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Renters insurance for college students

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If you live in a dorm, your options for renters insurance are limited. You’ll most likely be covered under your parents’ policy unless you live off campus, in which case you should purchase your own renters insurance policy.

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Published February 18, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • If you live in a dorm room your parents’ renters or homeowners insurance may extend to your personal property, but only a limited amount. Your parents’ policy will usually only extend personal property coverage to you, not liability or loss-of-use

  • If you live off campus you should purchase your own renters insurance policy

  • You cannot add a roommate to your parents’ insurance policy. If you live off-campus and have your own renters insurance policy you can add a roommate, however the extra coverage will raise the price of your premiums

  • If you live on campus you should talk to an insurance company about dorm insurance. Dorm insurance policies cover your personal property and usually has a lower deductible, generally under $100. Dorm insurance covers you personal property, but unlike renters insurance it generally does not include liability coverage or loss-of-use coverage

If you rent your home, renters insurance protects you from the loss or damage of your personal property, liability coverage if someone gets hurt in your home, or reimbursement if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril. Renters insurance also covers you when you’re in college, but the way it works differs depending on your living situation while you’re in school.

Normally, you can get renters insurance from a variety of insurance companies. But if you live in a dorm room, your options for coverage are limited. However, you’ll most likely still be covered under your parents’ renters insurance or homeowners insurance policy while you’re living at school. Students who live off campus, like in an apartment, will be able to get their own renters insurance policies; in fact, their parents’ coverage may actually not extend to them in this situation.

In this article:

Do college students need renters insurance?

Many college students do need renters insurance, however it does depend on where they live. Renters insurance typically covers a range of situations in which you could be on the hook financially after an accident, disaster, or theft. A renters policy covers incidents like fire, smoke damage, lighting, and vandalism. The three areas of protection offered by renters insurance are personal property, personal liability coverage (including medical costs incurred by someone in your home), and loss-of-use coverage if your home becomes uninhabitable and you need alternative accommodation. Depending on where you live as a college student, you might actually be ineligible for certain types of renters insurance coverage.

As a college student, you’re looked at by insurance companies as kind of a risk. Dorm life can be unpredictable, especially if it’s your first experience living on your own. While insurers will cover you, you won’t necessarily enjoy the same degree of coverage you’d get living out of off campus.

You’ll need to calculate how much of your property you want covered by your renters insurance policy. Personal belongings like your laptop, TV, and expensive textbooks. The risk doesn’t have to be from theft; personal property coverage also includes damage to your property, like if a candle falls and burns your textbooks.

Renters insurance can also protect you when someone is injured on your property. However, as a college student, depending on the type of coverage you’re eligible for and whether you live on campus or off campus, there may be exclusions or limits for liability coverage.

The loss-of-use coverage that comes with most renters insurance policies won’t apply to you if you live in the dorms owned by your college or university. This kind of coverage is generally used by people who have been displaced from their homes by a covered peril. Since dorms are on your university’s property, if they become uninhabitable it’s probably the school’s responsibility to secure alternate accommodations for you.

Renters insurance for college students off campus

If you rent an apartment to live off campus, your parents’ coverage may not extend to a new apartment. You’ll have to get your own renters insurance policy. Luckily, renters insurance is relatively inexpensive, even for college students. You can expect to pay between $180 and $190 per year for coverage.

Renters insurance for college students who live off campus is identical to renters insurance for everyone else. You’ll get all the protections for personal property, liability, and alternative accommodations. You’ll be able to adjust how much coverage you need to reflect the property you own as an underpaid work-study employee.

As with other renters insurance plans, renters insurance for students who live off campus may have coverage limits as well as lower sublimits for specific categories of items.You may need to buy more coverage than your basic offerings if you want protection for expensive (and often targeted by thieves) possessions like your laptop or smartphone.

