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Five Reasons to Work With an Independent Insurance Agent

When you need insurance coverage, you have many decisions to make. One of the first ones may be whether to go with a captive insurance agent, or an independent insurance agent.

What’s the difference? The main one is this: a captive agent works for one insurance company and sells only the insurance products that company offers, while an independent agent represents many different companies.

Both types of agents are licensed professionals and can help with your insurance needs. However, working with an independent agent from an agency like L & M Insurance Group offers many benefits. Here are five of the most important ones:

More choices

Independent agents have more options than captive agents when deciding which insurance company will best protect your assets. For example, L & M Insurance Group represents more than 80 high-quality insurance companies. After taking your information, our agents will do the comparison shopping for you. Not only will we check premiums, we’ll also take into account coverage options and service. After all, if you have a loss, you want to know that your insurance company will be able to pay your claim in a timely fashion.

More flexibility

What if your circumstances change during the policy term—maybe you buy a more expensive home or add a teenage driver to your policy? It’s possible that change may make you ineligible for your current insurance policy, or make your premium skyrocket. An independent agent can offer you a quote with a different company he or she represents, if necessary. This is much more convenient than having to start the entire insurance shopping process all over again.

Competitive rates

We know insurance coverage in Florida can be costly. As independent agents, we’re not limited to the insurance offerings of just one company. Instead, we’ll compare the rates of multiple companies to find the most cost effective option for you.

Personal relationships

L & M Insurance Group agents will be happy to explain your insurance coverage in understandable terms and answer any questions you may have. And don’t forget, the agents at L & M Insurance Group live in the same community you do. We understand the risks and challenges of living in the Tampa Bay area, as well as Florida’s insurance requirements. And while much of our work with clients takes place over the phone or via email, we are always available to consult in person if you need us.

One-stop shopping

L & M Insurance Group, like most independent agencies, offers multiple types of insurance—everything from home and auto, to renters, umbrella, or business policies. Even life and health.  We can help you purchase every type of insurance you need.

As an independent agency, L & M Insurance Group will work hard to get and keep your business—for life! Think of it this way—we don’t work for any one insurance company, we work for you. Please give us the chance to earn your trust and your business.

Give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online, if you’d like to know more about what L & M Insurance Group can do for you.

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Real Estate Investors: Are Your Properties Ready for Florida’s Extreme Summer Weather?

If you own investment properties, it’s time to be sure they’re prepared for the summer storm season. Central Florida summer weather patterns include winds, rain, and possible flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes!  Fortunately, preparing your real estate investments for extreme weather doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips:

Double check building and landscape maintenance

Even though you keep your properties maintained year round, there are few areas you should check and repair as necessary before the heart of the summer storm season. These include roofs, doors, windows, and foundations. Look for damaged or missing shingles, cracks, gaps, or other areas where water could get in, since keeping water out is one of the most crucial aspects of preparation.

Check grading around foundations to be sure water flows away from your property.

Remove dead trees and branches, as well as any limbs that might fall and damage structures or injure someone. Keep trees and other landscape plants trimmed so they are wind-resistant.

Make sure gutters and downspouts are securely attached and clear of debris.

Consider installing impact windows or hurricane shutters.

(Click here for a Summer Maintenance Checklist, courtesy of REInsurePro.)

Touch base with your tenants

Your tenants will have their own plans to protect themselves and their belongings, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them that you’ll need to work together to minimize a weather event’s damage and disruption. Make sure you both know who to call and have up-to-date contact information in case of emergency.

Update your insurance coverage

Review your insurance coverage at least once a year to make sure it still meets your needs. Remember, you must buy flood insurance separately from your other dwelling policies.

Note: If you need flood coverage, L & M Insurance Group represents several private insurers that do not have a 30-day waiting period like the National Flood Insurance Program does. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 for a flood insurance quote.

After the storm

Take photos or videos of damage. Prevent further damage to property after a loss by boarding up broken windows—this also keeps out vandals and thieves. Cover a damaged roof with a tarp, and be sure to report claims in a timely fashion. If you need to make temporary repairs, save the receipts.

Watch out for scams. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people will try to take advantage of those who have just suffered a loss. If what they’re saying sounds too good to be true, or they’re using high-pressure tactics to convince you to do something, be suspicious. Call your L & M Insurance Group agent or your property insurance company directly if you need help.

Property insurance questions?

The insurance experts at L & M Insurance Group would love to answer your property insurance questions and provide you with the insurance coverage you need! Just give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online. We’ve been serving our neighbors in the Tampa Bay area for more than 30 years.

