How Your Homeowners Insurance Keeps Working, Even When You’re on Vacation

Brandon Homeowners InsuranceWhile you’re making plans for a summer vacation, packing up the kids, and making arrangements for the dog, the last thing on your mind might be your homeowners insurance. You can rest assured that even though you’re on vacation, your homeowners insurance is still working for you back home. Here’s how:

It protects your personal belongings. Under Coverage C, your homeowners policy protects your personal belongings up to the policy’s limits (usually 50-70% of the insured value of your dwelling), less your deductible. If the contents of your home were to be damaged or stolen while you’re gone, you’d be covered—but did you know the personal property you bring with you on vacation is also covered? That means things like your luggage, your laptop, your golf clubs—if these items were lost or stolen while you’re on vacation, they would also be covered, again less your deductible. Note: some companies reduce off-premises coverage to a percentage of the total coverage for personal possessions, so you may want to check with your L & M Insurance Group agent if you have concerns about this.

It protects your liability. Even if you’re not home, if someone is injured on your property, the liability protection in your homeowners policy will cover you. Let’s say a friend is acting as house sitter for you while you’re away, and he or she falls and is injured. Your liability would cover this.

Or maybe you have a pool in your back yard, and some neighborhood kids decide to use it while you’re gone. Even if you’re not there and haven’t given them permission to use your pool, you could still be liable for any injuries.

(If you have someone staying in your home, or if you have a pool or a trampoline, you may need the additional liability protection of an umbrella policy.)

Your homeowners liability also covers you if you if you unintentionally hurt someone while you’re on vacation (for example, if you slice a golf ball into a fellow golfer!).

And, of course, it protects your home itself. Break-ins, vandalism, storm damage, fire—all the usual covered perils will continue to be covered while you are away.

(One thing to be aware of: standard homeowners policies do not cover floods. Since Florida is essentially one big flood zone, talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent about buying a flood policy—they’re more affordable than ever.)

It’s good to know your homeowners insurance is still working for you, even while you’re on vacation. Policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles still apply, so you should consult with your L & M Insurance Group agent to make sure you’re carrying the appropriate coverage and limits to protect your assets. Please contact us if you’d like a homeowners insurance quote, or if you have questions about what your policy covers.

L & M Insurance Group Serves Both Standard and Non-Standard Risks

Car insurance for standard and non-standard risksAs an independent insurance agency, L & M Insurance Group has the ability to help non-standard drivers who have risk factors that make it hard to get insurance at standard or preferred rates—factors such as accidents or a blemished driving record. But did you know L & M is also a great place for drivers with clean records, good credit, and other factors that make them attractive to companies like State Farm or Allstate?

If you have a clean driving record and no or few claims, and you also have good credit, own a home, and carry high limits, L & M could be a good fit for you. After all, good drivers also want and deserve the convenience, personal service, and expertise of using an independent insurance agency!

 

L & M Insurance Group   represents more than 15 auto insurance companies, including Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide, Travelers, GMAC, Metropolitan, and Foremost. We understand the insurance needs that are specific to the standard risk and we can help you choose the liability limits that will best protect your assets. In addition to auto insurance, we also offer a range of insurance policies to cover not only your car, but your house, boat, ATV, investment properties and so on. We also offer umbrella policies to protect your liability.

 

And because we represent many insurance companies rather than just one, chances are excellent that we can save you money, too!

 

We want your business, so when you’re in the market for insurance, please click here to request a quote, or call us at. 813-672-4200.

Boat Safe This Summer

Brandon Boat Insurance Florida

It’s easy to see why Florida is the number one boating destination in the United States—we have thousands of miles of tidal shoreline, Intracoastal Waterways, lakes, and rivers to explore. The waters around Tampa Bay are especially beautiful, and boaters can go from roaming a secluded beach to pulling up to the dock at one of Tampa’s waterside restaurants—all in one day!

Unfortunately, Florida also is the national leader in boating fatalities each year. At L & M Insurance Group, we want to see you out enjoying the boating life, not coping with a life-threatening emergency. Here are five basics to help you boat safe this summer:

  • If you haven’t already, take a boat safety course. Click here for a free online safe boating course endorsed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • Inspect your boat each time you get ready to take it out. Among other things, inspect the hull for damage, make sure the boat’s lights work properly, and that you have enough fuel. (Click here for a full pre-departure checklist.)
  • Make sure all safety equipment is in good working order, including life vests (see below), fire extinguishers (make sure yours is U.S. Coast Guard approved), emergency flares, and a carbon monoxide monitor (especially if your boat has an enclosed cabin). If your boat is 16 feet or more, you must also have at least one Type IV throwable flotation device, such as a life ring or flotation cushion. Also make sure you have a first aid kit on board.
  • Have a life vest for every person on board your boat. Make sure the vests fit properly and are in good condition. Most important: make sure everyone actually wears his or her life vest. The main cause of boating fatalities is boaters falling overboard who are not wearing life vests—an average of one person a week. Remember, it’s the unexpected event that poses the most danger—rough water or losing your balance, for example, can land you overboard with no time to find and put on your life vest.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while boating. It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol, and your judgment and reaction time decline even faster in a boating environment than on land. The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating deaths, and the penalties for “Boating Under the Influence” can include fines or even jail time.

