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Do I Need Renters Insurance in College?

Updated: July 2016

When you're packing for college, you may be thinking about your class schedule and late night pizzas with friends. Someone making off with your laptop or a dorm fire are probably not what you're envisioning about the campus experience. But since you may be bringing some expensive stuff with you — a television, speakers, clothing and a smartphone — it's a good idea to make sure these things are protected before you leave home, just in case.

Whether you're living in the dorm or an off-campus apartment, it's important to have coverage for all those things that help you keep up with classes and make your living space feel like home. How to help protect your stuff, though, typically depends on where you're living.

College students studying in their apartment

Dorm Life

If you're living in a dorm or other campus housing, your belongings may be covered under your parents' homeowners or renters insurance policy. You'll want to check with your agent to make sure, but the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) says that students who are younger than 26 and living on campus may be covered through their parents' policy.

It can be a good idea to know the policy's coverage limits for personal property. The Insurance Information Institute (III) says some policies limit coverage for belongings while they are away from the policyholder's home. This is often referred to as "off-premises coverage." For example, if your parents' policy provides $100,000 worth of coverage for belongings, but limits that coverage to 10 percent for items that are off-premises, it may provide up to $10,000 for items away from their home, including belongings you bring to school.

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It's also important to note that certain items, such as a laptop, may have coverage limits. If the policy's limits aren't enough to cover the items you'll be bringing to school, the III says your parents may be able to add scheduled personal property coverage, sometimes referred to as a "floater," to their homeowners or renters insurance policy to help cover certain valuable possessions.

Off-Campus Housing

If you'll be living in off-campus housing, the III cautions that your parents' insurance will probably not extend to any belongings you bring with you (although you'll want to check with your agent to be certain). Your own renters insurance policy may be a good way to help protect your belongings should they be stolen or damaged by a covered loss. (Covered events are often described as "perils" in insurance terms. Read your policy to learn what risks it may cover, such as theft or fire.)

A renters policy will also likely provide liability coverage, which may help prevent you from paying out of pocket if you are found legally responsible for someone else's injuries or accidental damage to their property (including your landlord's).

The III recommends asking your agent about coverage limits, as well as whether you may benefit from additional coverage for certain valuables.

Hopefully you and your stuff stay safe and sound while you're running to and from classes, but it may be a good idea to keep a home inventory — it can be a big help if you ever need to file a claim. Knowing you have coverage for your stuff can bring some peace of mind and help you focus on a great college experience.

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