Does My College Student Need An Insurance Policy While He Is Away At School?

If your child is enrolled in school full time, and was a full time resident of your home prior to going to school, and who is under the age of 24, he can be covered under your Homeowners Policy.  However, there are a few things to consider.

A parent’s Homeowners Insurance Policy will generally cover your child if he is living in a dorm while away at college, but not necessarily cover the cost of a full loss.   Your student will have the same liability limits as if they were in your home with respect to liability and medical coverages, however, the coverage for his belongings may be limited to 10% of your total possessions coverage, because it is considered an “off premises loss”. 

It is important to itemize the value of your child’s possessions, which may include furniture, a television, computer, clothing, textbooks, a bicycle, etc. and make sure you retain receipts for big ticket items.  You should review your existing policy or call your insurance broker to ensure you have enough coverage in the event of a loss.  You may even want to consider an extra rider on your policy to cover certain items if your child has an expensive computer or other valuable items.

Remember that preparing a child for college does not only require the funding of the college, buying all the “stuff” they need to make their living quarters a home away from home, and making sure they have enough food to feed their entire dorm.  As a family you must protect yourselves and your child to limit your exposure and financial loss, in the event of an emergency.

Your Homeowners Policy will cover your child, as long as your child continues to go to college in a full-time capacity, pursuant to the following:

Coverage C: Personal Property – the personal property (contents) of your student is covered anywhere in the world for the same “broad named perils” as your own personal property. However, the limit of insurance is 10% of the Coverage C limit for personal property in the Homeowners policy, or $1,000, whichever is greater. In addition, the student must be at this “away” residence at least once in a 60 day period or theft is excluded.  This means the student cannot leave their personal property unattended and go home for the summer and then come back and still be insured if they find their things stolen.

Coverage E: Personal Liability – Coverage follows an “insured” anywhere in the world up to the personal liability limit selected on your Homeowners policy.  This covers the student for legal defense costs and damages from an accident, other than in an auto, boat or aircraft, that causes bodily injury or property damage for which they become legally liable.

Liability Coverage under your Homeowners policy does not automatically provide Personal Injury coverage.  For a nominal additional premium this coverage should be considered.  The Personal Injury Endorsement provides coverage for such things as false arrest, wrongful eviction or entry, invasion or violation of privacy and maybe most importantly libel and slander.  Social Media provides an open opportunity for anyone to write about anyone or anything.  This is a very real exposure and one that can be fairly inexpensive to remedy. 

Coverage F: Medical Payments – no fault medical payments for the medical expenses of others because of bodily injury occurring at the student’s temporary residence premises or caused by the activities of an “insured”.

Your Homeowners Policy may not cover your student if he is living in an off-campus apartment with a lease.   If this is the case, keep in mind that at some point every dependent child grows up.  They keep their apartment at school year-round, or may find another when they get a job and move out on their own.  To avoid the possibility of not being properly insured by your own Homeowners Policy, it might be best to get your student their own “Renters” Insurance Policy from the start.

A Renters Policy is a separate policy written for your student and lists their premises as the “insured residence”.  This policy provides the three essential coverages of; Personal Liability, Medical Payments, and Personal Property with limits you select.  The annual premium ranges from $120 to $240 for this type of policy.  This becomes a fundamental and necessary coverage to protect your student’s financial future as they become more and more independent.  If your child rents an apartment with multiple roommates, each student should have their own renters’ insurance policy.

Renter’s Policies will also cover temporary living expenses, should your child be displaced from their apartment or dorm, something your Homeowners Policy will not cover.  In addition, some companies extend their coverage even further to provide coverage for earthquakes and floods, which aren’t covered by your Homeowners Policy.  

If your student goes to school more than 100 or 150 miles away from your home and doesn’t take a family car, you could get a big discount on your auto insurance premiums, but still have coverage for them when they come home for holidays and vacations, or if they borrow a car while away at school. If they do take a car, their premiums may rise or fall depending on the location of the college, where they park the car, and how many claims the insurer has had to pay in that area. Either way, be sure to let your insurer know if your child gets good grades.  Many insurers continue to offer a discount on car insurance premiums for students who maintain a B average or better in college.

It is important to consult with your Insurance Broker when you decide to send your child away to school, so that you, your child and their future are protected. 

Mark E. Russo, CIC – RPM Insurance Agency

(718) 761-8900 markrusso@rpminsurance.com