And, of course, make sure your boat insurance is current before you brave the waves. Give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 for a boat insurance quote. Our boat insurance policies are designed to fit the needs and budget of today’s boater. Happy boating!

Five Things to Do Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Florida hurricane deductible

The start of the 2017 hurricane season is just 10 days away. Are you ready? If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you know how much havoc a storm can cause. Better to spend an hour or two now to save a lot of stress and worry when a storm is bearing down on you.

Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  • Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazards.
  • Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  • Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain.
  • Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  • Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it.

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

Hillsborough County Emergency Management

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

 

Think You Don’t Need Renters Insurance? Think Again!

Renters Insurance in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Florida

Renters Insurance Brandon, Tampa, Riverview Florida

Renting a place rather than buying can make good financial sense for many reasons. But what if a fire destroys your apartment, or a leaky roof saturates your furniture? Who would pay for your damaged belongings? If you think it’s your landlord, think again.

A 2016 survey indicated that while 95 percent of homeowners carry homeowners insurance, only 41 percent of renters carry renters insurance. This could be a big financial mistake. Here are four reasons renters insurance is a good idea for most people.

Renters insurance covers your belongings

To make sure your policy limits are adequate to replace your belongings, create a home inventory and add up the cost of replacing your major items, then double it. We recommend that you carry replacement cost rather than actual cash value. (Replacement Cost: what it would cost to replace your item with a comparable brand new item. Actual Cash Value: the value of your item, less depreciation.)

Renters insurance protects your liability

What if one of your friends trips and falls and breaks her arm? Or maybe your friend’s iPhone is stolen while he’s at your house for a party? Renters insurance has you covered. Most renters insurance policies come with $100,000 liability coverage. You may want to discuss with your L & M Insurance Group agent whether this is enough. Most of the time, it only costs a little more to raise your limits.

Renters insurance is cost effective

Since a renters insurance policy doesn’t cover the structure itself, the actual cost is fairly low. In fact, the average cost of a renters insurance policy is about the same per month as the cost of having a pizza delivered! This is just a fraction of the cost of replacing all your belongings if they’re damaged or stolen, or defending yourself against a lawsuit if someone is injured at your home. Check with your agent about discounts for safety features like a burglar alarm or sprinkler system to further lower your cost.

Renters insurance helps with additional living expenses

If you can’t live in your rental after a covered loss, your policy may help pay reasonable costs of temporary lodging while it is being repaired. Check your policy for financial and duration limits. We specialize in rental insurance in Brandon, Riverview, and Tampa but serve all of Florida.

Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about renters insurance, or if you’d like a quote. We’re here to serve you.

So You’re About to Buy Your First Auto Insurance Policy…

first auto insurance policy brandon, riverview florida

Congratulations! Becoming an independent adult can be both exciting and scary. Finding your first job and apartment are milestones to be proud of. Buying your first auto insurance policy? That can be a milestone, too, as it’s one more step in taking responsibility for your life and future financial well-being.

Here are some basics to consider as you shop for your first auto insurance policy:

Why carry auto insurance?

Simply put, you must carry auto insurance to drive legally. But insurance is really intended to protect you financially, not just make you “legal.” Think about it: if you’re in an accident, proper insurance coverage pays for injuries, as well as having your vehicle repaired—things that can cost multiple thousands of dollars. You’d never be able to afford this without insurance coverage.

What auto insurance coverages should you carry?

To tag your car, Florida law only requires that you carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PD). If you make car payments, your lender will most likely require that you carry comprehensive and collision. However, unless you absolutely cannot afford it, it makes much better financial sense to add Bodily Injury Liability (BI) to your policy. If you are at fault in an accident, BI will help pay for the victims’ injuries, up to the policy limits. This also allows you to comply with the Florida Financial Responsibility Law, which states that anyone responsible for a crash with injuries must be carrying bodily injury liability limits of at least $10,000 per person, $20,000 per accident, in addition to $10,000 each of PIP and PD. If you don’t have this coverage, you may be required to carry an SR-22 for three years.

The increase in premium for adding BI coverage is far less than what it would cost you if you were sued following an accident (and statistically speaking, young drivers are more likely to be in an accident).

