Pencils, Pens … and Property Insurance?

Jaquise Cofield, District Leadership Program Intern at the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking | 8/18/2014, 1:33 p.m.
When preparing for college, property insurance is probably the last thing on a student’s mind. However, some students at Duke ...
Courtesy of disb.dc.gov

When preparing for college, property insurance is probably the last thing on a student’s mind. However, some students at Duke University learned about the importance of property insurance the hard way.

In early 2014, there was a fire in Brown Dormitory on the Duke University campus. One room was completely destroyed and the entire third floor and some of the second floor sustained damage from smoke and the water used to put out the fire. Following the fire, students were surprised to learn that the university’s insurance did not cover their belongings. Students were directed to the official Duke housing policy, which states: “The University is not liable for damage or loss of personal property kept in the resident’s assigned space or in other areas of University housing. Because the University does not provide property insurance, residents are encouraged to secure their own personal property insurance.”

Thankfully no one was injured in the fire but it prompted students to become more aware of their insurance status. In fact, major universities in the D.C. area including Howard, American, Trinity and Georgetown have similar policies.

Students that are living in college housing or renting apartments likely have valuables such as computers and tablets, TVs and music players. Property insurance covers these items in the event that they are stolen or destroyed in a fire or natural disaster.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., the company that runs collegestudentinsurance.com, projects that nearly $1.5 million in personal property losses will occur both on and off college campuses each year. Nationally, the company also reports that the average college student property loss value per occurrence is nearly $700 and that the most commonly claimed student personal property item is cell/smart phones (37%) followed by computers/laptops (30%).

College students and their parents may not know that most homeowners policies cover a certain amount for damage or loss to personal property away from home. A typical homeowners policy provides up to 70 percent of coverage for your personal property located at your home – 10 percent of that coverage can be allocated to cover your personal property located off-premises, such as in a dorm room. If not covered by a homeowners policy and you are shopping for renters insurance, remember that there may be discounts available if you bundle it with other policies, such as your car insurance.

If you are living in an off-campus apartment, you should also consider renters insurance. Students might think that because they live in an apartment that their landlord’s insurance will cover their possessions. Your landlord’s insurance protects the building, but not your belongings.

It is also a good idea to make an inventory of your belongings for insurance purposes. This can be as simple as taking photos or video footage or making a list of possessions in your dorm room or apartment. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a downloadable home inventory app called myHOME Scr.APP.book for iPhone® or Android to help with this process. The app guides you through capturing images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and storing them electronically for safekeeping. If you would rather do it by hand, you can download a home inventory spreadsheet at this link or http://www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf.

You can read more on insurance considerations for college students (including health and auto) in the DISB Consumer Guide “Insurance Considerations for College Students” at disb.dc.gov/consumerguides.

The District of Columbia's Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking regulates the city's financial-services businesses. It has two missions: to effectively and fairly regulate financial services to protect the people of the District; and to attract and retain financial-services businesses. For more information, visit disb.dc.gov.