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HO insurance goes to school

(07/15/2010) When your kid goes off to college, he or she can leave under the protective umbrella of your homeowners insurance policy -- if you open the canopy properly.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) says the personal possessions of students who live on campus typically are covered under their parents' homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Some policies, however, limit the amount of coverage to 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions taken to college.

For example, if Mom and Pop have $100,000 worth of homeowners insurance for their belongings, only $10,000 would be applicable for dorm stuff.

All insurers don't impose limits, but check with your insurance company to be sure.

"With electronics and expensive sports equipment showing up on campuses around the country, many college students may be bringing thousands of dollars worth of personal possessions with them to college," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for III.

"And with the cost of tuition rising, the last thing students or their parents want to do is to have to pay to replace costly items due to theft, fire or another disaster," Salvatore added.

Just as in the home, expensive computer, electronic, handheld and smart phone equipment and items such as jewelry or valuable collections, may also be subject to coverage limits or special requirements.

A special personal property floater, an endorsement or stand-alone insurance policy may be necessary for such items.

Also consider umbrella stand-alone policies specifically designed for students living away at college.

The policies are necessary for students who live off campus, who likely are not covered by their parents' homeowners policy. They may need to purchase their own renters insurance policy.

"While most items will be covered under the parents' homeowners policy, you can't assume Mom and Dad's policy will completely cover a college-bound son or daughter - especially if they own expensive, high-tech electronics," Charles Valinotti, senior vice president of QBE Regional Insurance, reported to ARA Content.

Beyond insurance, for students turning in their bedroom for a dorm room, III recommends reducing the risk of loss by:

• Leaving valuables at home whenever possible. That Macbook is probably necessary, but valuable collectibles, jewelry and a $10,000 gaming computer are probably better left at home or in a safety deposit box.

• Creating an inventory. Before leaving home, students should create a list of every item, along with serial or other identifying number and receipt, when available, for every item. A photo or video record is also a good visual inventory. Engrave items with identifying information to help track them if stolen.

• Locking your dorm room and keeping your keys with you at all times, even if you leave briefly, say for the shower down the hall.

• Buying a laptop security cable to fasten it down in the dorm and using passwords and security codes to lock other users out of your laptop or computer.

• Not leaving belongings unattended in class, in the library, in the dining hall or elsewhere on campus where crime is likely to occur.

"When a member of your family goes off to college, that's a significant change to your household, and it's important to notify your insurance agent," Valinotti says.

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