Advice Hub

June 24, 2011
 

Student Insurance: A guide to choosing the right policy

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Written by: Kyle Raffo
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If you are a student heading off to university this autumn you may be considering buying home contents insurance to protect your possessions.

Whether you’re moving to halls of residence or a house share, it’s likely to be a wise investment. An investigation by Santander revealed in 2009 one in eight students had been a victim of theft whilst at university.

While money was the most frequently stolen item, one in four victims had experienced the theft of a mobile phone, 11 per cent had had their MP3 stolen and five per cent lost a laptop to thieves.

But while it makes sense to buy contents insurance, the prospect of purchasing it might seem bewildering if you’ve never lived away from home before.

Likewise, it might not be the most exciting of jobs on your ‘to do’ list when pitched against the tasks of hunting out the bars offering the best Happy Hour deals and searching for stores offering student discounts.

So we’ve compiled a guide for students to help de-mystify the perplexing process of taking out home contents insurance.

Where to start

Understanding what you are buying is essential.

There are two kinds of ‘home insurance’ – buildings insurance and contents insurance. Buildings insurance provides cover for the bricks and mortar part of your home, as well as any permanent fixtures like a garden wall, electrics or windows.

As a student there’s a high chance you’ll be renting, which means you don’t even need to think about buildings insurance – this is something for which your landlord will take responsibility.

What you will need, however, is contents insurance. This provides cover for all removable possessions within your home. It can cover everything from your clothes and books to more valuable items such as jewellery, laptops and televisions.

By taking out a policy you are protecting your belongings from theft and damage.

Contents insurance is not compulsory but it does provide peace of mind. What’s more if you fear you could not afford to replace a stolen MP3 or find the cash to fix a broken laptop, then contents insurance is a ‘must’.

Are you already covered on your parent’s policy?

Before you go out and spend part of your precious budget on insurance, make sure you are not already insured.

For example, your possessions may already be covered as part of your parent’s contents insurance policy.

So before you go insurance shopping, ask your parents to find out whether their home contents insurance includes cover for items temporarily removed from the home or whether it has ‘personal belongings cover’.

According to Aviva, which includes these features as optional extras to its contents insurance policies, many students simply do not realise they already have protection for their valuable goods.

Jonathan Cracknell, household underwriter at Aviva, said: “After paying out for all the tuition and accommodation fees it might come as a surprise to many parents to discover they might not have to pay anything extra to insure their children’s belongings, be it their bedding and clothes, TV or iPhone.”

He added: “And if the family policy has personal belongings cover too that means the student’s bit and pieces outside their digs are protected – all for no extra cost.”

Aviva’s standard household contents insurance policies provide £5,000 worth of cover for items temporarily removed from the home.

This includes possessions in a student’s room at either a shared house or a campus and will include cover for all sorts of occurrences such as fire, storm, flood or malicious damage as well as theft.

Personal belongings cover, which must be bought as an added extra on most policies including Aviva’s, provides cover for possessions when you are out and about.

This is useful if you are likely to be taking your laptop, mobile phone or MP3 player with you to lectures, the library and other places.

You can add personal belongings cover to a contents insurance policy for a starting price of £15 a year, says Aviva.

If your parents don’t already have this feature on their policies, it might be worth asking to them to purchase it – as it could save you money.

Watch out, however, as there are some pitfalls of using your parent’s policy. Compared to contents policies specifically designed for students, they tend to have higher excesses.

What’s more, if you need to make a claim it will affect your parent’s no claims bonus and may cost them more to renew the policy.

Check you are not insured on another policy

If you have already taken out a student account with lots of benefits you might already be covered for some of your possessions already.

Some of the student accounts on the market offer insurance for laptops, mobile phones and certain gadgets.

Watch out though, as these policies do not necessarily provide a complete alternative to home insurance since they only cover specific items.

You will still need to get a home insurance policy to cover the rest of your possessions.

And make sure you check whether there are any ‘conditions’ to these benefits. Last year Santander was offering insurance for gadgets, laptops and mobiles as a benefit on its Student Account.

However, to receive this feature accountholders needed to pay £500 into the account every month.

Buying student contents insurance

If being insured on your parents’ policy is not an option, and you are not insured elsewhere, you will need to take out your own contents insurance.

There are specific policies designed for students which claim to have advantages over mainstream contents policies.

Endsleigh Insurance, for example, is one of the main players in this arena. It promises lower excesses than non-student home insurance and includes useful additions such as the option to cover belongings if you leave them in digs over the Christmas holidays.

Among the benefits Endsleigh will also replace a lost or stolen laptop within 24 hours. The policy includes no claims discounts of up to 25 per cent and you can buy cover for musical instruments and bikes.

Plus it also provides a policy for house sharers, which allows multiple students in shared accommodation to insure general contents under one policy.

Each housemate gets insurance for £3,000 worth of possessions under the policy, on which up to ten people can be included.

Vicki O’Connell, a spokesperson for Endsleigh, explained it was important for students sharing a home to have adequate cover because the more people there were in a house share, the higher number of valuables there are likely to be to attract potential thieves.

She added: “We’ve developed the house sharer policy to be a quick and easy way for students to arrange for their possessions to be protected throughout the house.
“Everyone can sign up individually online, under the name of the property. And it encourages the housemates to work together, because the more people who join, the cheaper it is.”

You can sign up to Endsleigh’s student contents insurance policy via Confused.com.

Things to watch out for

If your landlord asks you to insure items they have put into your accommodation, this is not your responsibility.

According to Endsleigh, it’s up to the landlord to take out landlord’s insurance for his or her own items against loss, damage and fire. You can only insure items you own.

This leads on to another point, which is to make sure you include everything you want insured when taking out a quote.

It might be tempting to miss off a few possessions in a bid to lower the premium but this will not help you when you come to make a claim.

Finally, just having insurance is not the ultimate protection against crime. It might seem obvious, but make sure you do not leave expensive items on display – by a window for example.

And if you have parties at your home, lock away your valuables as it’s highly likely in a shared home you will have plenty of visitors you are not familiar with.

Making sure doors are well locked and windows secure is a good idea and not taking anything too valuable out and about with you, unless absolutely necessary, will also help.


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