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Should your college student buy renters insurance? You bet

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Parents send their children off to college each year with everything from warm socks to care packages filled with homemade cookies. But too often, parents forget to encourage their college-age students to invest in renters insurance.

That can be a big mistake for college students renting apartments off-campus. What if a burglar steals your college-age student's laptop, clothes and microwave oven? What if a burst pipe soaks your child's furniture, damaging it beyond use? And if a party at your child's off-campus apartment gets out of hand and results in broken windows, stained carpeting or busted porch railings?

Renters insurance will cover the damages so that your child — or you — won't have to come up with thousands of dollars to replace stolen or destroyed furniture, clothing or electronics. If your college-student child living off-campus doesn't have renters insurance? Replacing those items can be a costly proposition.

See also: Millennials lack renters insurance and believe it costs over $1,000

"All college students living off-campus should have renters insurance," says Kelly Fisher, founder of the Brainy Chick Finance blog. "Say a party gets out of hand and damage is done, you do not want to be paying for that out-of-pocket. If there is a leak or pipe issue and your items are ruined, renters insurance would cover your belongings."

Unfortunately, most college students, and their parents, don't think about renters insurance. That's too bad: This insurance is inexpensive — renters can usually get solid coverage for about $15 to $30 a month, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — and provides a financial safety net.

If you're heading off to college, or if you're sending your children off, don't make this mistake. Financial and insurance experts say that renters insurance is a must-have for any college student who is living in off-campus housing.

Renters insurance gives college students extra protection

Parents often think that their college students are protected by their own insurance policies because these students are usually still dependents. This is usually the case when a college student is under 26, enrolled in classes and living in on-campus housing, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Usually, these students are covered by their parents' homeowners or renters insurance policy.

But college students who rent their own apartments off-campus are not usually protected by their parents' insurance, which makes renters insurance an important form of protection for them.

Renters insurance can protect college students not only from thieves and disasters, it can also protect them from damages caused by their roommates.

Roommates can be unpredictable. What if one starts a fire that destroys everyone's belongings? Renters insurance will fund the replacement costs of the TV, computer, bed and furniture that college students lose.

See also: Renters across the U.S. are underinsured

"Roommates can be a huge unexpected security risk," said Clair Jones, community outreach director for home-security site, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Many college students have no control over the person they share a room or apartment with. It's definitely a good investment to take out a renters insurance policy that covers their laptop and any other items necessary for their schooling so that they aren't stuck taking out an unnecessary loan to replace them."

Jones says that many renters insurance policies even cover items that are stolen from the cars of college students. This is another benefit of this insurance; college students often travel from classes with pricey items like laptops, musical instruments and tablets in their cars, Jones said.

David Suarez, regional marketing director for Mercury Insurance, says that both parents and college students too often don't think about renters insurance. 

"The college students always assume that their parents have this coverage," he says. "But that coverage changes the minute they move away, even while they are at school. If they are living off-campus, they no longer have that coverage. This is something that college students have never had to think about before."

College students should consider adding liability insurance

College students can also pay to include liability coverage in their renters insurance. This will protect college students if someone is hurt while in their apartment. It can also provide protection if a college student accidentally injures someone else. Personal liability coverage varies greatly by policy, though, so college students should make sure to understand exactly what their policy will cover before signing up.

College students aren't unlike most renters: They often think that their furniture or clothing isn't expensive enough to protect with insurance. But Suarez says that this type of thinking is a mistake.

Renters insurance pays for the replacement costs of damaged, stolen or destroyed items. So even if a college student is watching game shows on a decade-old TV, the insurance policy will pay for that student to buy a new television. Imagine how expensive it can be to replace even old items when college students will have to shop for replacement items at today's higher costs.

"It's really a matter of their ability to replace items," Suarez says. "The coverage pays to replace items. Start with clothing and add in electronics of different types. You can easily get up to a few thousand dollars in replacement costs. College students can buy renters insurance at very affordable rates to make sure that they can replace these items if they need to."

See also: Why you need renters insurance — yet few have it

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