Click here for a basic explanation of types of auto insurance coverage.

How can you afford auto insurance?

There are a few ways you keep your auto insurance premiums down. The most obvious is to drive safely and keep your record clean!

A second important thing you can do is protect your credit. Credit scores have become a major factor in quoting auto insurance rates. The better your credit, the better the price of your auto insurance.

If you have been on your parents’ insurance policy, you may be eligible for a discount for having continuous coverage, so let your agent know if this is the case. (Make sure you don’t let your insurance lapse once you buy it, too.)

Ask your agent about any additional discounts available, such as for safety features like airbags or anti-lock brakes.

And finally, shop around to find the best rate. Just be sure when you’re comparing policies that each agent is quoting you the same coverage and limits.

Providing affordable insurance is where an independent agency like L & M Insurance Group really shines. We represent more than 15 different quality auto insurance companies, including Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide, Metropolitan, Travelers, Mercury, GMAC, Foremost—and more. Please call us at 813-672-4100 for a free quote today! We’d love to serve you.

Improving Your Home? Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Insurance

Home Owner's Insurance: Reasons to UpgradeSpring weather has many of us thinking about home and landscape improvements. It’s a perfect time of year to spruce up our surroundings, and prepare for the coming heat, humidity, and summer storms.

 

If you’re planning renovations or landscaping projects this spring, consider what effect these projects might have on your homeowners insurance and liability. Some projects can make your home safer (thus reducing the chance you’ll have to make a claim on your insurance), some projects will increase the value of your home (so your current homeowners policy might not be adequate), and some projects might even save you money on your insurance.

 

Here are five common home improvement projects and how they can affect your insurance coverage:

 

Tree Trimming

Trimming trees not only improves their health and appearance, it can also make your home and yard safer. Proper trimming ensures that dead limbs can’t fall on your car, or be blown into your yard by high winds. You can also protect your roof and pool enclosure by having overhanging limbs cut back. This reduces the likelihood that your home or car—or a guest’s car—will be damaged by falling tree limbs.

 

Planting Trees or Shrubs

Before planting anything with invasive roots, find out where your water, sewer or septic lines run. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t contain coverage for water or sewer back-up damage—damage that might be caused by roots that grow into your water, sewer, or septic lines. One way to find out where those lines are is to “call before you dig”.

 

Roof Replacement

Even though it can be an expensive home improvement, having your roof replaced can offer you peace of mind, increase the value of your home, and save you money on your homeowners insurance. (See “A Wind Mitigation Report Can Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Premium” for more information.)

 

Adding a Pool

Having a pool in Florida is almost a must—but it can leave you open to liability claims if someone is hurt while playing in or around your pool. You may want to consider adding an umbrella policy to boost your liability protection. Also, remember to increase the amount of your homeowners coverage to include the value of that new pool. And think twice about adding a slide or a diving board. Most homeowners policies exclude exposure to slides or diving boards. Some only provide $25,000 worth of coverage, and others won’t write your policy at all if you have a slide or diving board.

 

Significant Kitchen or Bath Upgrades

Installing granite or marble countertops, custom cabinetry, or professional-grade appliances? You may want to upgrade your homeowners insurance coverage at the same time, to be sure you’d receive the increased value should you have to make a claim. If the remodeling is extensive, you may need to buy a builder’s risk policy.

 

It’s a great time of year to spruce up your Florida home. Please call us with any questions you have about how your proposed home or landscaping projects might affect your insurance.

When Words Can Get You Sued: Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Lawsuits

twitter-292994_1280A few hasty words can cost you—especially if those words are in writing. Many people, especially children and teenagers, don’t realize that posting something negative and potentially damaging about a person, business, or organization can leave them open to a personal injury lawsuit.

Think before you post

Until the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the average person was unlikely to be sued for libel or slander. (Libel is a written defamatory statement; slander is a spoken one.) All that has changed due to the hyperconnectedness of modern life. Heated online exchanges, cyberbullying, and other forms of negative written expression can get you sued for personal injury.

You say you don’t engage in those types of interactions? What about your kids? Parents are being held liable in court for their children’s social media posts.

Situations that seem innocent enough can still leave you open to a lawsuit. Social media posts a child may consider teasing might be construed as bullying and result in a lawsuit. So can starting a rumor that hurts someone’s reputation, sharing false information, writing a letter to the editor critical of a specific teacher’s performance, and even posting a harsh comment on the message board of your homeowners association.

The personal injury endorsement

Standard homeowners policies do not cover non-bodily injury. One way to protect your assets if you are sued for personal injury is to buy an umbrella policy.  A second, less expensive option is to add a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. If you have a lot of assets to protect, you may want to do both.

