Generally, yes. Your homeowners insurance policy (HOP) will cover many of your child’s belongings while they’re away at college, as long as they’re living on campus. It will not cover them in off-campus student housing or other apartments.
However, the coverages supplied by a traditional HOP may be quite limited. For instance, coverage on expensive technology like laptops, tablets, desktop computers and their accessories may be capped — usually at $2,500 or $5,000 — depending on your individual policy.
Therefore, many parents feel more comfortable buying a student renter’s insurance policy, which is essentially renters insurance.
This article explains everything you need to know about homeowners insurance, renters insurance and dorm room coverages in an unbiased way. If you’re wondering about dorm insurance for college students, you’re in the right place.
We’ll also describe some examples of when students are covered by your insurance, and when they are not. As always, if you have questions beyond the scope of this piece, or if you’d like a quote for student renter’s insurance, contact us.
Homeowners Insurance Basics: What is Personal Property?
All homeowner’s insurance policies are built on the concept of fire coverage. In short, if an insured home burns down, insurance will pay to replace the home and the belongings inside. HOPs also cover points like:
- Wind damage
- Civil unrest and riots
- And plane crashes
Most property insurance policies also include some liability coverage. This protects the homeowner financially should someone get injured on the property.
But personal property is also covered from:
- Smoke damage
- And some other perils that could affect your belongings
Your next question is, “What is considered personal property on an insurance policy?”
What is Personal Property on an Insurance Policy?
In insurance-speak, the term personal property describes belongings other than real estate. Real estate is called “real property.” Personal property can include:
- Tools and craft supplies not used for business
- And even landscaping, trees and shrubs
When your child leaves for college, their belongings are protected through your homeowners insurance policy as long as they are insured on your policy, but only up to a percentage of policy limits.
This is very important! Most HOPs will cover belongings kept off property at 10% of the policy limits. So, if you have $50,000 of contents coverage on your homeowner’s insurance policy, the insurer will pay up to $5,000 for dorm contents.
And if your student has their own homeowner’s policy, or if they haven’t lived with you for a long time, they may not be covered at all.
Homeowners Insurance Coverage Limits for College Students
Even if your student is listed on your HO policy, your insurance may supply very low limits on things like:
- Technology, including laptops, tablets and cell phones
- Musical instruments
- Expensive books
- School supplies
- And cash
Cash, in particular, may have a very low policy limit. If your student’s dorm is burglarized, your homeowners insurance will usually only replace a few bucks in stolen cash.
And again, most policies will only pay up to 10% of the policy limit for contents coverage. If you have $75,000 in contents coverage on your homeowner’s insurance policy, insurance will pay up to $7,500 for dorm room contents. We know we’ve made this point above, but it’s worth repeating.
Pro tip: take photos, keep receipts and document your student’s belongings. If you need to make a claim — we’ll discuss that process shortly — you will be able to provide exact descriptions and prices to your claims adjuster.
What About Liability Coverage While my Student is at School?
The liability portion of your homeowner’s policy will cover your child as long as they are listed on your policy, and they’re living in a dorm. For instance, if your student is found liable — that is, responsible — for causing an injury to someone or damaging their property, your homeowner’s insurance will help cover the costs, including medical care, legal help and property replacement.
What if I Don’t Have Homeowner’s Insurance? How Can I Protect My Student and Their Belongings?
Now, many parents don’t have a homeowners insurance policy, for whatever reason. Perhaps they rent their home or are on active duty and currently live in another country. They can still protect their college student’s belongings with either a renters insurance policy or a dorm insurance policy.
What is Renter’s Insurance?
If your child is living off-campus, a renter’s insurance policy is essential.
Renter’s insurance is designed to protect a renter’s personal belongings in situations like fire, smoke, theft and so on. These policies are usually very affordable, we’ve seen them as low as $25 / month, and policies are available with very low limits.
As your young adult starts their journey in life away from home, they may only have $25,000 worth of personal property. There are insurance policies designed to protect those smaller amounts. Your student can go about their day confident that their belongings are all protected by insurance.
And remember, many insurers will offer discounts to consumers for “bundling” products, so you might get a better price on your auto or renters policy when adding more renters coverage or dorm insurance for your child.
How to Shop for College Student Insurance / Dorm Room Insurance
When shopping for dorm room insurance, your first calls should be to insurers you already use. They may offer you a discounted price on the new policy or add other discounts to your home or auto insurance.
Still, a savvy consumer will make sure the math makes sense by getting a few other quotes from various insurers before making a commitment.
Check Your Math Before Buying a Bundled Policy
Pricing is important for almost every parent, so be sure to check the math.
Imagine your homeowner’s insurance provider is offering a dorm insurance policy for $50 per month ($600/year) with a discount of $10 per year on your homeowner’s insurance and $10 on your auto insurance.
