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Eileen AJ Connelly

Does a homeowners policy cover a student at college? Location may be the key

By Eileen AJ Connelly
Associated Press / September 30, 2010

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Q. I’m sending my daughter to college with a laptop, an iPad, and other expensive items. Are her belongings covered under my homeowner’s insurance?

A. Campus crime has been falling in recent years, but with nearly 29,500 burglaries at US schools in 2008, according to the Department of Education, making sure the items your daughter brings to college are insured is important.

Whether she is covered depends on your policy and whether your daughter will be living in campus housing.

In general, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the personal possessions of a student living away from home, said Jeanne Salvatore, consumer spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.

Some renter’s insurance may provide protection, as well. But the details on each policy can differ, so you will have to check with your agent or insurance company.

One big factor is likely to be where exactly your daughter lives: An on-campus dormitory room is more likely to be covered than an off-campus apartment.

Some homeowner’s policies may limit the amount the insurance company will cover for a student away from home.

For instance, if you have $100,000 of coverage for personal possessions and your policy limits off-premises coverage to 10 percent, a dorm room theft would be covered only up to $10,000.

That sounds like a lot, but if your child has expensive computer equipment, musical instruments, electronics, sports equipment, or other pricey items, you may want supplemental coverage. One option is to add a “personal property floater’’ to your homeowner’s policy, which can increase the coverage for certain property like jewelry or an expensive instrument. Such an addition can not only increase your total coverage amount, but can also include broader coverage for mishaps like “mysterious disappearance.’’

Another choice is a policy from a specialty insurance company that’s designed for students living away at college, sometimes called dorm insurance, which can even cover situations like a beverage spill on a laptop. The costs vary depending on location, the amount of coverage, and size of deductible, but generally top out around $250 a year for $15,000 of coverage.

If your daughter lives off campus, there’s a good chance you’ll need renter’s insurance. Renter’s policies usually cost just a few hundred dollars a year, depending on how much you are insuring. They can include liability coverage, as well as coverage for possessions.

Eileen AJ Connelly writes for the Associated Press.