A personal injury endorsement will protect you and your family up to the limits of your policy if you’re sued for libel or slander. It also typically covers attorney and court costs incurred in defending yourself in a personal injury lawsuit, as well as situations such as false arrest, wrongful eviction or entry, and invasion or violation of privacy.

Of course, even if you have a personal injury endorsement, there is no coverage for intentional libelous or slanderous acts. You should still use common sense, and you should teach your kids appropriate online behavior. Understand, and help them to see, that words can be damaging, and they have consequences.

At L & M Insurance Group, we will be happy to help you review your insurance coverage, and assess your need for a personal injury endorsement. Please contact us if there’s any way we can serve your insurance needs.

Protect Your Assets With an Umbrella Policy

Umbrella Policy Brandon FloridaIt only takes a moment for an accident to happen and for your life to change. In today’s litigious world, if you’re responsible for an accident, you could find yourself being sued and your auto or homeowners policy limits aren’t sufficient to meet the damages. For that reason, we recommend that you carry an umbrella policy.

An umbrella policy is excess liability coverage over and above your other insurance, such as your auto or homeowners policies. Umbrella policies will protect your assets—including your home, retirement accounts, savings, investments, and your future earnings—from being taken in a lawsuit. Policies start at $1 million dollars of liability coverage and climb in $1 million dollar increments from there. The goal is to have enough coverage to protect your net worth. (You’ll want to discuss the amount of coverage you need with your L & M Insurance Group agent.)

Protecting your assets

Here’s how an umbrella policy works: Let’s say you were judged to be liable in an auto accident, and your auto insurance carries a liability limit of $300,000. Unfortunately, the judgment against you comes down at one million dollars. If you have an umbrella policy, it should pay the remaining $700,000. If you don’t have one, any savings or assets you have will be at risk, you could have a lien placed on your home, or your wages garnished to make up the difference.

There are many scenarios in which you could find yourself needing an umbrella policy. What if a passenger in your car is injured, you hit a cyclist, or someone trips and falls on your property and is hurt? Do you have teenagers in your household? Do you have a swimming pool, or a trampoline? These items are responsible for many insurance claims. Owning rental property also raises your liability exposure.

Can you afford an umbrella policy?

The good news is that umbrella policies are affordable, with most running just a few hundred dollars a year—a small price to pay when you consider your peace of mind.

Without an umbrella policy, your assets are vulnerable. Accidents do happen, and it makes good financial sense to protect yourself with an umbrella policy. Please contact L & M Insurance Group today, and let us help you find the policy that is right for you.

Three Reasons to Choose L & M Insurance Group For Your Insurance Needs

Tampa insuranceWe know buying insurance can sometimes be a confusing and frustrating experience. Sorting through coverages, deciding what you need and finding a cost-effective policy can be challenging. That’s where going with an independent agency like L & M Insurance Group can really help you. Here are three reasons to choose L & M Insurance Group for all your insurance needs:

Personal service

While it might seem like a good idea to go with an insurance company with national name recognition, that’s not always the best choice, especially if you have a complicated situation, need the best price, or want to develop a relationship of trust with your insurance agent. L & M Insurance Group is a local small business based in Riverview, Florida that proudly serves Tampa and all surrounding areas in Florida. We have an understanding of the area, including its special risks—like floods or hurricanes—since we live and work here, too. You are more than a policy number or email address to us.

In addition, as independent agents, we work for you, not the insurance company. We’re not captive agents of any one insurance company, so we can search for the policy that best fits your needs and budget. If you need auto insurance, for example, we represent more than 15 companies instead of just one. We work hard at providing our clients with the best coverage at the lowest cost. And if you have a claim, we stand ready to help you through the process.

Convenience

Wouldn’t it be nice to buy all your insurance in one place? Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for quotes on car, life, or home insurance, Save yourself time and hassle by letting us do the shopping for you. L & M Insurance Group is a full-service agency. We represent multiple carriers for every type of insurance, including automobile, homeowners/renters, commercial, builder’s risk, life, umbrella, and so on.

Insurance Knowledge

We know that navigating the world of insurance can be confusing, and we want to be a trusted resource for you. As mentioned above, we live and work where you do, so we are personally familiar with the special needs and insurance requirements of Florida residents—certainly more than a telephone representative working exclusively for an insurance company based elsewhere. We have more than 25 years experience in the insurance business, and are happy to answer your insurance-related questions. We also provide this blog as a service to our clients and prospective clients. (Please let us know if there’s a subject you’d like to see covered!)

We know you have many choices of who to call for your insurance needs. Contact us today at 813-672-4100 to discuss your insurance needs, or for a free, no-obligation quote. And thank you for giving us the chance to serve you!