Five Things to Do Now to Prepare for Hurricane Season

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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

 

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

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

electrician-1206468_1280Spring 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 home. Please call us with any questions you have about how your proposed home or landscaping projects might affect your insurance.

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Protect Your Assets With an Umbrella Policy

insurance-911819_1920It 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.

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

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

live-1532301_1280We 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. 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.

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!

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Creating a Home Inventory

apple-1839873_1280Could you tell your insurance company every item you have in your home right now, and how much it’s worth? Probably not—and that could hurt you if your home is burglarized, severely damaged, or destroyed, and you have to make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance. A home inventory can make the process of settling a claim easier.

A home inventory is simply a record of your personal possessions. It’s valuable to have even if you never make a claim since knowing what your belongings are worth can help you purchase the right amount of insurance for your personal property in the first place.

Creating a home inventory may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If doing the whole house at once feels overwhelming, do a little at a time, say a couple of rooms per week. (Just make sure to finish the project!) There are several different methods to compile your inventory. Choose the one you’ll find easiest—the one you’ll actually do. Who knows, your tech-savvy teenager might even enjoy helping you with this project.

Cameras, phones, or apps

Digital cameras and smartphones have made the task of creating a home inventory easier. It takes just a few minutes to take photos of an entire room. Print the photos and record important information about your items (make, model, price, etc.) on the back, or create a spreadsheet with your inventory information (click here for a free home inventory spreadsheet template). If you don’t want to print them, store your photos digitally in the cloud, burn them to a CD, or store them on a flash drive.

Another simple way to create your home inventory is to use your smartphone to shoot video of your belongings. When you shoot a video, you can also describe the items as you film them. Sometimes a video is all you need to prove you owned an item, but do check with your insurance company to see if you’ll need other documentation as well.

Using a free or paid mobile app is an increasingly popular way to create your home inventory. Most home inventory apps prompt you to list your rooms, the items in them, and other details. You can add photos as well as copies of receipts and other documents. Two free options include the Insurance Information Institute’s “Know Your Stuff” app, or the Encircle home inventory app (both have versions for Apple and Android).

Inventory tips

When taking photos, start with a wide-angle shot from the room’s entryway. Take photos or video of each wall, as well as the floor and the ceiling. These images record types of flooring, special moldings, ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Get close-up shots of any serial numbers or other identifying tags.

Take group shots of like items, such as books, shoes, or kitchen items (open a cabinet door to record your dishes, for example).

Make sure you get photos of everything in the room.

Describe items pictured: name brand, model, model number, color, special markings or features. Note what you paid for the item and document the receipt if you have it.

Remember to inventory items in your attic, garage, or storage shed.

If you buy a big-ticket item, save the receipt and add the item to your inventory right away.

Once you create your home inventory, be sure to review it now and then and keep it updated.

Make sure your home inventory is stored in a safe place that you can access when you need it. Keep the photos, CD, or flash drive in a safe place, such as with a trusted friend, in a safe deposit box, or in a disaster-proof box in your home. You can also use your email server as a backup if you email yourself a copy of your inventory.

It does take some effort to create a home inventory, but if you lose your belongings and you don’t have one, it may take quite a lot of time and hassle for your insurance company to reimburse you adequately. We hope you’ll never have to make use of your home inventory to make a claim, but if you do, your preparation should help your claim be paid more quickly and fairly.

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Stay Cyber Safe This Holiday Season

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While you’re shopping for and exchanging gifts with loved ones, scammers and identity thieves are lurking in the background, waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers. At L & M Insurance Group, we do our best to make sure your personal assets are covered by appropriate insurance. As a service, we’d like to remind you to reduce your risk of identity theft and credit card fraud by protecting your personal information with common sense precautions. To help you stay cyber safe this holiday season, here are a few tips, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and StaySafeOnline.org’s “Stop. Think. Connect.” campaign.

Cautious Clicking
Be cautious about clicking links in emails, online advertising, posts, and tweets, especially when they originate with someone you don’t know. Cybercriminals often use bogus links to compromise your computer with malware. Make sure all your household’s computers, smart phones, or tablets are running the most current versions of software and apps. And if you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall.

Watch out for offers that sound too good to be true, or that encourage you to act immediately. If you’re shopping a website that is new to you, check online reviews to make sure it’s legitimate and that previous customers have had positive experiences. Look for web addresses that start with “https,” and the “lock” icon on your browser’s status bar to indicate your personal information will be sent securely.

