Off to College or University? Ensure you’re insured

It’s an exciting time for tens of thousands of young Scots leaving home for the first time over the next couple of weeks to begin College and University courses. Lots of new things to consider and look forward to, and amongst the most important is to ensure that all of the possessions that you are taking with you to your new flats and Halls of Residence are insured. It’s an issue that is often left until the last minute, or ignored completely, partly because it’s not the most exciting part of the move out of the family home and partly because of the belief that personal possessions will all be insured under a house insurance policy while they are away from home, or that the university will have an insurance policy that will cover them.

It may be the case that a standard household policy will offer some cover when students leave home for the first time, or that the University has a block halls policy that will cover personal possessions, but you need to check, not just to make sure that it exists, but to make sure that the cover under the policy is adequate. Recent research seems to suggest that students have an average of £4500 of possessions, and around £3000 consists of gadgets such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. It’s really important to make sure that all of these goods are adequately protected, and that you understand exactly the terms and conditions of any insurance that you take out.

The starting point is often to look at the policy that is already in place covering the family home. It may be that you can extend this policy to cover things that you are taking to university. For example insurer Aviva’s standard household contents policy provides £5,000 cover for items “temporarily removed from the home.” So, providing a student lives at home outside of term time, their belongings will be covered. This includes belongings in the student’s room, at their shared house or halls on campus and covers them for fire, storm, flood, or malicious damage. Theft is also covered, but only if someone physically breaks into or out of the accommodation. If they want their laptop, mobile phone and iPod covered when out and about, students will need additional Personal Belongings cover. This cover can be added to an Aviva policy from £26.50 a year and provides £2,000 worth of cover, including £750 for cash, and a single article limit of £2,000. (The overall limit can be increased to £10,000 and individual items can be specified on the policy if worth more than £2,000).

Not all home insurance policies can be extended in this way, and if your parents’ policy can’t then you need to look at other options. If you are moving into Halls of Residence then there is likely to be a ‘block halls’ policy in place. All blocks halls policies are slightly different depending on which insurer is underwriting them but the basic policy is likely cover your possessions while they are in your room, and there is likely to be an upper limit to the value of each item that is covered. If you have items that are worth more than this limit, or if you want cover for things that you take out of your room on a regular basis, then you will need to look to extend your cover, either by contacting the insurers who arrange the block halls policy, or by going to a specialist student insurer like Endsleigh, who will arrange extra cover. It’s not cheap – £3500 cover for computers and camera equipment could cost around £200 a year, but this gives cover against loss, accidental damage and theft, and covers you anywhere in the UK as well as 30 days anywhere else in the world.

If you are moving into a flat and your parents’ policy won’t cover you then you will need to look at a stand-alone policy for your possessions. Again the important things to be aware of are any limits on levels of cover for valuable items like cameras, tablets, and phones, and if you are covered only in your flat or if cover can be extended to elsewhere on campus, or anywhere in the UK.

Be particularly aware of the definitions that different insurers use. When they talk about ‘loss’ do they mean something that you leave lying on a bus, or something that is in the bag that is ripped from your shoulder as you walk along the street.

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