Another insurer is offering the same coverage for only $25 per month ($300 per year), but no discounts on your other policies. It makes more financial sense to choose that second $25 policy. You’ll save $280 per year.
However, some parents like to keep all their insurance policies bundled with the same company, or work with one local agent who really understands their needs. Perhaps the website is very easy to use, or the insurer supplies outstanding customer service.
Whatever the reason, if you feel deeply loyal to an insurer or an agent, it’s okay to stick with them and pay the extra funds. Dorm room insurance exists to reduce your worries, so do what it takes to achieve that feeling.
Shopping for Dorm Insurance or Renters Insurance Online
Technology has made shopping for dorm or renters policies simple. You can use our online tools at Einsurance.com or use your favorite search engine to find quotes.
When using online quoting tools, be prepared with information like:
- Your child’s full legal name
- Their Social Security number (this isn’t always needed)
- The complete address of their new housing
- A description of the housing (dorm room, apartment, etc.)
- A general valuation of all their property
- Your contact information, phone numbers and email addresses
- Schedule dates, when your child arrives at school and when they leave
When describing their property, it helps to have photos and receipts. Be sure to tally up:
- Technology, including scientific calculators
- Musical instruments
- Expensive books or study materials
- Furniture you’ve purchased
- Bicycles and e-bikes
You may discover your student has $10,000 or $20,000 in belongings that need to be insured.
Provide this information in your quotes, and agents eager for your business will respond with quotes and explanations of coverage.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dorm Rooms in Other States?
This is a common question our agents hear from parents of college students. You have a homeowner’s insurance policy, but the insurer doesn’t do business in the state where your child is getting educated.
In 2023, this is especially poignant for parents whose students are leaving their home state to attend college in California, because many property insurance companies have pulled out of the state.
Your question is, “Will my homeowner’s insurance policy cover dorm room contents out of state?” Generally, yes. Your child’s belongings will be covered as long as they live on campus, even if that campus is in California and your insurer doesn’t do business there. But remember, the coverage limits may be very low.
However, we’d like to point out that insurance companies can restrict coverage and make detailed exclusions on any contract. But they must do so in writing. If you’re concerned about dorm room coverage in another state, read your HO policy carefully and ask your agent for clarification.
And remember that student renters insurance policies are available.
Now that we’ve explained coverages, limits and other details about homeowners insurance and dorm room insurance, let’s talk about the claims process.
The Claims Process for Dorm Room Contents Claims
Whether you’re depending on homeowners insurance to supply limited coverage for your student, or choose to buy student renters insurance, various calamities can befall a student and their stuff.
According to TheHartford:
- Roughly 1,700 fires occur in student housing every year
- About 150 of them occur in sorority and fraternity houses
- Candles are among the leading causes of dorm room fires
- And fire extinguishers may not work well
And of course, other perils exist. Dorm rooms, student housing, and off-campus apartments can be burglarized or vandalized. Even the most prestigious dorm might endure a mechanical breakdown of an HVAC system, or student’s belongings may get soaked when a class clown pulls a fire alarm and engages the sprinkler system.
Ultimately, when any disaster strikes, you need to understand the claims process.
Assuming Everyone is Safe, Tally the Losses
This should go without saying, but your first duty is to be sure your child is healthy and safe. If they endured a fire, make sure they’re seen by a physician for burns or smoke inhalation issues. That is your top priority.
Once you’re confident that your student is well, tally up the lost contents. It really helps to have receipts and photos of their belongings, and you may be able to visit the housing and take photos after the event.
Getting Records from Law Enforcement
If the fire was significant, you may not be allowed into the burned building to document damage. It may be considered hazardous. In that case, contact the local fire department and law enforcement for copies of their records. Make several copies and keep them, in case you need to go to court later for injuries to your child.
Provide all your documents to your insurance company. There will be a toll-free number at the top of the policy, or you can contact the local agent who sold you the policy. You may have to speak to a claims adjuster several times.
In cases of structure fires, insurers will usually cut you a check right away for your losses. If you’re dealing with your homeowner’s insurance, they will usually pay up to 10% of your policy limits on contents coverage.
If you’re dealing with a renters policy or student renters insurance, they will likely cover more, but they’ll only pay up to the policy limits. In other words, if a renter policy is for $25,000 in contents coverage, that is the highest amount you’ll be able to collect.
If the fire — or other disaster — is found to be caused by negligence on behalf of the institution, your insurer might sue the school in court. This complicated process is called subrogation, but you won’t be involved. In short, your insurance company will sue the school’s insurance company to recuperate the claims they’ve paid out.
We Invite You to Try Our Online Quoting Tool
Ultimately, your choice in insurance for a student heading off to college can be complicated. We invite you to simplify the process by using our easy online tool. And if you need more information about homeowners insurance, renters insurance or dorm room insurance, contact us.