Be careful what you share on social networking sites. Too much information can give an identity thief the clues he needs to answer security questions that will give him access to your accounts. Don’t post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or any account numbers on publicly accessible sites.

Password Power
Create strong passwords for your accounts by combining upper and lowercase letters with symbols. The FTC suggests thinking of a special phrase and using the first letter of each word as your password. You can also substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example: “I love to fish with my dad” could become 1L2fWmD. Use unique passwords for each account, and write them down someplace secure away from your computer.

Wi-Fi Wisdom
Connecting to the Internet while out and about is a convenience—just be sure you adjust your security settings to keep others from accessing your personal information. If you must send personal information over public wi-fi, make sure to use a secure wireless network, not just an encrypted website. If the network isn’t secure, don’t visit bank accounts or your email—you could be opening the door to cybercriminals.

Use these tips to stay cyber safe this holiday season—and all year long. If you want to know more about protecting your personal information, please visit StaySafeOnline.org.

The staff of L & M Insurance Group would like to wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season!

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Escape the Flames: Creating a Home Fire Escape Plan

house-fire-3-1519596-1279x962Home fires are the single most common disaster in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. In fact, chances are 1 in 4 that a household will have a fire large enough to be reported to the fire department during the average person’s lifetime. In addition, it can take only a few minutes for a house to become engulfed in flames. You and your family need to know how to get out quickly—in two minutes or less, according to Red Cross recommendations.

One way to reduce the chances that someone in your home will be injured or killed in a fire is to create a home fire escape plan. Here are some tips to help you draw up a plan that works for you:

  • Start by sketching a map of your home (click here for a printable template from the Red Cross). Locate and mark at least two exits from every room, if possible.
  • For bedrooms higher than the ground floor, consider buying escape ladders and storing them near windows. Learn how to use them as part of your escape plan practice(see below).
  • If your home has security bars on windows, make sure at least one window in each room is equipped with a quick-release device.
  • Include your pets in your home escape plan, by training them to come when you call them, and plan to take them with you when you evacuate. However, do not endanger yourself or other family members trying to save a pet. Place a pet alert window cling with the number and type of family pets on a front window (and keep the information current). This can save time for rescuers searching for your pets. Pet alert decals and clings are inexpensive and readily available, or click here to order a free pet safety pack from the ASPCA that includes a pet alert decal.
  • Choose a safe location for all family members to meet after getting out of the house—a streetlamp, mail box, etc.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one.
  • Practice waking up to smoke alarms, crawling on the floor to avoid smoke, and dialing 9-1-1.
  • Go over what to do if your main escape route is blocked by smoke or flames, or the doors or door handles are warm. Don’t open a door that is warm to the touch. Instead, leave through your second exit if you can. If there is no safe exit, place a wet towel under the door, open a window and signal for help by waving a flashlight or something brightly colored.
  • Remind everyone to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch fire.
  • Emphasize “Get out, stay out.” Don’t go back into a burning building to retrieve anything. Only professional firefighters should enter a burning building.
  • Discuss and explain your plan with all family members to make sure they understand what to do. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year, and practice at different times of day.

We hope you never have to experience a home fire. However, if you have a clear fire escape plan for all household members, and practice that plan, you’ll significantly reduce the chance that someone will be hurt or killed.

 

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

What Is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

For the average business and consumer, health insurance is a major chunk of the budget. One way consumers and employers are trying to keep health insurance costs down is by offering or choosing a high-deductible health plan (HDHP)HP)H. These plans, as you might guess, come with high deductibles, but also more affordable premiums. Health savings accounts, or HSAs, are often offered in tandem with HDHPs.

HSA Basics

HSAs are essentially savings accounts used for medical expenses. You can use money from your HSA to pay eligible medical expenses, such as co-pays, prescription medicines, and other medical and dental care as determined by your HSA. Usually you’ll receive checks and/or a debit card from your HSA account to use to pay your medical expenses. Unfortunately, you usually can’t pay insurance premiums with HSA funds.

Image courtesy http://401kcalculator.org

Image courtesy http://401kcalculator.org

To be eligible for an HSA, you must be covered under a high-deductible health plan (for 2016, a high deductible health plan must have a minimum deductible of $1,300 for an individual, and $2,600 for a family). You won’t be eligible for an HSA if you are enrolled in Medicare, claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, or covered by other insurance.

Health insurance providers or your employer may offer HSA options along with a high-deductible health plan. If not, you can open your own HSA through a qualified financial institution.

