Worldwide protection: Is your personal property covered while it’s off-premises?

Written by the Square One team

Reviewed by Daniel Mirkovic and Rena Novotny

Updated July 15, 2024 | Published November 7, 2012

When you travel, does your home insurance protect your personal property? What about when your property is off-premises for other reasons?

In this article, we’ll explain how home insurance protects your stuff when you bring it travelling, store it in a storage unit, or otherwise have it away from home.

A man packing a suitcase

The important points

  • Most home insurance policies cover personal property while it is temporarily removed from the residence.
  • Children’s belongings are often covered while away at school, but sometimes they’ll need their own tenant insurance policy.
  • Home insurance may provide limited coverage for property in storage, but some insurers may require an endorsement.

How does my home insurance protect me when I go on vacation?

Most home insurance policies provide coverage for personal property temporarily removed from your principal residence. Home insurance policies also provide liability coverage for your personal actions anywhere in the world. This protects you financially from legal damages if you injure another person or cause damage to their property.

See if you can guess which situations below would be covered by your home insurance:

  • You accidentally drop your camera in the canal during a gondola ride in Italy. If you have a comprehensive home insurance policy, then you’ll have coverage for the lost camera, subject to your deductible, no matter where in the world you lose it.

  • You accidentally hit someone in the head with your surfboard while vacationing in Hawaii. Liability insurance, which is automatically included in your home insurance policy, will cover you if you’re sued as a result of unintentionally injuring another person, anywhere in the world!

  • Someone steals your golf clubs while you’re enjoying a celebratory drink at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. Your personal property is covered anywhere in the world, so your policy should definitely respond. However, golf clubs are considered “sporting goods,” and may be limited on some policies. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have enough coverage before you leave.

  • Someone breaks into your RV while you’re out walking the California coast, stealing your laptop and ripping the TV right off the wall. Your laptop should be covered by your home insurance policy, as it is an item “temporarily removed” from your principal residence. The TV, on the other hand, was attached to the RV, so may need to be claimed under your RV policy.

These are just some examples of how your home insurance will protect you, even when you’re away from home. If you plan on taking a trip and want to make sure your property will be protected, call your insurance agent to check in advance—especially if you’ve purchased expensive new gadgets like cameras to take with you.

Does my home insurance cover my children while they’re away at school?

It’s common to worry about the kids when they first move out of the house. But what about all the stuff they take with them to school? Maybe a TV, certainly a computer and a cell phone, plus all their clothes, shoes, books, and bedding. What will happen if their stuff is lost or stolen? Make sure your children are properly protected with the right home insurance policy.

Many home insurance policies do extend coverage to children and their property while they’re temporarily away from home at school. If your policy doesn’t it’s worth finding a tenant insurance policy for your student to ensure that they’ve got coverage.

Why should students have contents insurance?

University students living away from home, whether on or off campus, are three times more likely to fall victim to theft.

In fact, one in three university students report that they have been a victim. Did you know that the average student has contents valued at more than $4,000? With the rising price of textbooks, laptops, and other gadgets, the value of a student’s belongings can add up. With the increased theft risk and contents value, you should ensure your current home insurance policy protects your child.

However, the landlord or school may require that students have a their own tenant insurance policy. There are several reasons for this. First, the landlord wants to ensure that their tenants’ has personal liability protection in the event that they accidentally damage the landlord’s property. Second, the landlord wants to ensure the tenants’ personal property is protected against theft, fire or water damage. And finally, in the event the suite is damaged, the landlord wants to ensure their tenants’ temporary living expenses is covered.

How do I know if my child is already covered?

Check with your insurance provider. Most home insurance policies will extend coverage to children who are temporarily away from home attending university or college full-time. There is usually a limit on the amount of coverage, but you can often increase them if necessary. And, there are often policy sub-limits on things like computers, cameras, or bicycles, just for example. (Square One has no such sub-limits for qualifying members of your family.)

There may be some other restrictions, such as the a requirement that the student still be financially dependent on their parents. If your son or daughter has been working and is self-supporting, coverage may not apply. Or if they’ve moved into an apartment, with living room, kitchen, and bedroom furniture, the amount of coverage you can extend from your policy may not be sufficient. It may be time for them to purchase their own tenant’s insurance policy.

My child needs a separate insurance policy. What’s next?

You can get a quote online for your child from Square One. Your quote will be specific to your needs and take only 5 minutes to complete.