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2021 Hurricane Season Dos and Don’ts

The 2021 hurricane season is upon us. We were lucky last year, and Florida didn’t have to cope with a direct hit from a hurricane. But that’s not our norm, and we shouldn’t get lazy about preparing. According to the Tampa Bay Times, since 1851, Florida has been hit by 121 hurricanes and 37 major hurricanes—by far the most of any state. To help you stay prepared for a storm hitting our area, here are some dos and don’ts for the 2021 hurricane season.

DO be sure you have the right insurance coverage

If your home is severely damaged or destroyed by a hurricane, your homeowners insurance could be all that stands between you and financial devastation. Now is the time to review your homeowners policy to make sure it covers the current true value of your home. You should also familiarize yourself with your coverage terms, including your hurricane deductible, and consider purchasing flood insurance if you don’t already have it. Most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover water or flood damage, including water damage caused by a hurricane or tropical storm. You may want to review your coverage with your insurance agent if you have questions or need advice.

DO gather important documents

If you need to evacuate, you’ll want to be able to quickly locate documents, photos or videos of your belongings, and even certain irreplaceable mementos. Make a checklist of the items you need, and keep them in a waterproof container that you can grab as you leave.

DO prepare your home and yard

Make necessary home repairs, especially any to doors, windows or your roof. Look for branches that hang over your house or screened enclosure as well as dead or dying trees. Most tree work should be done by a professional for safety’s sake.  Also check your yard for anything that could become a flying missile during a storm and get rid of it if you can. Have a plan for what to do with things you want to keep, like flower pots and patio furniture.

DON’T wait until a storm is on its way to prepare

In addition to getting your home and yard ship shape, you should also review lists of what hurricane supplies you should have on hand (see Resources below for some helpful links). Check what you already have and start updating or adding to your hurricane supplies as quickly as you can. Include food, water, medications, and pet supplies in your stash. Check use by dates for food and batteries—and don’t forget the toilet paper!

If you’re in an evacuation zone, have a plan for where you will go and how you’ll get there. Prepare a “go bag” for your family, and keep your vehicles gassed up and properly maintained.

DON’T be complacent

Just because Florida didn’t have a direct hit last year doesn’t mean it won’t this year. Take an hour or two to plan now and save yourself the fear and hassle of being unprepared if a storm heads our way.

DO remember L & M Insurance Group is here for you as you prepare for the 2021 hurricane season

If you need a quote for homeowners insurance, flood insurance, or if you have questions about your existing policies, please give us a call at 813-672-4100. (Click here to request a homeowners insurance quote or here to request a flood insurance quote online.) We are a local, independent insurance agency serving Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, and surrounding communities.

Resources

Floridadisaster.org

Insurer Southern Oak has several free resources to help homeowners prepare:

Disaster Preparedness e-book

Home inventory checklist

Family emergency plan

Tower Hill Insurance Advice and Tips

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Homeowners Insurance Skyrocketing? Policy Canceling? L & M Can Help!

The Florida homeowners insurance market is in turmoil, and Florida homeowners are paying the price—literally. Premiums are rising fast, and just recently two more homeowners companies received permission from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to cancel more than 33,000 Florida homeowners insurance policies. A third company plans to non-renew an additional 19,000+ policies over the next 14 months. As hurricane season looms, more than 50,000 Florida policyholders will need a new homeowners insurance policy.

Are you one of them?

If you’re one of the Florida homeowners who will be affected by this situation, please give L & M Insurance Group a call. We represent multiple financially sound homeowners insurance companies—those that are nationally known but also solid, lesser-known companies. Our agents will carefully compare our markets to find the best deal for you, one that combines the policy features you need, at the best price available. (Call us at 813-672-4100, or click here for a homeowners insurance quote.)

Why is this happening?

Even though in 2020 Florida saw no direct hits from hurricanes, Florida insurers reported combined losses of nearly $1.6 billion. In fact, this is the fifth year in a row Florida insurers have suffered losses. The reasons? According to industry experts, these losses are due to excessive lawsuits, dishonest contracting schemes, catastrophes, and the high cost of reinsurance.

Lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation to ease the situation, but that won’t take effect immediately. Insurance companies are writing fewer policies in areas that have high litigation rates and reinsurance costs, they’re tightening underwriting requirements, and they’re raising premiums. All this means that homeowners insurance is harder to get and more expensive.

How L & M can help

As a local, independent agency, we do our best to work only with financially sound insurance companies. We live and work where you do, and we’re personally familiar with markets in Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, and surrounding communities. Please give us a chance to serve you by calling us at 813-672-4100, or by clicking here for a homeowners insurance quote.

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Protect Your Business With a BOP

As every small business owner knows, you can do everything right and still wind up facing a catastrophic loss. A fire could damage your office, keeping it closed down until repairs are made. A customer could slip and fall and sue you. Or your inventory could be stolen or destroyed. No matter what type of business you own, one way to ease that stress is to make sure your business has the right insurance coverage. And one of the best ways to protect your business is to buy a Business Owner’s Policy, or BOP.

