07 Aug Off to college! What should you be doing for safety and insurance?
Approximately 21 million young people are getting ready to go or return to American colleges and universities. With this annual migration of our best and brightest come risks that can be avoided and insured. What should you be doing now to ensure a safe and successful academic year?
Dorms, apartments and houses will be filled in just a few weeks with all the “stuff” that goes with pursuing higher education – clothes, computers, text books, bikes, stereos, cell phones, bedding and furniture. In nearly all situations, students will be renting their residence whether from a landlord or the institution.
In dorms, the value of the student’s possessions are normally covered up to ten percent of your family’s homeowner’s insurance policy under coverage C – personal property. Typically, coverage C is calculated as fifty percent of the home’s dwelling coverage. For example, if your home’s dwelling coverage is $300,000, your personal property coverage will be $150,000. Ten percent of that amount ($15,000) would be extended to your student’s belongings. Coverage C limits vary by company so check them out.
Rental apartments and houses are a different matter. The student should have a renter’s insurance policy that typically costs $15 to $20 per month. It covers much more than just their possessions. Coverage usually includes liability should someone sue your student and also will pay for temporary housing should they be unable to occupy their rental for a period of time. The point here is that the landlord is NOT responsible for the student’s possessions or acts that are related to the student’s liability.
Another consideration is to raise your own umbrella liability limits while you have children in college. Often, the freedom that comes from being on their own results in students making poor decisions (e.g. alcohol, drugs, risky behavior, social media, etc.). The good news is that the typical cost of increasing liability coverage from a million dollars to two million or more is very affordable.
If the student returns to college with a family car, your family’s auto policy normally covers the vehicle. However, just as with umbrella coverage, you ought to raise your auto liability limits for all the same reasons discussed above.
If the vehicle is owned by the student, they need their own auto insurance policyand may want to purchase coverage in the state in which they reside depending on the rates.
A final thought on insurance is to consider buying life insurance policies for you and your spouse if you are paying some or all of your student’s college costs. If something should happen to you while your student is in college or has graduated with a ton of student debt, you may want to ensure they can complete and pay for their education in the absence of your income or assets. Term life may be the route to take while they are in school.
Now let’s talk about safety. Being safe where you live is essential particularly when other tenants and roommates are involved. Students need to keep their eyes open for hazards and, more importantly, speak up if there are unsafe conditions or behaviors.
Colleges and universities are usually very good about safety in the dorms but casting a wary eye is a good idea. For example, some kids cook in their rooms or light candles though it is strictly forbidden. Double check that exits and fire escapes are clear and in working order. In addition, look in the dorm rooms and halls to be sure you see sprinkler heads and smoke/heat detectors that are unobstructed.
As important is sensitizing your student to look for safety issues throughout their stay.
If they are renting, the same issues are all the more important. Landlords offering student housing do not always maintain their properties as they might for the standard rental market. Also, exit stairways may be used to store bicycles, boxes and spare furniture when they absolutely need to be clear for a safe exit. Be sure there are working fire extinguishers in the kitchen and hallways.
So, dear Janie and Johnny, be safe, have a great year at college and don’t forget why you’re there!