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Does home insurance protect property in a storage unit?

Storing extra stuff in an off-premises storage unit is common. Maybe you’re downsizing, from a big house to a small condo, and aren’t ready to have a garage sale. Or you might be between houses, staying with family, and need someplace to store your furniture temporarily. Your new apartment might not have enough storage space, leaving you in need of a place to put your skis in the summer, and golf clubs in the winter.

Whatever the reason, if you’re entrusting your valuable goods with a storage company, it’s important to know if you’re stuff is covered.

Will my home insurance cover my belongings in a storage facility?

Most companies provide very limited coverage for goods in storage, and often no coverage at all beyond 30 days. Sometimes, you can add a storage rider to your policy to provide limited coverage (for an extra charge).

If you are considering a rented storage locker, check with your insurance provider first! Find out if your policy will cover the items, for how long, and the types of losses that will be excluded.

With Square One home insurance, your personal belongings are automatically insured, whether they’re at home or in a storage unit. There is no special limit for items in storage, nor are there any extra exclusions for property kept in storage.

Having insurance is great, but how can I reduce the likelihood of damage?

When you decide to put your goods in storage, here are some important tips from experts in the business:

  • Location, location, location! Put things you might need in the front of the unit. Put things you’ll rarely (or never) need in the back. Try to create an aisle down the middle for better access. Put more valuable items at the back, where it’s harder for thieves to access.

  • Let the air circulate. Get pallets or skids to place boxes on, so air can flow around and under items. Air movement helps to keep your property dry. Walls can develop condensation, so try to leave some room between your items and the walls.

  • Maximize room. Remove legs from tables and store the tops on end. Fill empty spaces in furniture and appliances with small items.

  • Use boxes. Pack heavy books in small boxes to make them more manageable. Pack them flat to protect their spines. Protect books and other valuable papers by wrapping them in plastic or putting them in plastic bags before boxing. This will prevent moisture damage in the event of an accident, or if humidity inside the facility ever gets too high.

  • Avoid collateral damage. Cover furniture with protective wrap, covers, or pads to eliminate scratching. Seal boxes with packing tape, to prevent dust entering. Pack boxes correctly—don’t overfill to the point that the box is bulging. On the other hand, don’t underfill either, as the box may collapse. Place photos between two pieces of cardboard and tape them together, to prevent curling.

  • Pay attention to dangerous materials. Drain gasoline and oil from lawnmowers, snow blowers, and other machinery. Check with the storage facility for a list of things not to store. Never store firearms, illicit drugs, live animals, perishables, liquids, explosives, fuels, toxic materials, or any other items that need a controlled environment.

  • Store beds efficiently. Stand mattresses on end, on top of something (such as a pallet) to allow air flow. Cover with a mattress bag or cloth bag. If you’re using plastic to cover it, leave the top open for air. Don’t stand hide-a-beds on end, because this can damage the frame and mechanism.

  • Hang clothes up. Use wardrobe boxes to hang clothes, blankets, and draperies. This helps avoid wrinkles while keeping some distance between your clothes and the bottom of the box, just in case water were to get into the facility.

  • Zip it! Ziploc bags are very useful. You can bag small items like screws, and attach them to the item they came from. TV or stereo remotes can be bagged and kept together.

  • Bubble wrap. Use bubble wrap and crumpled paper to pack computers, electronic equipment, and camera equipment, especially if you don’t have their original boxes. Don’t use Styrofoam; it can break down and get into your electronics, causing damage. Tie or tape down moving parts. Use twist ties or zip strips for the cords and cables, and pack them in the same box.

  • Handle with care. Write “fragile” on boxes containing your electronics, or other delicate items. Don’t stack heavy boxes on top of them.

  • Lock it or lose it. Make sure any locks you purchase for your unit are high quality. And don’t forget to lock up when you leave.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home Insurance Basics resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the ins and outs of home insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic

A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

About the expert: Rena Novotny

Rena's 23-year career started as an independent adjuster where she specialized in complex property, liability and special risk loss. As a branch manager, Rena hired, trained, mentored and coached several adjusters. She continues part-time post-graduate studies in neuro-psychology and traumatization, learning how both may impact the insured's engagement on catastrophic claims. Rena has a MA (Conflict Analysis and Management), CRM, CIP, and holds a level 3 adjusting license.


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