lower limits or higher deductibles for specific types of belongings, such as jewelry. Parents should add up the value of their student’s college belongings and make sure they have enough coverage. Otherwise, parents may want to buy some extra coverage if the student has an expensive computer system and other valuable electronics. Students should be reminded to leave expensive belongings such as jewelry at home and to bring only the essentials to college.

Parents should also ask about any coverage limits if the student is traveling abroad. Some insurance companies provide worldwide coverage, but others do not.

Renter’s Insurance May be Necessary for Off-Campus Apartments

Students who live off-campus are most likely not covered under their parents’ homeowner’s insurance policy and need to purchase their own renter’s insurance policy. Parents should ask their insurer whether their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance extends to off-campus living.

Renter’s insurance coverage is inexpensive -- generally just $125 to $300 per year, which would cover all of the student’s possessions and provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If the student has roommates, each one should get his or her own renter’s insurance policy, which will cover his or her own possessions and liability. When selecting a policy, consider monthly premiums, deductibles and coverage limits. Be sure to choose replacement-cost coverage to cover the cost of buying new items.

Most renter’s policies will also pay the extra cost to live somewhere else temporarily if the student needs to move out for a while if the apartment is damaged.

Students living off campus may wish to get an umbrella policy for general liability coverage, if they are not covered under their parents' umbrella policy. 

Consider Separate Coverage for Specific Gadgets

Both homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies will cover laptop computers and other items if they are stolen while the student is away from his or her dorm or apartment. For example, a laptop stolen at the school library would be covered. Students should be encouraged to get a lock and an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for their desktop or laptop computer. A lock will not stop a determined thief, but will stop casual theft by other students.

Whether a student lives in a dormitory or off-campus, parents may want to look into acquiring stand-alone policies for desktop computers, laptops, tablets and iPads, and other electronics as they may provide coverage against accidental damage, liquid spills and other events not included under a standard homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.

Compile an Inventory of Student Belongings

Create a list of the items the student is taking with him or her to college. This inventory will be helpful if the student’s property is stolen or damaged. It should include the brand, make and model of each item, as well as serial numbers. A photographic record is also helpful, especially if the student has personalized the laptop or tablet with a custom skin. Keep the inventory in a safe place, along with receipts for the most expensive items. The receipts will help establish value if the parents obtain replacement cost coverage.

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