Back to College! Are Your Kids’ Belongings Covered?

Published on Wed, 08/26/2015 - 00:46
Back to College!

As the parent of a college kid, count yourself lucky if you get a phone call every once in a while. Unless it’s the kind of call you never want to get … "Mom, I forgot to turn off the stove in my apartment last night, and it started a fire. My books burned up, and so did my tablet. I don’t know what to do ... the landlord says I have to pay for his damages, too!" Or, "Dad, I don’t know where my laptop is. I’m freaking out. When I left for practice, it was on the shelf where I always put it. Now it’s gone, and my roommate has no idea what happened.”

The price tag for college gear isn’t what you remember it to be.

It’s the price tag that makes those horror stories so horrible. Of course it’s no secret that college is more expensive for millennials than it was for their parents’ generation, but we’re not talking tuition. We’re talking about the stuff. When your son or daughter leaves for college, they’re likely to bring a small fortune with them. In fact, some say that if you were to put a price tag on all the electronics, clothes and gear it could amount to $10,000 or more!

It’s true that today’s students rely on tech in a way that their parents’ generation did not. Look at one of the many “must have” lists of college tech, and you’ll see a parade of gadgets: laptop, tablet, smartphone, iPod, Xbox, chargers, flash drives ... some of these devices are optional, but many are necessities.

Does your homeowners insurance cover all that?

While everyone homeowners policy is different, the answer is probably yes, you have coverage … to a point. But that coverage may come with a lot of ifs, providing coverage only if the student is under age 24, if they're related to you or “in your care,” if you’re claiming them on your tax return, if they’re on your health insurance, if they lived at your house before leaving for school, if they're enrolled in classes full-time, if they live on-campus, if you’re helping them pay for college ... and if, and if, and if.

To make things more complicated, if your college-aged kid changes anything – say they drop a class and became part-time, or they stop coming home during breaks – your policy may no longer cover them. The only way to know for sure is to contact your agent, get the facts and find out which factors might interrupt coverage in the future. In the meantime? It’s time to sit your kids down for The Personal Risk Management Talk.

Equip your kids to manage their risks while at college.

Until you’ve faced a serious situation like an apartment fire or a personal theft, it’s easy to think it’ll never happen. Inexperience makes people feel invincible. That’s why it’s doubly important to administer a dose of risk-management know-how to your college-aged kids.

  • What to discuss? Talk about what type of theft is most common. Take an inventory (with photos) of everything before they leave; this will make it easier to verify if something’s missing and, if necessary, process a claim later. Tell them to personalize their stuff, not to leave it in the car, to use locks. Go over other precautions too.
  • What to leave at home? Any high-dollar item that your kid doesn’t absolutely have to bring is better left at home. Their possessions are at higher risk of getting damaged or stolen at college than they would be otherwise. Encourage them to make the judgement call.
  • How to protect what you bring? If your kid is living on-campus, they should talk to their roommate about keeping their room locked at all times. Consider bringing a safe, too: that way they’ll know their most expensive items are secure no matter who comes or goes.
  • Should you get a separate policy for your student? Finally, talk about what they’d do if their stuff was stolen. How would they replace it? If you’re concerned that your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t provide enough coverage, or is too contingent on shifting factors, it may be time to get a separate policy for your son or daughter.

As always, Heffernan is here to help with all your personal and business insurance needs. Contact us for a complimentary insurance assessment.