Sunday 21 January 2018

Contents insurance for students is difficult in the hi-tech age

When leaving the security of the family home for college digs, you will probably take some prized possessions with you. But student insurance is not straightforward, writes John Cradden

AMID the hustle and bustle of starting college and living away from the family home, you may not have considered the possibility of insuring your stuff.

The same may be true if you've recently started independent living for the first time as a tenant in private-rented accommodation.

Given the hi-tech age we live in, most students and young people today are likely to own any number of expensive electronic items.

The list could include laptops, MP3 players, stereo systems, smartphones, digital cameras, etc.

Add to this various non-electronic items, such as clothes, shoes, CD and DVD collections, musical instruments and bicycles, and you quickly realise how much valuable stuff you really have and much of it you take for granted.

However, getting contents insurance as a student or rental tenant has traditionally been quite difficult because insurance companies see them as a high-risk.

This writer remembers the dismay at not being able to renew contents insurance for his stuff while living in student accommodation in the early 1990s because the UK-based insurance company -- the only provider of contents insurance for students at the time -- decided to pull out of the Irish market.

According to Louise Ledwidge of broker, underwriters say they experience a higher amount of claims in properties rented to students mainly due to breakages, poor maintenance and theft.

"We can only presume that this is because of reasons such as that students renting are usually sharing the property with other students and there is an issue with contents in that it is often difficult to determine who owns what and who is responsible for items of contents."

Survey reveals

The National Consumer Agency recently did a survey on home insurance that asked for quotes for a 20-year-old student living in student accommodation in University College Cork who required contents insurance of €3,000.

Four out of nine insurers and brokers surveyed refused to provide a quote for this student. Of those that did quote, two would not give all-risks cover for specified items such as laptops or bikes, which is a likely requirement for students.

Others, such as FBD, may refuse to provide cover unless the student was the sole occupant in the house, or sharing with a partner or family.

Renting on campus

This rules out students or young people who share a house with others, or who live on student campus accommodation.

Ms Ledwidge says that one student renting a property on their own is deemed a much lower risk than a group of students sharing.

"With shared accommodation the level of protection of contents is less and there would be a greater flow of people coming through the property on a daily basis leading to a higher chance of contents being damaged or stolen."

The remaining three quotes range from €178 to €389. This means that shopping around for quotes would have saved this student as much as €211. However, the best tack for students living on campus accommodation is to use a broker rather than approach insurers directly.

One such broker is UK firm, which offers an insurance package specifically for students living in Trinity College's student accommodation, as well as a more general policy for students living in campus accommodation in Ireland.

Under these policies your possessions would be covered not just on campus but also at your parents' home, including while in transit to and from the family home at the beginning and end of each term.

Read the small print

When looking for a standalone contents insurance policy, do read the small print on the type of accommodation you have.

Make sure you familiarise yourself what features like 'all-risks cover' and 'accidental damage' actually mean, as they can be confusing.

Check the excess

NCA director of financial information Karen O'Leary says: "Ask if there are any exemptions and what excess applies.

"The excess can range from €200 to €500, depending on the provider, so you need to be sure you could afford to pay it if you have to make a claim-- particularly important for cash-strapped students."

Top-up your policy

Instead of a standalone policy, it is possible, and cheaper, to get cover as a top-up to parents' home insurance policy.

Six out of nine firms gave quotes to the NCA study, with the extra cost of student cover ranging from €34 to €220, including all-risks cover.

Some insurers may not charge extra at all. Bank of Ireland will automatically cover students' belongings whilst living away from the family home at no extra charge -- as long as the amount doesn't exceed 20pc of the contents sum insured on their parents' home insurance policy.

Irish Independent

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