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When College Students Need Renters Insurance

Students in on-campus dorms are usually covered by their parents' homeowners policy, but students in off-campus apartments probably need renters insurance.

My daughter is in college, and she is going to rent an off-campus apartment with two friends next year. Will my homeowners insurance cover her apartment? Does each roommate need separate insurance?

Your homeowners insurance may cover your daughter's possessions and liability when she lives in an on-campus dorm, but it may not cover an off-campus apartment. The rules vary by insurer, so contact your company or agent for the specifics.

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Renters insurance to cover an off-campus apartment usually doesn't cost much--typically $240 per year for $20,000 to $30,000 in contents coverage as well as $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage, says Heather Day, general manager for Progressive Home Advantage. Your daughter's policy will cover her stuff and any shared possessions, but her roommates will need to get separate policies to cover their own belongings, says Day.

To calculate how much coverage to get, add up the value of her electronics, clothes, furniture and any other items she takes to the apartment. The KnowYourStuff.org home inventory tool can help you create your list.

Students who live in an on-campus dorm, on the other hand, are generally covered by their parents' homeowners insurance policies. But inquire about limits: The students' liability limits may be the same as they are for your home, but they may have only 10% of your contents coverage because their possessions are off-premises. Figuring whether you need extra coverage can be tricky. Homeowners insurance policies typically limit coverage for your home's contents to about 70% of the dwelling coverage limits, then cover just 10% of that for possessions that are off-premises. So a policy with $300,000 in coverage to rebuild your home would typically cover $210,000 in possessions at home and just $21,000 for possessions that are off-premises, such as in a dorm. You may want to buy some extra electronics coverage to boost the limits.

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Let your insurer know your child is moving away, in case you need to make changes to your homeowners insurance and add extra coverage. Ask about updating your auto insurance, too; you may get a car insurance discount if, for example, your daughter moves more than 100 miles away and doesn't take a car.

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