Who needs a BOP?

Generally speaking, you need a BOP if you have assets that can be stolen, damaged or destroyed; if there is any chance that you could be sued; and if your business has a physical location, whether you own or rent the space.

BOPs combine coverage for your property and your liability in one customizable—and cost effective—policy. They can be written for any size business, but are especially helpful for small businesses.

Customize your policy with Main Street America

One of our insurance partners, Main Street America Group, offers one of the best business owners policy programs available. Whether you’re a contractor, a real estate agent, a hair salon owner, or you own a restaurant or a retail store, you’ll be able to customize your policy to best meet your needs with the Main Line Business Owner’s Policy (Main Line BOP). This program offers traditional BOP coverage:

  • Property insurance for property, both buildings and contents, owned by your business
  • Liability protection should your company be liable for property damage or bodily harm, either by something that you or your employees did (or failed to do) in your business activities
  • Business interruption coverage, which covers the loss of income resulting from a peril—like a fire—that disrupts your normal business operations

In addition, the Main Line BOP offers broader eligibility and more coverage options, all at very competitive rates! And if you need a commercial auto policy, Main Street America offers those as well.

If you want to know more about the Main Line BOP, or any of our other insurance products or partners, please call us at 813-672-4100. We’ve been serving businesses like yours in the Tampa Bay area for more than 30 years.

And remember, L & M Insurance Group is a full service independent insurance agency—we can take care of all your commercial and personal insurance needs! Give us a call, or click here to contact us online.

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One Simple Way to Buy Term Life Insurance

If someone depends on you financially, you probably realize that you need life insurance. But the process of buying a policy can seem confusing and difficult. Should you buy term or whole life? How much coverage should you buy? Will you have to have a medical exam? How long will take to be approved?

L & M Insurance Group can help you check “buy life insurance” off your to-do list. We recommend term life insurance for many people. It’s more affordable, and you can choose a policy term that provides coverage for as long as you need it—say until your children graduate from college or your mortgage is paid off. To make it even easier, in just a few minutes, you can fill out an application, get a price quote, and be approved for a term life insurance policy through Bestow, one of our new partner companies. Click here to get started, or read on to learn more.

Bestow’s life insurance program is best for younger, healthier people (ages 21-59)* looking for a simple way to buy term life insurance with no medical exam. You’ll create an account online, answer some basic questions such as your age, height, weight, where you live, your employment and some additional lifestyle questions. The company software uses algorithms to evaluate you as a risk and set premium prices.

Prices are determined by factors including your age, gender, health history, tobacco use, policy term length, and the death benefit chosen.

Bestow Life Insurance Program Features:

  • Quick and easy application process—get a quote in minutes!
  • No medical exam necessary
  • Policies start at $16 a month
  • Death benefits range from $50,000 to $1.5 million
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Policies will be issued by an A.M. Best A+ rated insurance company

If you have questions about term life or the Bestow program, please call an L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100.

*If you don’t meet these criteria, don’t worry! We represent other life insurance companies. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 (or click here) and we will be happy to help you find the life insurance policy that is right for you.

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Are You Paying Too Much for Your Car Insurance?

Even though many insurers offered pandemic discounts during 2020, car insurance rates in Florida continue to be some of the costliest in the U.S.  You may wonder how insurance companies decide what to charge, anyway—and if there’s anything you can do to pay less for your car insurance. Aside from your driving record, here are six things that could be affecting your car insurance premiums. While some of them are common sense, you might be surprised by what factors insurance companies use to set their rates.

Your vehicle

Not only does the value of your vehicle influence the price of your car insurance, if your vehicle is popular with car thieves, it costs more than the average to repair, or has a poor safety record, you could be paying more for your car insurance.

Where you live

If you live in an area with an above-average crime rate, you’ll likely pay more.

Your commute

The farther you drive to and from work each day affects your insurance rate, because insurance companies figure the more time you spend on the road, the more likely you’ll be in an accident—whether you’re at fault or not.

Your credit record

Insurance companies have found a link between poor credit and increased insurance losses.

Your age

Younger drivers with less experience are more likely to be involved in an accident.

Your discounts

Different companies offer different types of discounts, but some of the most common include safe driver, low mileage, good student, vehicle safety features, claim-free, prior coverage, homeowner, and multi-car or multi-policy discounts.

Of course, we think the best way to make sure you’re not paying too much for your car insurance is to give L & M Insurance Group a chance to quote your policy—we write with many great insurance companies, both standard and non-standard, and we’d love the chance to earn your business!

If you haven’t shopped around for a better auto insurance rate recently, it’s time to do so.

