Most parents can clearly remember their child’s first day of school and the mix of emotions as they got on the school bus. Will they like their teacher? Will they make friends? Did I remember to put everything in their backpack?
For parents of college-bound students, the emotions are a little more intense and the questions a little different. Will they be safe? Will they do something harmful to themselves or others? Will they become homesick?
Whether your child is living in a dorm, a fraternity/sorority house, or off-campus housing, you should contact your insurance agent as part of the move-in process and confirm the following:
Will my home insurance policy respond to a liability claim associated with my child’s college address?
Are my child’s belongings covered by my home insurance policy, or do I need to secure renter’s insurance?
Whether or not my child has a car at school, do I need to make changes to the auto insurance?
Do I need to update the personal umbrella policy as well? Or if I don’t have one, should I get one?
Perhaps more importantly than coverage for your child’s belongings, you need to confirm how your home insurance policy provides liability coverage to other locations. Your child might be a model citizen, but the combination of alcohol, lack of supervision, and peer pressure can lead to some dumb decisions and your homeowner’s liability insurance will likely provide coverage. Some policies automatically cover on-campus housing, but not off-campus housing, while others provide no coverage unless the policy is endorsed. The good news is that the cost to extend liability to another location is usually less than $50 per year, plus another $50 to $100 to add the location to an umbrella policy.
Most home insurance policies also provide coverage for personal property located away from the primary residence. This amount is usually limited to 10% of your policy limit, but that may be enough. For example, if your home insurance policy provides you with $250,000 of personal property coverage, up to $25,000 of that coverage would cover personal property at your child’s college address. Keep in mind that your policy deductible would apply, so if you have a high deductible, the amount of coverage would be reduced accordingly. Also, if your child’s location becomes uninhabitable due to a covered cause of loss, your policy would not provide funds for temporary housing expenses. If these restrictions are too onerous, a separate renter’s insurance policy might be a better solution.
Many insurance companies also provide an auto insurance discount if your child is away at school without a vehicle and the school is located more than 100 miles from home. If your child is bringing a car to school, you need to inform the insurance company as well. Some states require you to carry state-specific auto insurance if your vehicle is “garaged” in the state for more than 30, 60, or 90 days. If your child is living full-time at school in order to secure in-state tuition, you may need to register the vehicle in that state as proof of residency.
If you have a personal umbrella policy, you should also make sure your agent updates the coverage to reflect the changes to your home and/or auto insurance policies. Umbrella policies only cover the locations, vehicles, and drivers listed in the policy itself, so there could be a coverage problem if the agent forgets to list the off-campus apartment you rented for your son or daughter.
If you don’t have a personal umbrella policy, you may want to consider purchasing one at this time. College is not just a place to gain academic knowledge. It’s also a place to learn how to become an adult and accept people and opinions different from your own. Sometimes that leads to bad decisions that can harm other people. A personal umbrella policy can provide you with the peace of mind that if your child unintentionally causes harm to someone else, it doesn’t have to be financially ruinous.
Going away to college is both exciting and challenging for parents and students. A quick insurance check-up with an associate at Plexus Private Client Solutions can reduce some of that anxiety. We look forward to assisting you.