Aug. 27--Amid rent, expensive books and ceaseless rises in grocery and gas prices, most college students aren't looking to spend an extra lump of money on things like renters insurance to protect their belongings. Some believe that they are covered by the landlord's insurance policy. Others assume that the few items they've brought aren't worth insuring. But in case of the unexpected, that small cost could save students thousands.
Whether you are living on or off campus, renters insurance, Maggie Dutton says, can bring both the student and their parents peace of mind.
"I'm a firm believer in it. It's important for kids going off to school understand what they need and that the parents understand what it entails so that if anything happens, they'll be covered. The worst thing that happens is for something to happen and having to tell them that they weren't covered," the insurance agent for State Farm said.
While students living on campus may not have to worry about renters insurance -- that is, if their parents' homeowner's policy includes an 'off-premise coverage,' which should cover the loss or damage of most items -- those who aren't should definitely give it consideration, especially since your parents' policy won't cover your off-campus housing if you're paying rent.
"You don't have to specifically identify your items unless you have expensive electronics, musical instruments or equipment (that may exceed coverage amounts in the standard policy). Then, you should get a personal article policy," Dutton said of the homeowner's insurance policy that covers specifically listed items -- jewelry, laptops, tablets, textbooks, clothes and furniture, among others -- and is protected on an all-risks basis.
"Keep in mind that you should take inventory of all of your things and figure replacement costs. If you have your parents' old couch, used bedding and used dishes, determine what it would cost to rebuy them, and that's the amount you need to have listed in the coverage."
Auten Insurance Service Operations Manager Sissy Barber agrees.
"(Renters insurance) would cover your contents if it gets stolen or damaged (as a result of a fire, theft or other unexpected circumstance) and gives the renter liability," Barber said. "If, for instance, they left something on the floor and someone fell and tried to sue them, they would be covered in the case of a liability lawsuit. It doesn't make any difference (if you purchase it at the beginning of the school year or in the middle), it begins immediately as it's purchased."
And if you decide to move to another location, that policy continues to be in effect as long as "you call your agent and let them know that you have moved. The only thing that will change is the address, so you don't have to start new," Dutton said.
"And if you have no claims, you may get claim-free discounts that will continue wherever you move."
Though your apartment's landlord has insurance, in most cases it only covers the building where you live, and not your personal property or liability for accidents. If your personal belongings are stolen or damaged, the landlord typically won't assume any responsibility or legal obligation to pay for any injury or damages while the renter is living on the apartment's premises. If a situation arises, renters insurance can recover the value of your belongings.
"Most landlords require liability, so when you purchase renters insurance, it comes with it. It's part of the package. Also, if you have a fire and a need a place to stay, the insurance will pay money for you to live somewhere else," Dutton said.
In order to do that, Dutton believes it is wise to first jot down inventory of all your things and tabulate how much you believe it is worth. This is to ensure that the insurance policy will indemnify the owner for their possessions at their full replacement cost.
"If you have to buy all brand new things, it adds up and more than likely it will be mom and dad who have to replace it. If the student lives in an area that is a hook-on (to another apartment) and that apartment catches on fire and your things get destroyed, renters insurance can come in handy," Dutton said.
In addition to taking inventory, Barber urges policyholders to also take pictures and keep receipts. This can be helpful if a claim is warranted.
Fortunately for students who may not have the means to pay for additional expenses, the cost of renters insurance is typically inexpensive -- on average, it costs $184 a year or between $15 and $30 per month -- but the amount will vary depending on the location, size of the rental unit and the policyholder's possessions, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
-- Reporter Brittany Tate writes about lifestyle topics. Contact her at [email protected], on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 317.
Here are a few provisions that are covered by, but aren't limited to, renters insurance:
-- Fire or lightning
-- Windstorm or hail
-- Freezing of plumbing system
However, these conditions aren't covered:
-- Bodily injury or property damage that is expected or intended by the insured
-- Business pursuits
-- Professional services provided or not provided
-- Ownership, operation, use, or maintenance of aircraft, motor vehicles, and certain watercraft
-- List each item, when you acquired it and the purchase price or current value.
-- Total the amounts of these items for a rough idea of what your property is worth.
-- Once this is done, put your inventory in a safe place away from home -- for example, in a bank safe deposit box.
-- Consider adding photos to your inventory -- they can help if you have a claim.
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