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homeowners insurance

Adulting Student Life

Do College Students Need Renters Insurance or Does a Homeowners Insurance Policy Cover Them?

December 28, 2020

There are 17 million students enrolled in American undergraduate degree programs. While a small portion of these students continue to live at home, the majority live in campus housing or in off-site housing near their institutions during the academic year. 

Planning for college housing can be an intensive process. Schools, students, and their families worry about roommates, transportation, and dozens of other factors in hopes of creating the best possible living and learning environments. Too often, though, one critical concern falls through the cracks: insurance coverage.

But aren’t college students covered by their families’ homeowners policies? Do separate renters insurance policies offer enough extra protections to be worthwhile? Here are the facts.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover College Students? 

“Will my parents’ homeowners insurance cover me in college?” is not a question that many students think to ask. Most understandably assume that the answer is “of course,” particularly if they intend to live in dorms or other on-campus housing. But how accurate is this assumption?

A survey of the top 20 insurance providers shows that only 13 include coverage for college students in their homeowners’ policies. Among these:

  • Some policies provide only liability coverage with no protections for personal property
  • Some policies provide coverage for students in dorms but not for students living in apartments or off-campus housing 
  • Some policies offer reduced protections or coverage for students living away from home
  • Deductibles are often higher for situations where the affected family member is a college student living away from home
  • Factors such as where the college is located and campus crime rates can affect coverage, leading to unexpected coverage gaps

College student coverage can vary widely between insurers and between policies from the same insurer. In almost every case, coverage for students at school is different than for the rest of the family or for the student while they are at home.

Families must review their policies carefully to determine what protections they offer. 

The Pros and Cons of Relying on Homeowners Insurance  

Do you have a homeowners’ policy that offers protections for college students? If so, there are many benefits of taking advantage of that coverage rather than buying a separate renters policy for your student. 

  • You don’t have to pay extra for a second policy 
  • There will be no confusion over which policy applies in the event that you need to make a claim
  • You continue to enjoy coverage with a provider and policy you are familiar with and trust 
  • If you have already made payments toward your deductible, they will reduce your out-of-pocket costs in future claims

Relying on your homeowners’ policy can have disadvantages as well, however. 

  • Your policy may not offer the extent of coverage that you need in the event of theft or other losses
  • You may face a separate and higher deductible for incidents involving your student 
  • You may run into unexpected and expensive coverage gaps depending on the circumstances
  • Filing and documenting claims may be challenging if your student is going to college far away but the policy is in your name

How much coverage you need and whether or not your existing policy is enough depends largely on your personal circumstances. 

Is Renters Insurance for College Kids Worth It?

Purchasing renters insurance for college students has its own pros and cons. It can be beneficial in that:

  • It tends to fully cover personal property, liability, and living expenses, giving you peace of mind 
  • Your coverage limits will be clearly spelled out, preventing gaps and unwelcome surprises
  • You may be able to secure a low-cost policy if your students’ roommates and their families chip in as well
  • Students can file claims and documentation themselves in the event of an incident 
  • Co-purchasing a policy with your student can teach them key life skills
  • Dual coverage under renters and homeowners policies ensures you are fully covered no matter what

But separate renters policies for students are not without their drawbacks.

  • They add extra costs to already-expensive undergraduate educations
  • They may need to be replaced or adjusted each time your students’ living situation or roommates change
  • Claims made by your students’ roommates show up in your insurance claim history which can be detrimental if there are large or numerous claims
  • You may need to juggle claims between the renters and homeowners policies if something happens 
  • Buying a policy that covers your student can be pricey depending on where your student lives while in school

While it can be a relief to have your coverage spelled out in a separate policy and know that you will be covered, it is important to weigh the costs and benefits to determine how valuable such a policy will actually be for you. 

How to Make the Most of Your Coverage

There are several steps that students and their families can take to help them decide what coverage they need. These steps will also enable them to make the most of their coverage, whether they rely on their homeowners’ policy or purchase renters insurance. 

Make an Inventory

Making an inventory of everything your student will take to college with them serves several purposes. First, it helps you assess the types of items you need coverage for and the total value of coverage that you need. This makes it easier to review your existing policy and evaluate how adequate its coverage is. 

If you choose to buy a new policy, it will also help you choose the right level of coverage there.  

Take Basic Safety Precautions 

Take a few minutes to review safety tips and practices with your student when they move into their student housing each semester. Make sure that:

  • Window and door locks are in proper working order
  • Lighting and other safety features are in proper working order
  • Secondary locks such as padlocks or bike locks are available to safeguard high-cost items 

These small steps can significantly reduce the likelihood of theft and loss no matter what type of coverage you have. 

Choosing With Confidence

Once you know what level of coverage you need and how much your homeowners’ policy covers, you’ll be able to confidently decide if renters insurance is right for you. If it is, let us help you find the policy and coverage you need today.