It's an exciting time of year. Freshmen attending orientation, seeing their dorm room, meeting their roommates. Families shopping for what their students will need. Upper classmen shopping to furnish first apartments. Whatever the class year that a son or daughter is entering, there are very real implications for a family's insurance protection program.
What parents need to know
Has your insurance program been reviewed in light of college attendance?
Prevent major headaches away from home.
The Insurance Information Institute (iii.org) strongly encourages parents of college students to review their Homeowners, Renters and Auto Policies now to see if their child's possessions are adequately covered under their existing insurance policies. (That may not necessarily be the case.)
Dorm or Apartment?
If your son or daughter will be living in on-campus housing, chances are good that your homeowners or renters policy will cover their possessions (TV, clothes, computers, tablets, cell phones, etc.) will be covered from theft, fire and natural disasters. However, there may be limits on how much is covered. Some policies have a $1500 or $2500 limit on expensive items like electronics. Other policies limit coverage for personal possession to 10% of your policy's limits.
Items such as jewelry, expensive sports equipment, high-end bicycles, and musical instruments may be subject to dollar limits under the standard homeowners or renters policy. If your son or daughter plans on playing a sport or participating in the orchestra or band, you may need additional coverage to protect their equipment or instrument. These so-called endorsements or "floaters" provide both higher amounts and broader coverage for risks such as "mysterious disappearance". Expensive jewelry items should most likely be left at home or stored in an off-site safe deposit box, such as at a bank.
If your student is going to be living off campus in an apartment, their possessions will NOT be covered by your homeowners policy. You will need to purchase a separate renters insurance policy to cover them. You can combine this new policy with your current policies to receive a multi-policy discount.
The place to start is with a comprehensive inventory of all the items they plan on bringing to school with them. Having an up-to-date College Inventory can facilitate your discussion with our customer service representative about potential adjustments to your coverage or in filing a claim if something does get ruined or goes missing.
Don't neglect Identity Theft precautions
Students often think they aren't a target because they don't have much money. According to the Federal Trade Commission they are actually the biggest target because they aren't concerned and so aren't careful. You, as their parent, are especially vulnerable if you give them a debit or credit card tied to your accounts.
The Better Business Bureau offers these additional tips for college students to protect themselves from identity theft:
- Send sensitive mail to your permanent home.
- Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
- Never lend your credit or debit card to someone else. When using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone “shoulder surf” your personal identification number (PIN).
- Don’t conduct financial transactions or transmit sensitive information over public Wi-Fi.
- Be careful clicking on links in emails, texts and social media messages.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software and your passwords are rated "strong".
- Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
- Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on BBB.org. Use a credit card so that you’ll have protections that aren’t available with other forms of payment.
The Insurance Information Institute article referenced above is an excellent source of basic information. If you have questions or concerns about your risks and coverages, please contact our office right away for a comprehensive review.
Bringing a car to campus
There are a number of reasons why a student may need to bring a car to campus. Maybe they have a part-time job off-campus. Maybe you want them to be able to come home for weekends and holidays.
Most students are already on the family auto policies as drivers. However, coverage may depend on whether the student leaves home or stays in the area. If attending an out of state college or university, you need to make sure that the coverage will follow the student.
If you purchase a renters policy for your student because they live off campus in another state and have signed a lease, it may make sense for you to register the car in their name in that state and purchase their own auto policy. They would be eligible to receive the discount for multiple policies. If the student is an honor student, they may also be eligible for an additional good student discount.
If your student will be away for the majority of the year, you may want to consider taking them off your automobile policy as a driver to save some money on your premium. And reinstating them when they return for extended breaks. Or your company may offer a "student away at school" discount if your student is not taking a family vehicle and is 100 miles or more away from home.
Call us at 508-528-3310 or 888-528-3310 to schedule your review and be sure!
Tips for Staying Safe at College
A solid insurance plan is only one piece of the puzzle. Forbes.com Advisor recommends that parents take a few minutes with their student who's leaving home for the first time to review these safety tips.
- Familiarize yourself with the campus. Tour the campus during the day so you are familiar with the facilities and your surroundings, including campus security.
- Tell a friend when you’re venturing out and let them know where you are going.
- Don’t walk alone, especially at night. Keep to well-lit pathways. If you don’t have someone with you, call campus security and ask for an escort.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t listen to headphones and keep your phone in your pocket.
- Report suspicious activity. Call campus security to report any suspicious people and vehicles.
- Lock all exterior windows and doors in your dorm room or off-campus apartment.
- Never invite strangers into your residence hall or apartment!
- Beware of fire hazards such as cooking devices, extension cords and candles.
Drink responsibly (if you are of legal drinking age). Arrange for a ride home or call an Uber and do not get behind the wheel if you have consumed alcohol.
Upper classmen and renters insurance
Renters insurance covers possessions from theft, fire, vandalism, natural disasters (except floods) and other types of damage. Most policies also cover possessions when they aren't in the home, such as items stolen from a car or the library.
However, another important provision is the policy includes liability coverage, up to the policy limits, to pay legal bills if your child is held responsible for accidental injury to someone or damage to someone else's property.
The policy also may include additional living expenses (ALE) provisions which pay for temporary housing expenses if the rental property is damaged and uninhabitable. This is an extremely important coverage and you should check to make sure it is part of the policy.
Again, an important thing to have is a complete inventory of all the personal items, furniture and furnishings which your student is bringing to the apartment or house. This is especially important if there are non-family roommates sharing the house or apartment. Items may easily "go missing" when roommates move in or out from a misunderstanding of who owns what. A written inventory with photos is proof of ownership should such misunderstandings occur.
Your student will also not control what guests that his or her roommates invite over. Or necessarily what they do. Having a policy that provides protection for a wide range of risks is an excellent investment
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This is the trust you placed in us when you chose the Keefe Insurance Agency. Maintaining your trust in these trying circumstances is a responsibility we take very seriously. Your complete satisfaction, if and when you have a claim, is our number one priority.
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The National Safety Council offers the premiere 4-hour and 2-hour online defensive driving courses. Even experienced drivers can benefit from these refresher courses before the winter season sets in. They also offer a version for motorcycle riders as well. Click here for more info on NSC courses.