Does My Homeowners Policy Cover My College-Bound Kids?

Your teenager graduated from high school and is off to college. Before you breathe that sigh of relief and start converting his or her bedroom into a home gym, take a moment to consider that your homeowners policy may be in need of a tune up to cover your family’s changing risk landscape.

Things to Consider

Covering the belongings and risks of someone no longer living under your roof but for whom you may still be legally responsible poses some challenges. Call your homeowners insurance agent to determine whether your college student is still considered a member of the household while on campus and still covered under your homeowners policy. To determine this, your agent may ask the following questions:

  • Do you pay your student’s college tuition?
  • Will you be providing any other financial support for your student?
  • Will you continue to claim your student on your tax return?
  • Do you provide health insurance for your student?
  • Will your student be returning to your home during college breaks?

These questions will help you to determine the best method to cover your students, the possessions they take with them and, if they’re under 18, their liabilities while they study away from home.

Wow, There’s a lot of Stuff in Here

The average college student leaves home with almost $10,000 in belongings, including clothing, electronics and décor, not to mention computer and gaming equipment. Text books and other school supplies they purchase after arriving on campus only adds to the cost of replacing lost or damaged items.

Many parents encourage their students to live in a campus dorm for safety reasons and many campuses require them to, at least as freshmen. While providing a homelike atmosphere, dorm life also encourages residents to let down their guard, opening doors to theft. At 40,000 occurrences per year, thefts are among the most commonly reported crimes on college campuses. Most commonly stolen items include cash, credit and debit cards, bicycles, books and jewelry. High on the list, as well, are easily resold electronics like cell phones, iPods, laptops, and televisions. In addition to theft, student housing also runs the risk of fire and water damage from fire risks. Keep in mind that their rooms, and therefore their belongings, are impacted by the choices of all the other students in their building, who may not have your student’s greater level of maturity.

The Solution

Generally, a homeowners insurance policy will cover your student’s possessions while they are away at school if you still consider them a member of the household and they reside on campus. Your Alabama, Florida or South Carolina homeowners insurance agent can help you determine the limitations to this coverage. Limited coverage may apply to high-priced items, such as electronics and bicycles. Additional coverage may be available to adequately cover these items in the event of loss or damage. It is best to make any needed changes to your policy before your student’s move, since property is often lost or damaged during the transition.

Whether your student will live on campus or in a rental, take inventory before they leave. When you break out your camera to capture your fledgling leaving the nest, take a few moments to snap some pictures or a video of their belongings. Make a list of all the possessions with serial numbers your student takes, when possible, as well as the value of the items. Keep any available receipts with your inventory. Though it may seem daunting, an inventory and supporting documentation can ease the claim process if your student’s items are stolen or damaged.

If your student plans to live off-campus in an apartment or other rental situation, he or she will probably not be covered by your homeowners insurance. If your student plans to rent away from campus, he or she would benefit from their own Tenant insurance policy. In addition to covering personal property, it also covers your child for liability, just like yours does on your homeowners policy. The liability coverage itself can be worth the extra premium.

Make sure that your student knows what the policy will and will not cover, and reinforce the importance of safety precautions. The extra freedom provided by off-campus housing encourages events that can lead to the damage or theft of your student’s property. Consider the challenges of overnight guests, parties or the lack of a security or fire repression system.

Sending your child off to college can be exciting, but new risks arise with that happiness. Your Alabama, Florida or South Carolina insurance agent can help you protect your family members as they enter adulthood.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.