If you just bought a condo, we’re sure you’ve already dealt with way more documentation than you wanted to. Well, we’re sorry to tell you … but, there’s more.
Selecting classes, buying books, and choosing a meal plan are just some of the steps students take to get ready for college. Parents, on the other hand, are worrying about how to pay for school, the safety of their child while away, and maybe even beginning to experience a little bit of empty nest syndrome. With all that hustle and bustle, making sure your child has adequate insurance coverage when going away to college can be easily forgotten. Don’t worry, we’ve got you. At Berry Insurance, we guide many clients through this new transition every year. In this article, we’ll review all the various scenarios that could apply to you and your college-bound kid, and let you know how to best navigate changes to your insurance. Your Kids’ Belongings If your child will be going away to college, and living on campus, they’ll probably be packing a lot of stuff to take with them. I remember filling up two car loads when I headed off to school! Fortunately, most Massachusetts homeowners policies will cover any lost or damaged items belonging to students while away from the primary residence. While many insurance companies will cover your student for the full limit on your policy, some may limit this extension of coverage to a maximum of 10% of your personal property limit. Let’s say that you have $25,000 of personal property coverage – that means that only $2,500 would be available to your child while away at college. There is also an additional wrinkle in this coverage. In most cases for coverage to be extended, the student must live on campus, maintain a full-time schedule, have previously lived at the insured home before leaving for school, be under the age of 24, and must be a relative of the named insured on the homeowner insurance policy. A change in that status could put their coverage at risk. For example – dropping a class halfway through the semester could change their enrollment status to part-time,leaving them with no coverage. You’ll want to check with your insurance agent to find out how your insurance company will handle this. If coverage is limited to the 10%, you may be left underinsured for your child’s belongings. Now, if your child will be living off campus, you will definitely want to obtain a renters insurance policy to cover their belongings and to give them liability coverage. If your child will be renting, and having a roommate, you should make sure that everyone has their own coverage, as a renters policy will likely not extend to roommates. The average college student’s renters insurance policy costs less than $200 annually and includes coverage for personal belongings and personal liability coverage. Interestingly enough, if your child will be studying abroad, the same rules apply as if they were living on campus. So be sure to check with your insurance agent to find out how much coverage they have before they fly out. Your Kids’ Statements It’s true what they say – “kids say the darndest things” – and sometimes, that applies to our college-aged children as well. Inside and outside of their studies, kids are engaged in a variety of social media apps, chat rooms, video platforms, classroom learning applications, and a host of others. Many of these platforms include chat features, and while we never want to think our child would say something bad on the internet – it happens. Personal injury coverage on your homeowners policy (or on their renters policy) will provide protection against claims for defamation, libel or slander made by you or your children. Unfortunately we live in a technological world where even the best intended comments can be misconstrued very easily. Adding this coverage to your policy is very inexpensive and a must-have in today’s world. Your Kids’ Driving If your child will be taking a car to college, you’ll want to notify your insurance agent. In most cases, if the car is registered to you and listed on your auto insurance policy, it will be covered in an accident. But – you must notify your insurance company of the change in garaging location. If you do not do this, you could potentially have a claim denied. Now, what happens if your kid won’t have a car on campus? If they decide to drive a friend’s car, they would be covered as long as they are still listed as a driver on your auto policy, even if they’re not technically “regularly” driving your vehicle. The insurance for the friend’s vehicle would be the primary coverage, and your policy would be secondary. But what happens if you removed them from your auto insurance coverage since they were away at school? Again, the insurance on the vehicle would be primary, but if your child was found at fault, you may be without liability protection. When your kid goes away to college, it creates added complexity to your auto insurance needs. We recommend talking to your insurance agent about all the possibilities to make an informed decision when coverage is concerned. Your Kids’ Grades Good grades = good news! Once your child has a semester under their belt, their good grades can help you obtain a discount. Good student discounts are available from most Massachusetts insurance companies and could save you 10% on your auto insurance policy. Getting Covered Before Your Kid Goes Away to College Before you pack up the car and send your kid on their way, give your insurance agent a call to discuss your coverage options. This is a very exciting time for both you and your child – congrats from all of us at Berry Insurance! After your child goes away to college, and you’ve settled into your new routine without them home, you may want to consider reviewing your own personal insurance policies to make sure they reflect your current situation and you’re not missing any coverages or paying more than you need to.
