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Revised parent’s letter with COVID-19 language

The original “Letter to Member’s Parents” that we created for our clients as a template for their use addresses the ways in which the insurance program works in hopes of preempting risk management and insurance questions from members and their parents before those questions arise.

However, we believe that there will likely be additional questions our clients face this year with regard to the various Covid-19 policies and safety measures put in place, which likely vary from campus to campus. We have offered some additional verbiage regarding Covid-19 to our existing template. We encourage you to modify our verbiage as necessary and incorporate your own specific measures that your organization and location will be adopting.

Please feel free to use this template and edit it as you see fit. You will notice [bracketed] sections where we encourage you to insert your organization and/or chapter name to make it specific to your needs.

Should you have any questions, as always, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Re: [Sorority’s] National Insurance Program

To The Parents of [Chapter Member’s Name]:

The Independent Insurance Agents of America estimate that 100,000 property claims occur on college campuses annually. In addition, today’s students are bringing more and more expensive items to school with them than ever before. For that reason, we believe that it is our responsibility to communicate to the chapter members and their parents the specifics of the Fraternity’s insurance coverage.

Property Coverage

Each House Corporation/Chapter has a contract with the resident members that define the relationship and obligation of both parties to the arrangement. The agreement explicitly states that the House Corporation/Chapter is not responsible for any loss or damage to a resident member’s personal property, including their personal automobiles. Similarly to any other rental arrangement, the resident is responsible for insuring their own personal property, either via their parent’s homeowners policy or via a renters’ policy. The property coverage that the organization purchases covers the Fraternity’s property, such as the furniture and kitchen equipment at the chapter house, for example.

Parent’s homeowners policy

It is the responsibility of the resident member to make sure that their personal property is protected while living in the chapter house. Many chapter members’ property would still be covered under their parent’s homeowners policy; however, we recommend that chapter members and their families verify their homeowners policy extend to cover a student’s personal property while away at college.

We have reviewed the industry-standard insurance language for homeowners policies, in hopes of providing resident members with the information necessary to ensure that their personal property is adequately protected. The standard homeowners policy language defines an insured as:

  • A student in school full time, as defined by the school, who was a resident of your household before moving out to attend school, provided the student is under the age of:
  • 24 and your relative; or
  • 21 and in your care or the care of a person described above (there have been a number of states that have enacted legislation that extends the age limit beyond 21 years, so be sure to verify the age limit in your insurance policy language)

Most resident members would fit into one or both of the definitions above, but there are further issues to consider to ensure your personal property is protected:

  • College students are typically covered for ten percent of the contents limit under their parent’s homeowners policy. If your personal property is valued at or above the ten percent limit under your policy, you should speak with your insurance agent about increasing that limit.
  • Under the standard homeowners policy, the contents coverage only provides named perils coverage, which means that losses would be covered only if they arise from causes of loss listed in the policy. A laptop that was damaged from power surge or from being dropped, for example, would likely not be covered under a named perils policy. We recommend that you verify with your insurance agent that the policy provides all-risk coverage.
  • If a student chooses to declare independent status, perhaps for loan purposes, they would likely not be covered under their parent’s homeowners policy.

Renter’s insurance

If you would prefer not to rely on your homeowners insurance or you do not have access to homeowners insurance for whatever reason, we highly encourage you or your daughter to purchase renter’s insurance, which will cover her personal property and is very affordable. For example, National Student Services, Inc. <http://www.nssi.com>, the nationwide leader in college student property insurance, offers $10,000 worth of coverage with a $50 deductible for about $250 in annual premium. If you or your daughter purchases a renter’s policy, we recommend that you confirm that the following perils are covered: theft, fire, flood, and wind. In addition, some of the most common causes of loss to a laptop include drops and damage from liquids being spilled into the laptop, so it is important to verify whether or not those types of claims would be covered.

Liability Coverage

Your daughter’s organization has purchased the broadest coverage possible to protect your daughter should she be named in a lawsuit due to her affiliation with [sorority name], so long as she is following the guidelines of the organization. The liability insurance is third-party coverage, meaning that it protects the insureds (the Sorority/Fraternity, House Corporation, Chapter, Members, Volunteers, etc.) should they be named in a lawsuit from a third-party.

The organization’s liability insurance does not cover personal injury to your daughter, in much the same way that your homeowners policy does not provide medical coverage for members of your household. If you daughter is injured at the chapter house or at a chapter event, she will need to rely on her (or your) personal medical policy. This is also spelled out in the membership and housing agreements that she has signed.

Automobile insurance

If your daughter takes her car to school, your automobile policy will continue to cover her personal automobile while she is away at school. If she does not take a car with her to school, you will want to ensure that she is still listed as a driver under your automobile policy, if she plans to drive any automobile while away at school. Several insurance companies offer “student away at school” discounts for this types of coverage, so be sure to check with your insurance agent before she leaves for college.

If your daughter drives her personal automobile on sorority business and is involved in an accident, she will not be covered by [sorority’s name] automobile liability policy. The organization’s automobile liability policy exists to protect the organization if it is named in a lawsuit involving an automobile, not individuals. For more information about the automobile coverage, please refer to the Digging Deeper: Non-Owned Automobile document on MJ’s website.

For many chapter members, college is the first opportunity for them to live on their own away from home. It is important that chapter members and their families take the necessary steps to ensure that their personal property, which can often be very expensive, is financially protected via insurance. If you are interested in studying the organization’s insurance program further, we recommend you review the expansive Insurance Summary on MJ’s website. We realize that this can be a confusing issue, so please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Covid-19

Certainly, every family is reviewing what the future academic year will look like for their daughter both from the university and sorority membership standpoint. We can only imagine how difficult it has been navigating these complex decisions. 

There is no debate that all students on campus will be expected to follow the new rules that universities and fraternal organizations put in place to ensure the health and safety of the students, faculty, and community. It also goes without saying that the sorority officers of the chapter will have more responsibility to help lead this effort. With increased responsibilities comes greater liability to act as a “reasonable and prudent person” would do in a similar situation. 

We acknowledge your concern over your daughter taking a leadership role in her sorority and would offer that the other risks on a college campus of underage drinking, sexual harassment and assault, hazing, and general social behavior of its members is equal to, if not more problematic, than potential liability due to an individual becoming infected with the virus. 

There will be some elements that we believe will minimize this exposure. such as difficulty in contact tracking/tracing and the extra measures that the sorority chapter operations and the chapter property management has put in place to ensure a clean and safe property. 

If your daughter is a chapter officer, she has been, pre-Covid-19 and now, covered as an additional insured to the [Sorority’s] national insurance policy, and we remain confident that your daughter would see her organization’s policy step up to defend her should she be named in a lawsuit and pay for a judgement should she be found negligible in her duties as an officer. You can be confident in the comprehensive national insurance policy that your daughter’s organization has secured for their exposures to risk.

Sincerely,

Sara Sterley

Sara Sterley
Director of Risk Management Education
MJ Sorority

Other helpful resources:

  • Insurance Basics for Member’s Parents Webinar: We have created a self-guided presentation that explains how the organization’s insurance program works, as well as provides some helpful hints regarding homeowners or renter’s insurance coverage.
  • Insurance Summary: An expansive explanation of the organization’s insurance program in straightforward and accessible language.
  • www.mjsorority.com: A one-stop resource for all things related to risk management and insurance issues from the leader in women’s fraternity and sorority risk management needs. For our numerous Covid-19 resources, please check out our expansive Covid-19 Response Resource Center.