I attended college at a small public university in the Midwest. At the time, I knew my dorm room was covered under my parent’s insurance policy, and it wasn’t a big concern to me. It was to them, of course, as I was the first one in my family to ever live in a dormitory and they didn’t know what to expect. Having the security of knowing that my belongings were protected against theft or damage was important to them, so they looked into dorm insurance.
You probably spent the entire summer leading up to the big move-in day packing, labeling, organizing, and trying to figure out what was simply too heavy or too large to bring. There are also dozens of websites devoted to decorating and outfitting your dorm to make the best first impression or to save the most money. When you move into the dorms for the first time, you may be more concerned with what to pack and how to decorate than how to protect it.
At my college, crime was low, both on campus and on, and I always felt safe. I lived in the dorms for the first three years of school and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I knew the building was protected, and that was all I needed to know. In fact, I worked as a building staff member checking in students late at night. Students had to present their identification card to me and sign in any guests of the building. Once it hit 6 am, I had to go to each side door in the building and unlock it. During the evening hours, the building was locked and any person attempting to leave out a door that wasn’t the main entrance would set off an alarm, much to the dismay of those who were sleeping. Students with early morning part-time jobs, or others who wanted to walk around campus early, could leave out the side doors once morning came.
Fire was never a concern to me either, although it was to my mother. She always called my room a “fire waiting to happen.” In such tight quarters, my roommate and I strung all sorts of wires throughout the room, both for function and decoration purposes. We had Christmas lights hung around the walls for the entire school year. We found it to be more fun, and the dimmer lights were more soothing than turning on the bright florescent ceiling light. Hair styling tools, a mini refrigerator, extension cords, and a toaster also joined the piles of cords that traipsed around the room in a semi-organized fashion. I had never heard of a fire occurring in a dorm room before, except for the occasional burnt popcorn which proceeded to cause the entire floor to smell for a week straight. The cement block walls reassured my confidence that if a fire were to occur, it would be contained to a single room.
I never expected to hear of any disaster, either fire or theft, during the course of my three years living on campus. And neither of these did happen. However, something I can only imagine to be much worse did happen in my second year of dorm living. A small microwave incident turned into a nightmare. Smoke caused by burning popcorn set off the smoke alarms on the dorm floor. This then triggered the sprinkler system. Though doesn’t sound like anything more than protocol for such an event, when you consider all the facts, it makes you want to cringe.
The sprinkler system hadn’t been used very often in the 40-year-old building. The water that burst forth from each faucet was quite old; it oozed a smelly, rusty, brown liquid rather than the expected fresh water. Since the entire floor was built on the same system, the sprinkler in each room suddenly soaked everything with old water. This not only included the floor, walls, and clothes, but electronics. Personal computers, cameras, printers, and music players were all ruined. Suddenly, without any warning, the students on this dorm floor had nothing: nothing to wear, nowhere to sleep, and no way to complete any school-related tasks. Thousands of dollars in property were lost due to the damage.
One can only hope that students on that dorm floor were covered under their parents’ home insurance policies. Or had purchased their own protection plan.
It’s easy to determine if you or your child is covered while living in the dorms. According to Consumer Reports, “ If your kid lives in a dorm or other college-owned property, possessions typically are covered automatically [under your homeowner’s insurance] against loss, theft, and damage under your homeowners, condominium, or renter’s policies.”
There are some important factors to keep in mind, however:
- Usually, the coverage is limited to 10 percent of your policy. $200,000 in homeowners coverage for your contents, which would mean that your child’s possessions in the dorm are only covered up to $20,000.
- If an incident occurs, you will have to pay your deductible, which can be up to $500. Lisa Lobo, a consumer insurance expert at The Hartford, recommends that you lower your deductible rate through your insurance company.
- Items like fine art and jewelry probably won’t be covered, so remind your student not to bring these to school.
- Double-check your policy in case your child plans to study abroad.
In case your homeowner’s insurance policy won’t cover your child, or if your a student yourself and don’t have the support of your parents, there are other options.
1) Renter’s Insurance: Whether you live in the dorms, or off campus in an apartment, a renters insurance policy will only cost about $15 to $30 per month, or less. There are two different types of policies, much like homeowner’s coverage. First, there’s a cash-value policy which covers the actual value of your possessions, minus depreciation value. Second are replacement-value policies. While this type of insurance costs a bit more, the advantage is that the insurance company will cover the cost of replacing the item stolen or damaged with a new one.
The following is typically covered under renter’s insurance:
- Personal Property: Renters are 25 percent more likely to be burglarized than homeowners, so renters need to make sure that they are properly protected. The advantage of a renter’s insurance policy is that your belongings are covered no matter where they are: in your apartment, in your car, or in your luggage in a hotel in Rome.
- Medical Payments: If a guest of the apartment injures themselves, their medical expenses will be covered under your policy.
- Personal Liability: That same person who injured themselves could try to sue you for damages. Renter’s insurance would cover your legal costs. This also covers many of your personal activities, such as hitting someone with your golf ball.
- Property damage: If you accidentally damage someone else’s property, your policy will even help you pay the replacement costs.
- Loss-of-Use: If your apartment experiences damage due to fire, water, weather, or any other incident that precludes you from living there while the damages are repaired, your renter’s policy will help to cover your relocation expenses.
2) Student Policies: Some insurance companies offer specialty insurance for students. National Student Services offers a several options for students.
In the instance of both renter’s insurance and student policies, the student will be covered while living in a dorm or apartment, whether it be in the U.S. or abroad. Also, make sure to do some research, as policies can range in price a few hundred dollars for annual premiums, deductible options, and coverage options.
Before you Buy Any Form of Dorm Insurance
Speak with your individual insurance agent and your child to decide they type of coverage that would work best.
Also, have your child complete a dorm room inventory. In case of an incident of theft or damage, they will be better equipped to file an accurate claim with the insurance company.
The following are some frequently asked questions, found on esurance:
“Q: Can I be covered under my parent’s homeowners insurance?
A: If you live in the dorms and you are under the age of 26, the answer is more than likely yes. If you are an older student, or don’t live on campus, you may want to think about purchasing your own plan.
Q: Is renter’s insurance an option if you live in the dorm?
A: Most insurance companies will not cover dorm rooms, so check to see if you can be covered under your parent’s policy.
Q: Can my roommate and I be covered under the same policy?
A: There are two differed methods of covering your roommate: you either need to add them as an insured party, or if you live off campus, they need to be your spouse, domestic partner, or family member.
Q: What happens to my renter’s policy if I move to a different apartment?
A: Simply contact your insurance agent and notify them of your new address. Your renter’s insurance will not change. If you are moving to a different state, your insurance agent can work with local agents in your area to transfer your policy.”
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