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Should College Students Buy Renters Insurance?

For Rent SignWith pricey tuition to pay and books to buy, renters insurance isn’t exactly something that tops most college kid’s list. But in some cases, that could be a big mistake.

Students who live on campus typically don’t have to worry about renters insurance: Their parents’ homeowner’s policy should cover the loss or damage of most items as long as the policy includes so-called ‘off-premise coverage.’ (Just be sure you understand the limits to this coverage and the deductibles that apply.)

However, once they move off-campus and start paying rent, they are no longer covered by mom and dad’s policy if there is a fire or someone breaks into the place.
You shouldn’t expect the landlord to cover anything either. Landlords typically cover the building and not the tenant’s belongings; they will not replace any damaged or stolen items.

Also, if one roommate has a renter’s insurance policy, don’t expect it to cover all of your (students) stuff. Most rental insurance policies only cover the belongings of the policyholder. Roommates may be able to purchase a policy together if they’d like.

So what does renters insurance cover? There are three basic types of protection: personal possessions, liability and additional living expenses.
Personal possession protection covers their belongings if they are lost or damaged due to a fire, vandalism or theft among other things.

Liability protection kicks in if, say, your student’s dog bites the neighbor, or someone slips and gets hurt while at a party at their place. It not only helps cover any medical expenses but, in some cases, can pay for their (your) legal fees if they (you) get sued.

Meanwhile, if your student is displaced by a storm or a fire, additional living expenses coverage will typically cover the cost of a hotel, or a temporary rental until they can move back home.

If you student does have a claim it will not affect your homeowners policy.  The cost of renters insurance is typically pretty affordable — on average, it costs $184 a year — but the amount will vary depending on the location and size of the rental unit and how much coverage you need.

Students should make sure they get enough coverage. To determine how much they need, take an inventory. Create a spreadsheet, take pictures or create a video inventory of all their belongings — including clothing, electronics, jewelry and furniture, among other things — and keep it in a safe place. Even if students only have a few possessions, ensuring they can be replaced if stolen or damaged is one less thing to worry about.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons License Brian Hawkins via Compfight

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