Helen Nugent on the best way to insure belongings while at university

The Times 18th August 2001 Helen Nugent on the best way to insure belongings while at university Student deals can save you a costly lesson

Hundreds of thousands of young people will pack up their belongings and head off to university or college next month. In their preparations for life away from home, long nights in student bars and parties in the halls of residence, many will give little thought to student insurance, and those who do may waste money on poor-value specialist policies.

Research from StudentWatchout, a specialist student insurance broker, shows that only one in ten students has a belongings policy – also known as possessions insurance – despite the high instances of theft in halls of residence and shared accommodation. In fact, StudentWatchout says that every four minutes a student in the UK is burgled.

Students provide easy pickings for thieves. The “open door” policy of many halls of residence means that student possessions are vulnerable. Even those conscientious undergraduates who lock their rooms often leave the door ajar while they nip to the loo or to the common room. Shared houses are no better. While some houses may have individual locks for every bedroom, many do not. And there is always someone who forgets to lock the back door.

Burglars like students because their personal items are usually easy to steal and quick to sell on. Stereos, televisions, cameras and mobile phones are portable and in demand. Furthermore, thieves can get a bigger haul from halls of residence and shared digs than from a family home. Add it all together and it is no wonder that Endsleigh, the specialist student insurer, reports that more than 60 per cent of its student portfolio claims are represented by burglaries.

Guarding your possessions against theft need not cost the earth, even if the student is on a tight budget. Those cautious teenagers who are reluctant to take too many valuable items to university may be best advised to check out their parents’ household policy. Most of these plans can be extended to include cover to students at college or university. For example, Direct Line automatically extends £5,000 of cover to students against theft, loss and damage at no extra cost.

Simply extending mum and dad’s household insurance may, in some instances, be unwise. Parents can lose their no-claims bonus if the child has to submit a claim. And the excess is often higher. A tailor-made policy could be a better option.

StudentWatchout says that each student arrives at university loaded down with at least £3,000 worth of equipment, from laptop computers and mobile phones to a summer and autumn wardrobe and expensive textbooks. This means that the amount insured may have to be higher than the basic £2,500 limit. Plus, some policies will not pay out if the student is unable to prove there was a forced entry in the event of a break-in.

There are cheap specialist student insurance plans on the market. One of the least expensive comes from Saxon. Student Shield costs only £18 a year for students living in halls and will pay out a maximum of £2,500.

However, a more comprehensive plan will cost more. Ben Dunbar, insurance product manager at StudentWatchout, recommends Campus Insurance. In an exclusive deal with StudentWatchout, a student living in halls would pay £46 a year for £3,000 worth of cover. This would include insurance for criminal assault and rental protection (reimbursement for rent paid in advance if the student has to leave university).

There are a wide variety of student insurance products and each student has different requirements. Endsleigh says that some of the key elements include accidental damage and legal action and loss or damage to meters, telephones, library books and college property on loan. It is best to search for a policy that allows you to add on specific forms of cover.

As with all forms of insurance, there are pitfalls. Some students may be penalised by their postcode. According to Endsleigh, hotspots include the M7, 8, 13-15 and 21 areas of Manchester, the B20 postal address in Birmingham and L7, 8 and 15 in Liverpool. Students in these high-risk areas can expect to pay more for cover.

The 20,000 students with Campus Insurance may find that their premiums rise next year. Until recently, Campus policies were underwritten by Independent Insurance. This company has since collapsed and Royal & SunAlliance has taken over the job. R&SA is currently looking at the rating system and insurance brokers believe that it will be forced to raise prices.

Direct Line: 0845-246 8000
Endsleigh: 0800-028 3571
StudentWatchout: 020-7614 0000
Campus Insurance: 0845-330 1408.
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