We are in the midst of hurricane season; football kick-off games are on TV and kids are leaving for college. We have received calls from our clients asking if their college student is covered under their homeowners policy while away at school. There are some basic questions that need to be asked, and depending upon those responses and what policies we are speaking of will determine our response. Probably the most important question to be asked is, “does the child remain a family member?” Recall the definition of an Insured includes not only those named on the policy but also family members. Questions to consider in determining whether a child remains a family member may include:
- Does the child return home over college breaks?
- Does the parent provide any support for the child?
- How is the child treated on the parents tax return, if at all?
- Is health insurance being provided by the parents?
There are two sections of a homeowners policy that come into question for coverage. They would be property and liability. Under Section I, personal property is covered anywhere in the world, but that coverage comes with certain limitations. Such as the limitation of personal property away from premises being limited to 10% of the homeowners coverage C – contents limit. So there is coverage just as if the contents were at home. But that is not the whole story. There are exclusions and one specific exclusion I would like to point out. There is a theft exclusion that states there is no coverage for theft for this property away at school if the student has been away from the property for 45 days or longer immediately before the theft. So a two-week break between classes for example is not a problem, but home for the summer is and proper measures need be taken such as bringing home the property or writing a separate policy covering the property while in a storage unit. Under section II, liability provides for the child (and parents vicariously) temporarily residing at the college location. Most policies define “Any premises not owned by an insured and where an insured is temporarily residing” an insured location. There are carriers that do not adhere to this definition so it is best that a policyholder either review or contact their agent or carrier to confirm whether liability coverage would or would not be included for that dorm room, apartment, frat house or other residence of the child. Should that be the case there is normally an endorsement that would allow the addition of a specific additional location be added and is usually very cost-effective.