Phoenix — When students are unaware of insurance risk, liability can fall to the housing provider.
Phoenix — Phoenix and Boston-based Next Generation Insurance Group (NGI) has released new research outlining the fact that college students are often unaware of their exposure to property and financial losses due to fire, theft and vandalism in on- and off-campus housing. As a result, inadequate liability protection can place unnecessary financial burden on student housing providers for property damages caused by resident carelessness and negligence.
NGI reports that government data confirms that fire and theft are of particular concern, including the U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Data Center’s estimate that 3,800 university housing fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an average of approximately five deaths, 50 injuries and $26 million in property loss each year. Additionally, over the 2007 to 2009 data period, roughly 28,000 burglaries were reported on campuses each year, with in excess of 14,000 per year occurring in the residence halls.
Students living independently for the first time may mistakenly believe that their parents’ homeowners insurance will protect them. In many cases, homeowners insurance contains high deductibles or eligibility requirements that may exclude certain claims, ultimately making it insufficient or inadequate for college students and their prospective risks.
A survey conducted by Ben Hoglund, CPM and NGI highlights the need for renter education. The survey “2011 Campus Housing Risk Mitigation Study” researched the types, causes and monetary impact of property damage occurring on college campuses across the United States.* The study also addressed student and housing provider awareness of available insurance products to mitigate these risks. The findings show that:
- Thirty-three percent of respondents indicated that it is not their policy to require reimbursement for resident-caused fire or property damage in excess of $5,000.
- Campus policy on required property insurance varies, with many schools having no requirement with regard to renters insurance.
- Twenty-four percent of respondents were not aware that some renters insurance products do not include both personal property and liability protections.
- A majority of respondents estimated that less than 60 percent of their student residents are aware that they can be held financially responsible for damage to university property for which they are at fault.
- Vandalism, bicycle theft and electronics theft are the most reported personal property losses by campus residents.
Due to higher insurance deductibles and low collection rates on resident damages, private sector housing providers have become proactive in their efforts to mitigate property financial losses caused by resident carelessness and negligence. The survey concludes that these negative trends can be improved by:
- Policy changes to require resident reimbursement for community property damages due to resident carelessness or negligence.
- Recommending that campus residents obtain personal property insurance as well as personal liability coverage.
- Improved awareness of renters insurance features, especially regarding personal liability protection.
- Improved education targeted toward students and other campus residents regarding their own potential financial responsibility in the event of fire, flood or other property damage caused by their own carelessness or negligence, or lack of reimbursement for damages to their personal property in the event of an accident for which they are not at fault.
*The Campus Housing Risk Mitigation Research Study was conducted among Chief Housing Officers from the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO – I) on behalf of Next Generation Insurance Group. These Housing Officers have a combined occupancy of nearly a quarter million students.
NGI is a nationally licensed insurance agency. More information is available at www.nextgenins.com.
— Dan Marcec