Dorm students take risk without renter’s insurance

College students are known to have a costly array of personal possessions when leaving their parents’ home for a dorm room. In addition to clothing, furniture and books, many students bring personal electronics and sports equipment.

In fact, according to the July report by the National Retail Federation, students and their families spend over $907 million on everything from dorm furniture and collegiate gear to personal care items.

Many students assume their belongings in the dorms are protected by the university housing’s insurance, which is not the case. Students who live in the dorms are strongly encouraged to maintain personal property insurance because the university does not cover or replace any items lost or damaged, according to the university housing website.

“I didn’t even know you can or (that insuring your property)was something you should do,” said Andre Gomez, 18, a freshman who studies marketing and lives on campus.

Jody Van Leuven, a manager in the Insurance and Risk Management office at CSUN, said students do not think about it so there is not enough awareness for how insurance can protect them. It should definitely be high on students’ priority list, Leuven said.

“Today, you have computers, game systems, tablets, TVs and many other technologies that can be very expensive, and replacing them can cost you,” Leuven said. “We all know insurance is boring to understand, but when you need it, it’s great.”

One way students can protect themselves is through renter’s insurance.

Renter’s insurance protects students personal property against damage or loss caused by fire, smoke, windstorm, theft, vandalism, riot, civil unrest and much more, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It can also protect the policyholder for liability in case someone is injured while on your property during a party or other occasions.

The premiums for renter’s insurance average between $15 and $30 per month depending on the location and size of the rental unit and the policyholder’s possessions.

CSU schools do not require students to live on campus, therefore they cannot be required to purchase insurance.

“We also want to keep the cost low as possible, but I can’t think of anything better you can do as a student,” Leuven said.

A 2010 report by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Data Center said an estimated 3,800 university housing fires occur in the United States every year, resulting in an average of five deaths, 50 injuries and $26 million in property.

At CSUN, the 2010 annual police report shows that 23 fire alarm calls were made and most of the fires were cooking-related (hot plates, microwaves, portable grills, etc.). The report also showed that property theft is the most common crime on campus.

Jessie Ochoa, 19, a sophomore who studies recreation tourism management, used to live in a dorm. He wished he had insurance while staying there, he said.

“I got my laptop and other stuff stolen, and insurance would have helped me a lot,” said Ochoa.

Some students who live in dorms also assume obtaining renter’s insurance and liability will not be necessary.

“I think I am covered by my parents insurance, so I don’t need it,” said Marrissa Borovard, 19, a freshman who studies English literature.

But Gretchen Cathey, an operational manager at National Student Service Company (NSS), said in most cases, students are not protected under their parents’ insurance.

“The big problem is that parents’ homeowner’s insurance often really has a high deductible and it can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000,” said Cathey. “So if students had their iPhone stolen, they cannot make a claim because it wouldn’t cover the deductible.”

The NSS is one of many companies that provide property insurance for students. Cathey said they currently serve more than 3,000 college campuses nationwide.

“Our most popular policy is $6,000 of coverage with $25 deductible, which means that if you have to file a claim, you are only going to pay $25 out of your pocket, and the premium for that is $146 a year,” she said.

Cathey said people do not necessarily know rental insurance is an option and it is already overwhelming and stressful for many parents to send their kids to college, so insurance is not on their mind, unless the school is pushing it.

“But when most parents and students know it is an option and they see how inexpensive it is, they know it’s the right decision,” said Cathey.