Your renters insurance policy covers items outside your home as well, such as a bicycle that’s kept outside or in your building’s front hallway. You may also need to add endorsements to your policy to extend coverage to perils that aren’t covered, like for an earthquake or flood. You’ll also need to set a deductible, which is the amount you’ll have to pay out of pocket to cover any loss before the insurance company kicks in to pay the rest. Remember, the higher you set your deductible the lower your premiums will be — but you have to be prepared to actually pay your deductible amount in the event of a loss.

Coverage for your roommate

Your roommate won’t automatically be covered by any kind of renters insurance you get. That’s standard for any renters insurance policy regardless of whether it’s an extension of your parents’ policy or one you bought for yourself.

If you have your own renters insurance policy, you’ll have to add your roommate to it for them to receive protection, and your premium will increase slightly to account for the additional coverage. Otherwise, your roommate will have to get their own renters insurance. If your roommate isn’t covered by insurance and you are, and there’s a fire in your apartment that destroys everything in it, insurance will only cover the items that belonged to you, leaving your roommate left to pay out of pocket for their losses.

If you’re still living in a dorm, and you have insurance coverage via an extension of your parents’ policy, your roommate can’t be added to the policy.

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Renters insurance for college students in dorms

You can get renters insurance if you live in a dorm room, but it’s more complicated than getting it as someone who lives off campus.

If your parents have renters insurance or homeowners insurance, it’s possible that their coverage will extend to you if you live in a dorm. In some cases, this may be automatic. Otherwise, you may have to request the insurance company to add the extra coverage, although it may be available at no extra cost. Renters insurance companies usually allow you to extend or add coverage whenever you want, so you should be able to add coverage before you leave to live in a dorm.

In most cases, you can stay on your parents’ renters insurance plan until a certain age, which is defined by your policy, but only if you live on campus during that time. The property you bring to your dorm is considered “off-premises” property by your parents’ insurance.

There will also be limits on your coverage. For one, getting coverage through your parents’ plan generally excludes liability and loss-of-use coverage – you can really only get personal property coverage. And that personal property coverage is itself limited to around 10% of your parents’ coverage or a fixed number that may not be enough if you have a lot of expensive property to insure.

If your parents’ insurance plan isn’t enough for you, some renters insurance carriers offer dorm insurance, which is similar to a renters insurance policy but tailored to college students. As a college student, you probably have fewer possessions and don’t need as much coverage.

Dorm insurance

Some companies offer specialized dorm insurance policies (sometimes called “college renters insurance”) designed specifically to protect the personal possessions of students living in dorms.

Dorm insurance costs tend to be generally comparable with renters insurance, with premiums of about $20 a month or less.

Dorm insurance and personal property coverage

Since dorm insurance policies are designed for personal property claims, they tend to have small deductibles — generally under $100.

Renters insurance policies deductibles vary, but many people choose higher deductibles to keep their premiums low, meaning that if a single item is stolen, the deductible payment, which could be $500, cuts into the reimbursement amount.

Dorm insurance policies also tend to be more lenient than renters and homeowners policies in terms of when they cover property. While renters insurance and homeowners insurance only cover property damaged in by covered perils named in the policy and typically exclude damage from flood and earthquakes, many dorm policies cover property regardless of the reason it was damaged. In fact, dorm insurance even covers property if you lose it or if you accidentally break it yourself, neither of which are ever covered by renters insurance.

Dorm insurance and liability coverage

While dorm insurance policies cover your personal belongings, they don’t usually offer any liability coverage or medical payments like renters insurance does, though some companies that offer dorm insurance do also offer separate personal liability policies for additional fees.

When to consider dorm insurance

Dorm insurance policies can be useful if your parents don’t have renters or homeowners insurance or if their policy doesn’t extend to your on-campus housing. If you tend to lose or break things a lot, it may also be worth considering a dorm policy, since their deductibles tend to be lower and, if you own the policy, you could make the claims yourself and not have to wait for your parents to liaise with their insurance company.