As the global pandemic forced universities and colleges up and the down the country to close their doors in March, hundreds of thousands of university students across the UK moved home to be with their families, leaving their student accommodation unoccupied.
The government urged students not to travel home after the lockdown came into force on 23rd March, but many had already made the move back home shortly before then, with most universities and colleges arranging for them to study online via video seminars and digital resources.
While the decision to spend the lockdown with parents or other family members is an understandable one, insurance experts are warning that thousands of student contents insurance policies could now be invalidated.
As with other types of home insurance, contents insurance policies often impose a maximum period the property can be left unoccupied without the insurer being notified – usually 30 calendar days.
With approximately 2.3 million higher education students in the UK, over 1 million of whom have contents insurance according to industry research, many thousands of those spending the lockdown with their families may have breached the terms of their insurance policies by failing to disclose this information to their provider.
Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk, an insurance comparison platform that helps over 3 million people find a better deal on their insurance each year, comments:
“It’s a challenging and confusing time for a lot of people, especially students who may be living away from home for the very first time and may not be familiar with how insurance products work.
“Of course, some students don’t insure their valuables, but industry research suggests over 1 million do take out student contents insurance each year and they are to be commended for being so financially savvy.
“However, unless those students informed their insurers that they were vacating the property during the lockdown they may be breaching the terms of their cover now.
“Insurance providers have stated that they will make every effort to be flexible in these unprecedented times, so it’s possible many may be less stringent about invalidating policies if the policyholder failed to inform them that the property has been left unoccupied. We’d still recommend that students contact their insurance providers as soon as possible – that way insurers will have all the necessary information and students will know exactly where they stand with their own provider.”
Some students in halls of residence may be provided with contents insurance as part of their tenancy agreement – Manchester University and UCL provide this type of insurance as standard for students living in halls, for instance, as do many other higher education institutions in the UK – but it’s still likely that the insurance providers that these universities partner with will be expected to be informed if student accommodation is left unoccupied during term time, so it’s worth speaking to the university about this.