If you have a teen about to enter college, it’s a good time to take practical steps that safeguard your son or daughter as they enter a new chapter of life. Teens today often carry car loads of personal belongings to outfit their dorm rooms. Some of them take a car to campus. Here are steps you can take to protect your teen, their possessions … and your peace of mind.
· Take inventory first
· Protect against losses
o Electronic devices
o Your homeowner’s insurance provides some coverage
o Renter’s insurance & off-campus housing
· Adjust your auto insurance options as needed
Take Inventory First
The Insurance Information Institute offers a free download at KnowYourStuff.org®  that allows you to create an inventory of what your student is taking to college – everything from furniture to clothing to computers, cameras, TV’s and music gear. The inventory list is stored “in the cloud” so even if your student’s computer is lost, damaged or stolen the inventory list is secure.
Whether you use an online resource or write the inventory on a legal pad, having that information along with estimated values simplifies the claims process and speeds your reimbursement.
Take a little extra time documenting the most expensive items. Capture serial numbers on computers, smart phones and iPads. Consider taking snapshots of those items along with their receipts.
Protect Against Losses
Furniture, clothing and miscellaneous items may not individually have high replacement costs. Collectively, though, they can be costly to replace. The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2007 and 2011, over 3,800 fires occurred in dormitories, sorority and fraternity houses each year.  The U.S. Department of Education shows dorm thefts and burglaries averaging over 11,000 during each of the last few years.  Expensive textbooks disappear from behind unlocked dorm rooms. Worse, computers and other electronics are the prime targets of opportunistic thieves who, sadly, are often other students.
They’re critical to college students for two reasons.
First, teenagers have “deep” connections with their electronic devices. They’ve grown up with them over several years. They’ve used Instagram, Snapchat and texting to stay connected with their friends. At most every college you’ll see crowds of students walking with heads down as they make their way to the next class, focused on their smartphone to see what’s new since they last checked in. Losing a smartphone today is akin to losing social connections.
Further, many colleges and universities ask students to bring their own devices to class  to access course information and online resources as part of the educational process. Then, when it comes time to do research or write a paper, students use their own computing device rather than having to run across campus to a computer lab.
As technology advances into the college classroom and dormitory, losing a personal device creates a serious problem for your teen. You have two options for insuring them against loss depending upon where your student lives – on or off campus.
Your Homeowner’s Insurance Provides Some Coverage
Colleges and universities are not responsible or liable for losses to your student’s property from fire, theft or any other cause. However, just as your homeowner’s policy provides coverage for your possessions at home, it’s likely to insure your student’s possessions even when they’re away at college, although with some limitations. For example, if your policy provides $100,000 coverage for personal possessions at home, most policies would cover your student’s losses at 10 percent of the overall policy limit, or $10,000.
TIP: Some policies may not deliver the 10 percent coverage, although it may be possible to add an inexpensive rider. Further, your policy may have an even lower payout for big-ticket electronics, musical instruments and jewelry. Contact your insurance professional to determine exactly what your policy covers and to find better ways to protect your student’s property.
Your student’s property is covered against loss from the same perils outlined in your homeowner’s policy, but not against negligence, normal wear and tear or, for instance, ruining an iPhone by accidentally dropping it in a puddle.
TIP: Some homeowner’s policies drop coverage if your student is absent from campus housing for an extended period of 45 days or longer. Again, discuss any sabbatical or study-abroad programs with your insurance professional. You may be surprised to learn that you can even get coverage for your student taking a semester in Italy or Japan.
Your homeowner’s 10 percent coverage usually applies to on-campus housing including dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses. However, if your student lives off-campus, your homeowner’s policy does not provide coverage. Instead, a Renter’s Insurance policy is what you’ll need to protect against loss.
Renter’s Insurance for Off-Campus Students
Renter’s insurance is one of the lowest cost policies you can buy. It protects against many kinds of loss – fire, theft, electrical surges and others. You can choose to cover your student’s possessions for their actual cash (market) value at the time of loss, or for full replacement value.
Most policies also include liability coverage that pays for injuries to others while at your student’s off-campus quarters. Many will even pay your student’s temporary living expenses if the rented property becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril.
Your Auto Insurance Options
The auto insurance issues you should review depend upon several factors. You may find no changes to coverage are needed. Or, you may find that some adjustments are needed to protect you against unwanted costs of settling an accident. Let’s look at each scenario.
The Best Case Scenarios
If your student has been driving the family car, you’ve already added him or her to your auto policy as an authorized driver. As a result, you’ve been paying higher premiums to cover the greater risks involved with young drivers.
Now though, your son or daughter is going away to college and will no longer be driving for a substantial portion of the year. Many policies reduce the premium when your teen is away at college. Contact your insurance professional to see if you are due a premium reduction.
TIP: These reductions are usually available if your student’s college is 100 miles or more from home. Also, when your teen comes home for a holiday – or even for a weekend – make sure he or she doesn’t drive the family car. If an accident occurs while his coverage is suspended, your insurance will not pay for liability, collision or other claims.
TIP: Be sure to keep your student listed on your policy even while away at school. The longer your teen is listed on an active policy without an accident, the better opportunity he will have when the time comes to get his own policy.
Another “best case scenario” exists when your teen drives his or her own car, but leaves it at home when going off to college. Once again, contact your insurance professional to learn if your premium costs can be reduced.
The Second Best Scenario
Your student drives her own car, not the family car. She is insured through your auto policy and she’s taking her car with her to college. Your first responsibility is to notify your insurance professional that she will be driving the vehicle during the school year, and it will be garaged at a new location. You may find the premium rates at your home address are higher than those at the college location, leading to a premium reduction.
Finally, if your student carries his own auto policy, he will need to report the new garage location – which may again lead to a lower premium cost.
We’re Here to Help
Insurance is a complex topic filled with “gotcha’s” and limitations. At Quoteasy Insurance, we find the best coverage at the least price. That’s our specialty. If you have a student heading off to college in-state, or a thousand miles from home, we can help you protect your child and yourself against unwanted liabilities. Click or call us at 305-587-2410.
(1) http://www.knowyourstuff.org (2) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/23/technology/in-some-schools-students-bring-their-own-technology.html?pagewanted=1 (3) http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/NFPA%20reports/Occupancies/osdorms.pdf (4) http://www.ope.ed.gov/security/ this statistic required setting criteria from a database
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