Does my homeowners policy cover my son or daughter at college, or do they need a renters policy?
Updated: Apr 8
Your college kid may have spent last year at home with you. Now they’re headed back to campus. As they pack up all those electronics – laptop, phone, tablet - you may wonder if your homeowners policy covers them. And it’s a good question. According to the FBI, nearly 95% of the crimes on campus are property crimes.[i]
The answer is…sort of, and it depends. The first question is whether your child has coverage under your policy at all.
DOES YOUR CHILD COUNT AS AN "INSURED" UNDER YOUR POLICY"
While they live in your household, yes. If they live away from home, maybe. Homeowners policies often clearly state when students away from home are covered. Your child usually needs to be under a certain age and a full-time student. They may also need to live on campus. So, your child may be all set until they need to drop that physics course mid-semester.
If they fall just below the full-time status, your homeowners policy no longer covers them at school.
IF YOUR CHILD IS INSURED UNDER YOUR POLICY, WHAT COVERAGE DO THEY HAVE?
Even if your college student counts as an insured, their coverage may be more limited than yours. Here’s what to consider on that point:
Is your child’s stuff covered?
Again, probably, but in a limited way. You may have quite a bit of coverage for entire family’s belongings at home, maybe $50,000 or more. That limit, though, usually does not apply to other residences anyone in your family uses, including your kid’s apartment or dorm room. Coverage limits may be as low as $1000 (which won’t replace that laptop…) or 10% of the coverage for your family’s stuff. Again, check your policy.
What happens if your child injures someone or damages someone else’s property by accident?
What if they set off the sprinkler system because they left that microwave popcorn in way too long and caused a fire? Or they’re biking, lose their balance, and knock someone else over? If they’re not driving at the time, they should be covered, as long as they count as an “insured” under the policy.
What happens if your child’s apartment or dorm room is unlivable?
Unless the school helps (which they probably will if there’s, say, a water leak in a dorm room), your student is out of luck under your homeowner’s policy, because their apartment is not the family residence.
HOW DO I GET RID OF ALL OF THIS UNCERTAINTY?
There are a few things you can do. Your insurance company may have some additional coverage you can add to your homeowners policy for your student. Your insurance agent can help with this.
What’s usually easier, though, is getting a renters insurance policy in your child’s name. You’ll pay about $10 a month, and you won’t have to worry about whether your child is or isn’t covered. And, when that water leak in their apartment makes it unlivable, their insurance company will pay for alternate housing.
The homeowners policies insurance companies sell are all a little different. This is general advice, but you should read your homeowners policy or talk to your insurance agent to be sure.