With the new school year quickly approaching, many parents and families are finding themselves at a loss for how to handle the potential of online or remote learning this fall. I think we’d all agree that right now, we just feel utterly unprepared. And it’s no surprise. When schools shut down in the middle of March this year due to Coronavirus, we all hoped and prayed that this nightmare would be over by the new school year. But as we’re quickly approaching August, it is clear that we still have a ways to go. Many of us at Berry Insurance are parents, and are grappling with decisions for remote learning this fall. There are so many things to contemplate! Several of our clients have been reaching out for guidance, and I myself have been wondering what is best for my four young children. How will our children adjust? Will there be any social or behavioral effects? How will we manage our new roles as teachers, and potentially, as working parents? But there is also one more question we have to grapple with – will remote learning impact my insurance coverage? And the answer is, yes, it potentially could. Let’s dive in. Remote Learning and Homeowners Insurance If your child will be remote learning in the fall, whether it’s elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, there may very well be a few adjustments that need to be made to your Massachusetts homeowners insurance policy. Computer Equipment If you’re like me, you may have had to purchase a few extra laptops this spring to enable your children to work online. If not, perhaps your school district supplied you with a school laptop. Or, your child might be provided a laptop as part of their college tuition costs. Regardless, it’s likely that the number of electronics has increased in your home. If that is the case, you may need to adjust your computer coverage. Many insurance companies provide a sub-limit of around $2,500 for computer coverage. If this limit would not be sufficient to replace your existing devices, you may want to increase this coverage. Cyber Protection In my last count, our family of six has a total of 20 computers, wifi printers, laptops, smartphones, ipads and smart TVs in our home. And I could be missing one or two. These devices are part of our everyday life and in some ways, especially when concerning remote learning, they are essential. But they also create new avenues for cyber hackers to access our network and steal information. Many insurance companies today have created home cyber protection coverages that can provide increased liability coverage to defend against these types of claims. A limit of $50,000 could cost you as little as $50 a year, and may be worth consideration if you have an increase in devices on your network. Personal Injury Coverage Remote learning has children involved with Google Classroom, Zoom and a host of other online learning platforms. Many of these platforms include chat features, and while we never want to think our children would say something bad on the internet – it happens. Trust me… Personal injury coverage on your homeowners policy will provide protection against claims for defamation, libel or slander made by you or your children. Unfortunately we live in a technological world where even the best intended comments can be misconstrued very easily. Adding this coverage to your policy is very inexpensive. Pollutants You might be wondering what remote learning has to do with pollutants, and believe us, at first, we thought the same thing. But if you have a high school or college aged child, pollutants could become an issue for you. We’ve been hearing from some schools and colleges that lab kits will be sent to the students to complete at home as part of their remote learning requirements. If this will be the case for your child, there are some important limitations to your policy you should be aware of. Your homeowners policy contains a pollutants exclusion, which is most commonly applied to the discharge, seepage, release or escape of pollutants. The definition of what is considered a pollutant is: “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste.” Now, let’s review a few examples. If a chemical reaction caused a fire, it could potentially be a covered loss. But on the other hand, if a pollutant leak causes damage to your property – say your son spills some chemicals that damage your new kitchen countertops – that would likely be excluded. It’s important to note that this could be a gray area for many insurance companies – as this type of claim has likely never occurred before. So it’s best to review your coverages and exclusions with your insurance agent, so they can work with the insurance company on the best coverage for your individual situation. Business Pursuits Another area of concern, specifically for college-aged students, would be if they are engaging in any remote work arrangements while home for the semester. If your college student has arranged remote work study, paid work, internship, or otherwise, there could be limitations in coverage should a claim occur. A standard Massachusetts homeowners policy will not provide coverage for anything “arising out of or in connection with a ‘business’ engaged in by an ‘insured’.” Unfortunately, this is another gray area. Whether a work study would count as a “business” would depend on the circumstances of the claim. Again, we recommend letting your insurance agent know if your child will have any remote work while at home. Remote Learning and Child Care It’s no question that a return to remote learning this fall will create some logistical problems for working parents. We’ve heard from several clients that they are considering hiring part-time or full-time caregivers for children, either to cover the before-school and after-school care, or to be home all day long. Some are hiring to simply handle drop-off and pick-up duties. And some families are considering hiring a teacher to hold in-home co-op learning for small groups of children. If any of these situations have crossed your mind, you will want to note that your homeowners insurance policy will not cover anyone caring for your child, or offering their teaching services. These individuals, even if only getting paid for an hour a day, would be considered your employee, and thus you would need to obtain a workers compensation policy to cover them. A Massachusetts Workers compensation policy with a $1,000,000 limit costs $293 a year. Hiring someone to help with child care is stressful enough as it is, so be sure you know what nanny insurance is, and what you need to apply for nanny insurance coverage. Get Covered for Remote Learning We know many of you are still waiting to hear from your child’s school on the decision of whether to return to in-school or online learning. And some of you, regardless of what the school decides, have made the choice to keep your child home and engage in remote learning. At Berry Insurance, many of us are facing these very same decisions. We’re sending you virtual hugs! If remote learning is one of your options, be sure to give your insurance agent a call today to discuss what changes you may need to make to your insurance policies. While you’re at it, ask your insurance agent for a complete review of all your insurance coverages so that you can be sure you’re back-to-school ready this fall!
