Consider a renter’s policy

By Brittney Foreman

What do pipe burstings, grease fires and burglaries all have in common? These things may occur while a student is living either in an apartment or residence hall on or off a college campus. More importantly, what happens when no one is liable for a student’s damaged or stolen stuff, and he or she doesn’t have insurance?

Someone pays, but it may be more of a question of how and who.

“My roommate had a grease fire,” said Anne Trivino, senior in LAS. “It went up to the ceiling.” She said the fire went out instantly and luckily there was no damage.

This is Trivino’s second year living in an apartment and she said she doesn’t think she has renter’s insurance.

“I don’t even know anything about it,” Trivino said.

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    Unlike Trivino’s roommate, some students’ things get damaged or stolen while living on campus.

    Some residents who experienced the hot water pipe bursting in ISR that occurred last spring break had plenty of their belongings drenched, some beyond repair. The last update left residents unsure if the University would reimburse them. Most likely the University would not be found negligent, said Andi Cailles, assistant director for hall supervision and staffing.

    Also, according to the 2007 Clery Act Report, a federally-mandated report on crimes university campuses, there have been 55 cases of burglary from January to June and six cases of robbery on the University of Illinois campus.

    “So basically when it comes to college students who are living in a dormitory, (with) their parents’ homeowner’s insurance, the coverage (parents) have on personal property generally extends to people living in the residence halls,” said Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

    Gorman said that companies are different, though, and parents still need to check with their homeowner’s policy to make sure their son or daughter’s things are covered while at school.

    Living in an apartment, students may need insurance of their own.

    “In an apartment, it is just plain foolish not to have renter’s insurance,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the University’s Tenant Union. “The main reason we encourage people to buy renter’s insurance is because we keep hearing from tenants who have problems that the insurance would have resolved if they would’ve had it.”

    If renter’s insurance is so important, why don’t students get it?

    “I don’t think it’s something that’s really brought out to them before they come to school,” said Marilyn of American Family Insurance. Marilyn said that sometimes students think the landlord will pay for the damage.

    “Normally young people aren’t looking for renter’s (insurance). They don’t know that they need it,” she said. “Most of the time they come in here for auto insurance then we try to stress to them the importance of a renter’s policy.”

    Some students don’t think they have enough stuff to insure.

    “I don’t think it’s vital,” said Claudia Larivee, graduate student in the school of social work. “I think if you own something that’s really worth a lot of money then it might be worth your while. None of my things are worth that much.”

    Gorman would probably disagree.

    “Most students go to school with a lot of electronics, computers, iPods, scanners, DVD players,” Gorman said. “If they live in an apartment they should not just think that they don’t have enough valuable stuff and that they don’t need renter’s insurance.”

    Larivee did say her computer is valuable, but she would run out with it if there was a fire. She also said that students might not have renter’s insurance because it imposes an extra cost.

    “Especially for college kids, it’s a tight budget,” “Larivee said. “Nobody wants to spend it on that.”

    Again, Gorman might disagree on the fact that it imposes a great cost to get it.

    “It’s such an inexpensive policy that it makes so much sense to purchase,” Gorman said.

    On the Tenant Union Web site, it says a person can buy renter’s insurance for as little as $10 a month. The site also gives names of numerous local insurance companies one could contact to obtain a renter’s policy.

    The Tenant Union is a resource students can use when making the decision to rent an apartment.

    “Our mission is to stimulate fairness in landlord-tenant relations and to be a resource for students who rent housing,” Patt said.

    Larivee, like other students, said she has never heard of the Tenant Union.

    Senait Brown, graduate student in FAA, said she goes to the Tenant Union to check her lease. She said she thinks renter’s insurance is extremely important but she doesn’t have it.

    “Nobody I know has it,” Larivee said. She added that no one she has rented from, except during her sophomore year, has mentioned it to her.

    Patt said the Tenant Union hands out a flier about renter’s insurance every chance they get. She said they give out the one-page handout on Quad Day, at summer registration, at other tables and when they give presentations to different groups.

    “(Renter’s insurance) really comes in handy,” Gorman said. She said that renter’s insurance covers expenses even if a tenant is liable for the damages, like if he or she causes a flood by leaving the bath water running. She also said it provides off-premises coverage.

    For example, if a student’s watch gets stolen while studying abroad, it would be covered. Gorman said coverage on jewelry is limited, however, so one should make sure to buy extra coverage if needed.

    Patt said if a fire leaves the apartment unlivable, renter’s insurance would cover the hotel stay, because most likely, landlords won’t.

    She also said that even though the landlord may have insurance on the building, in Illinois, if the tenant started the fire, he or she is liable to the landlord for the deductible, which could range anywhere from $1000 to $5000.

    Gorman said if the tenant caused a fire and burned the whole building down, the landlord could sue. She also said that renter’s insurance would cover that too.

    The experts say: tornado or lightning, fire or water, renter’s insurance covers it.

    For more information about renter’s insurance, go to:

    • Tenant Union Web site:
    • Renter’s Insurance:
    • Insurance Information Institute Web site:

    • For more fun, go to: , find “VNR: College Students Quiz”; click “Play Video”
    • To order renter’s insurance on the Web: