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College-bound renters should buy insurance
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The apartments of many college students may not look like they contain wealth, but students who have had to replace everything after a loss face a significant financial burden.
Bobbie Shaffett, family resource management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said a large majority of renters, a group that includes many college students, do not carry renter’s insurance.
“Some may not think about getting it. Some may not take the time to shop around and find out how to buy it,” Shaffett said. “Others may not think they have enough valuable possessions to insure, particularly if they rent a furnished apartment.”
However, the value of clothing and possessions adds up quickly, and starting over can be expensive. The typical apartment of a college student may contain a computer, game system, a collection of movies and music, and exercise or sports equipment, in addition to household items and some expensive clothing and shoes.
“Leases may mention that losses are the responsibility of the renter, but many renters fail to realize that landlords are not responsible for the loss of renters’ possessions due to fire or theft,” Shaffett said. “The insurance that the landlord carries covers the building and not the contents that are owned by tenants.”
The Mississippi Department of Insurance defines the difference between insuring belongings for replacement cost or actual cash value.
“Actual cash value is the amount it would take to … replace damaged possessions after factoring in depreciation,” the department states on their website. “Replacement cost is the amount it would take to … purchase new possessions without deducting for depreciation.”
Shaffett said renters should make an inventory of personal belongings, save receipts from major purchases, and store photographs or videos of each room in a separate location. This documentation will be helpful when filing an insurance claim.
College students preparing to rent their own place for the first time should shop around for the best insurance rates, which can cost about $25 a month. Shaffett said they should also purchase their own insurance policy, as one renter’s policy does not cover an unrelated roommate’s belongings.
Susan Cosgrove, family resource management area agent in Newton County, said a variety of factors can influence the cost of renter’s insurance. Some companies offer a discount if a renter purchases both automobile and renter’s insurance from them.
“College students should check to see if they are still covered on their parents’ homeowners’ insurance policy,” Cosgrove said. “Most of these policies extend coverage to some contents that a student has while in college.”
Although this may cover some insurance needs, Cosgrove urged those owning expensive items like computers, stereo equipment or jewelry to consider insuring these items separately.
Teresa Lyle, an Extension family resource management area agent in Leake County, has a son in college who bought renter’s insurance after a neighbor’s apartment burned down.
“He and his roommate went out the next day and bought renters insurance,” Lyle said. “He took it on himself and found it was affordable to have it.”
Lyle said most students have more belongings than they realize and would find them difficult to replace if faced with the loss of everything.
“A lot of students don’t understand that once it’s gone, it’s gone, and it costs a lot of money to replace what they had,” Lyle said.
While some choose to play the odds and hope they do not suffer a fire or theft, Lyle said this is not a wise course of action.
“Insurance is important because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Once you lose something, if you have insurance, you have something you can fall back on.”