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Did you know June 28th is National Insurance Awareness Day? OK, OK — we realize not everybody is as insurance-obsessed as us, and you probably didn’t know that. But here at Berry Insurance, basically every day is insurance awareness day … we practically live and breathe it. But, we understand that most of the population doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, your insurance is probably something you aren’t thinking about very often at all. However, our lives are always changing. That’s kind of the point of life. So you need to make sure you’re keeping up with those changes and adjusting your insurance accordingly. Let’s talk about why you should be reviewing your home/renters/condo and auto insurance annually, and what you should be considering when reviewing it. Reasons to review your insurance: For most personal insurance, your agent or carrier will automatically renew your policy every year. Before this renewal, it is essential you review your coverages to make sure everything from the year before is still accurate, and that you have the best coverage for the best price. Let’s dive a little deeper into why annual reviews are so important. You might not have adequate coverage A lot changes in a year. We’ll get into some of those potential changes below, but even the smallest development in your life could cause a gap in coverage. Annual reviews will examine all areas of your life to make sure you have the proper coverages and limits on your home/renters/condo and car insurance. Imagine for example, that you added a pool to your property this year. If you renewed your policy without adding coverage for your pool, a number of things could go wrong. A storm comes and damages your pool? Insurance might not cover that damage. One of your children’s friends gets hurt in the pool? You might not have the proper coverage to pay for the medical bills. Annual reviews will also identify if your life changes warrant any new types of insurance, such as life insurance. You might be missing out on savings Aside from not having the proper coverage, by not reviewing your personal insurance, you might actually be paying more than you need to for this coverage. Reviewing your current situation will help your insurance agent or carrier make sure you are paying the right price for your coverage. There are also a number of discounts you can take advantage of to save on personal insurance, so during your annual review, your agent can make sure you are getting all applicable discounts. Things that might yield changes in your policies So now that you understand the importance of annual insurance reviews, let’s go over some of the areas that will actually be reviewed. There are a number of life changes that can influence your insurance. You’ve made changes to your home or property Remodels, additions, decks/sheds/pools, kids playsets, trampolines, etc. — all of these changes could affect your insurance in a number of ways. You probably put a lot of time and money into these changes, so you’ll certainly want to make sure you have proper coverage for them. Also, items causing additional risks like pools, playsets, and trampolines need to be factored into your premium. It may seem like a pain, but if your insurance company thinks you’re more likely to have a claim due to one of these items, you may have to pay a little more. In fact, certain insurance carriers will not insure homes with trampolines because of the risk, so you may even need to change your carrier. You’ve made a big purchase If you’ve made a big purchase or inherited an expensive item, you may need to raise your limits on the personal property section of your home insurance, or schedule the item on your policy. Scheduling an item provides the security of knowing that item will be covered in full, and not limited by personal property restrictions, because oftentimes, your home insurance will limit the amount the insurance company will pay for certain categories of items. For example, if you have a $5,000 jewelry limit on your policy, but have $10,000 worth of jewelry, you can schedule the items of jewelry to ensure they would receive full coverage if there was a claim. Your marital status has changed If you get married (or divorced), that is something your insurance company should know about. Sometimes, marital status can increase or decrease your insurance rates (specifically auto). You’ve had a baby It goes without saying when you have a baby, your life changes a lot, so your insurance agent should know about it. You may want to increase your home insurance limits to include all your new baby-related belongings. A new baby is also a great time to make sure you buy life insurance to initiate a financial safety net for your family. You got a new pet Even if your pet is well behaved and wouldn’t hurt a fly, your insurance company will consider it an additional risk. Be sure to inform your agent of your new pet so they can factor it into your policy and make sure you have adequate coverage. It may also be a great time to consider pet insurance. If you work with Berry Insurance, our Chief Barketing Officer, Shredder will welcome your pet to the agency by sending a special gift. You’ve added or removed a driver Depending on their driving records and each insurance company’s individual algorithm, adding or removing a driver from your car insurance policy can affect your premium rates in either direction. You’ve added new uses to your vehicle Is anyone on your auto policy newly using a vehicle for work? Did anyone start offering ride sharing services like Uber/Lyft. If that’s the case, your car insurance policy will need to include an indication that a car is being used for business use. If not, an incident that occurs while the driver is technically working may not be covered. You’ve purchased a new vehicle Have you purchased any antique/classic cars or motorcycles? Have you purchased any recreational vehicles? (travel trailers, RVs, campers, golf carts)? While you may not immediately realize it, all types of vehicles need to be added to your insurance policy. Without being included on your policy, any incidents occurring to or from that vehicle won’t be covered. Don’t forget to look ahead: When considering your insurance plan for the next 12 months, you should also be thinking about if you’re anticipating any life changes in those next 12 months. If you’re proactive in updating your insurance, you won’t need to worry about potentially not being covered when those life changes occur. Let us do the thinking for you We know you’re busy. It might feel like trying to remember to think about one more thing every year could send you off your rocker. Fortunately, if you are one of our clients, we can do the thinking about your annual insurance reviews for you. Independent insurance agencies like us usually monitor all our client accounts and reach out to schedule account reviews. After all, we want to make sure you have the best coverage at the best price. But, if you want to get a head start and prepare for one of these reviews, feel free to download this checklist with everything you need to consider about changes in your life that could affect your personal insurance.