Each year the IRS sets the maximum amount that can be paid into an HSA. For 2016, those limits are $3,350 for individuals, and $6,750 for families. Your employer can contribute to your HSA but the total contributions from you and your employer must still be within the contribution limits.

Benefits of HSAs

One of the major benefits of investing in an HSA is that you don’t pay taxes on the money you deposit into it, thus reducing your taxable income. You also don’t pay taxes on money you take out of your HSA as long as you use it for eligible medical expenses. You will be taxed (and penalized 20%) if you take it out for non-medical expenses before age 65. After age 65, if you take out money for non-medical expenses, you will be taxed, but not penalized.

You always own and control the money in your HSA. You decide how much to contribute. If you don’t spend it in one year, it rolls over to the next. If you change jobs or leave the job force, the money is still yours.

Some HSA companies allow you to invest your HSA funds, and the earnings from those investments are also not taxed.

Contributing to an HSA can be a smart way to save for future medical expenses. Contact L & M Insurance Group for more information about health insurance or health savings accounts.

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Toys For Tots

We are happy to announce that this year we will be collecting TOYS FOR TOTS. Join us in helping others in our community by dropping off a toy Image result for toys for totstoday. When you drop off your toy don’t forget to put your name in the basket to win a $25.00 gift card.

 

 

 

 

 

L & M Insurance Group is an Independent Insurance Agency based in Riverview, Florida. We can shop, compare and recommend the home, auto, commercial or life insurance policy that’s best suited for you, your family or your business. Call 813-672-4100 or visit landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

Can I Save Money With a Multi-Policy Discount?

Can I save money with a multi-policy discount?

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Another way I hear this question asked is; if I bundle my auto and home insurance with you, will I get a discount? It’s a great question, and there are companies out there that offer discounts if you purchase both your auto and homeowners insurance with them.   However, it’s usually the captive agencies that offer it. Captive agents sell for just one company, generally one with a familiar name that has been built up with a tremendous amount of advertising, but in the end, you are just buying a brand. They will provide one quote from one company, and it may or may not include a multi-policy discount.

Your best rate will almost always come from an independent agency. An independent insurance agency like L&M Insurance Group will offer you the most choices in coverage options and prices. Independent agencies represent more than just one national brand–for instance L&M Insurance Group represents more than 40 different insurance carriers.   We know it’s convenient for you to have all your insurance with one agency, and that’s why we work so hard to make sure we represent the best companies with the lowest rates for all types of insurance–your car insurance, home insurance, commercial insurance, renters insurance, and life insurance.Image result for independent vs captive insurance agency

A couple of months back, I got a call from someone looking for a better rate on his homeowners insurance and a rental property he owned as well. He was insured with a national brand insurance company that you would recognize instantly. The individual believed he was getting a great rate because he was told he would get a “special” rate for bundling his insurance. When I finished quoting and writing his two properties, I was able to save him THOUSANDS of dollars–that’s how much he was overpaying.   He was shocked and thrilled at the same time.

I have been licensed to write insurance for 24 years and during this time I can honestly say I rarely see where a policy could be lower in price bundled than if you quoted both out separately. I have found that the companies that bundle either offer a decent homeowner insurance rate and kill you on your auto premiums or offer decent auto premiums and have horrible home insurance rates. Think about it for a moment–if their rates are so great on both auto and home, why do they need to give a bundling discount?   Because it’s a great marketing gimmick and they make more money!


J.D. Power and Associates’ 2011 U.S. National Auto Insurance Study found that customers who had auto and home insurance policies with two different companies were more satisfied with what they’re paying for auto insurance than customers who bundled their auto and home insurance policies.


Of course, we at L&M Insurance Group would love to write all your policies–and it’s convenient for you to have all your policies in one place. Our focus will not be on who will offer a bundled price, it will be on how can we write all your insurance for the lowest price, the best coverage and with the best carriers. We represent your interests as an independent agency–unlike a call center or direct writer that writes with just one national brand.

So the answer is no, I don’t believe you can save money taking advantage of a bundling discount. But you can save money if you shop with an independent agent like me.   So give me a call–you will never find someone who will work harder to save you money and protect your interests.   Click this link to send me an email or call me today at 813-672-4100

Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson brings over 23 years of experience writing insurance. He was the owner of Larry Johnson Insurance in Brandon for 13 years, and after selling his agency and taking some time off, he has joined L&M Insurance Group. Larry is excited to be back working with clients meeting their personal lines insurance needs. Call 813-672-4100 to get started