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Check Your Insurance Coverage Before Students Head Back to School

DES PLAINES, Ill. 8/3/2000 - Summer is winding down, and many young adults are packing their belongings to enter or return to college. But today's students are toting more than the traditional stereo system or boom box. Computers, cell phones, televisions, personal digital assistants, high-priced bicycles and other expensive and easily stolen items are common in today's dorm rooms.

How do parents or college students protect this valuable property while on campus? Fortunately, the answer may be as close as the parents' homeowners' policy.

"With the proliferation of high-tech and expensive items, protecting personal property while living away from home is more important than ever," said Donald L. Griffin, director of business and personal lines for the Insurance and Research Services Division of the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII). "Luckily, most standard homeowners' policies extend coverage to students living away from home."

Coverage is extended to students if they have been at the school residence at any time during the 45 days immediately prior to the loss, Griffin said. There is no limitation on the amount of coverage, other than the standard personal property limit already stated on the declarations page. Any loss is also subject to the policy deductible and the other policy provisions.

However, Griffin pointed out that parents and students should be aware that certain types of property have coverage limitations. For example, there's typically a $200 cap on cash in the event of a theft. Electronic devices designed to be used in vehicles, such as tape players, CD players or radar detectors, are limited to $1,000 when they're not in the vehicle and away from the primary residence.

Probably the most prevalent concern is about desktop and laptop computers and here coverage varies, Griffin cautions. In some instances, it may be better to put items like computers on a separate policy, or specifically list the computer and its value on the homeowner policy  in insurance language, 'schedule' it," Griffin said. "This method provides broader coverage and eliminates the deductible, which can range from $100 to as much as $1,000."

Things become more complicated if the student rents an off-campus house or apartment in his or her own name or with others. In that case, it may be better to purchase a separate renter's insurance policy, which resembles a homeowners policy in most respects, but without structure coverage, Griffin said. One reason to do this is that once a rental agreement is signed, the student has essentially established a separate residence and may no longer be considered an "insured" under the parents' homeowners policy.

"With all the variables involved, the safest bet is to consult with your insurer or agent about which approach is best for you," Griffin said. "Attending college today is an expensive proposition. A few minutes spent reviewing insurance issues may help save money later on."

The NAII, based in suburban Chicago, is the largest full-service property-casualty trade association in the country, representing more than 675 member companies. NAII members write more than 33 percent of the nation's property casualty insurance, and more than 11 percent of all homeowners coverage.

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*21st Century is not affiliated with Homesite Insurance. The 21st Century Homeowners Insurance Program is underwritten by member companies of the Homesite Insurance group, a leading provider of homeowners, renters and condominium insurance. Member companies include: Homesite Insurance Company, Homesite Indemnity Company, Homesite Insurance Company of California, Homesite Insurance Company of Florida, Homesite Insurance Company of Illinois, Homesite Insurance Company of the Midwest, Homesite Insurance Company of New York, Homesite Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, and Homesite Lloyd's of Texas.
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