Let L & M Insurance Group do the comparison shopping for you! Since we represent so many insurance companies, we can find the best rate for your situation, whether you have good credit, bad credit, a clean driving record or one that’s not so stellar. We also have companies that will write your policy if you’ve had a PIP claim, you need an FR-44 or an SR-22. Please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here for an auto insurance quote.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency serving Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, and surrounding communities in the Tampa Bay area. We have more than 30 years in the insurance business, and our agents are experts in personal insurance, business insurance, Medicare insurance, and Life insurance.

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Plan Ahead Before a Natural Disaster Strikes

While we in Florida are fortunate not to have to deal with the freezing cold and heavy snows of more northern states, we’re not exempt from nature’s wrath. In fact, we have quite a few natural disasters to be prepared for—in addition to hurricanes, Florida experiences floods, fires, and tornadoes! The good news is that some simple planning—and the best homeowners insurance coverage—can help you be ready for the disasters you might face.

Learn the basics of what to do for each natural disaster

For example: If a tornado is sighted in your area, know where you should seek shelter in your home or office. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, sign up for alerts, and have an evacuation plan in place. Don’t walk, drive, or swim through flood waters—just six inches of moving water can knock you down. And be sure that you have a disaster plan in case of a hurricane (see below). Check out websites like floridadisaster.org and ready.gov for information about handling natural disasters.

Make or review your family’s disaster plan

According to floridadisaster.org, start your planning by discussing these four questions with household members:

Tip: Find emergency information specific to the Hillsborough County area here.

Prepare a disaster kit

Stock up on food, water, medicines, pet supplies, and other necessities if you must stay home for a few days. If you might need to evacuate, be sure you also have a portable “go kit.” (Click here for the Hillsborough County Disaster Preparedness Guide.)

Make sure you have the best homeowners insurance coverage

Do you enough coverage to rebuild your home and replace your belongings if they’re destroyed by a natural disaster? Do you know what your hurricane deductible is, and have money set aside to pay it? Do you have flood insurance? (Flooding is not usually covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy, so please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you need a flood insurance quote!)

Let us help

If you need help deciding which insurance coverage you should carry in your area, please give L & M Insurance Group a call. We are a local, independent agency, and we live in the same community you do. We’ll be happy to discuss your options, and help you be sure you have the homeowners insurance policy that is right for your financial situation. (If you prefer, contact us online by clicking here.)

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Simplify Your Property Investment Insurance With REInsurePro

For property investors with multiple properties, L & M Insurance Group has an insurance program that can simplify how you keep your properties insured. The REInsurePro program writes many types of policies with the specific needs of property investors in mind. Their insurance products offer flexibility and cover a variety of situations, whether you buy to renovate and flip, or own properties occupied by tenants. Take note members of the Suncoast Real Estate Investors Association (SREIA) or similar organizations like the TBREIA or GOREIA—this is a program that could really benefit you!

Coverage options and special features

Basically, REInsurePro puts coverage decisions in the hands of you as the investor. You can choose whether you want actual cash value or replacement cost loss settlement, and which perils to insure against. You can also decide which “bells and whistles” are important to you for your policy. Properties insured for $70 a square foot or more will automatically be insured for replacement cost value. Wind mitigation and 4-point inspections are not needed. All policies provide one million dollars in liability. Once you’ve made a down payment, you can set it up so that your credit card will automatically be billed each month. 

You can include all of your properties on one schedule, even if they are owned by different entities, e.g., Individuals, Land Trusts, or LLCs. You can also add or delete properties as needed, or change the occupancy status or coverage options, without having to cancel and rewrite your policy every time. This means you’ll be paying to insure a property only for the time it’s on your policy.

REInsurePro can cover your:

  • Rental property (up to a 4-unit tenant-occupied building)
  • Renovation/Builders Risk
  • Vacant property
  • New construction
  • Vacation rental property
  • Condo
  • Liability for vacant land

And more!

Get Started Insuring Your Investment Properties

Think the REInsurePro program might be right for you? Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 for more information. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is a full service independent insurance agency. Look to us for all your insurance needs, including home, auto, business, and life. We’ve been serving Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, and other communities in the Tampa Bay Area for more than 30 years.

To contact us online, please click here.

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L & M Insurance Group Combines Personalized Service with Insurance Companies You Can Trust

Independent insurance agencies like L & M Insurance Group, offer many advantages to insurance consumers. One of the main ones is that we are independent—we represent many different insurance carriers, and therefore are able to offer our clients a choice of tailor-made policies. Part of our commitment to you is that we’re always trying to find new and better markets for our clients.

Many clients turn to an independent insurance agency to save money. But just because you go the independent route doesn’t mean you’ll have to scrimp on service or sign up with an insurance company you’ve never heard of. While it’s true that we do represent some smaller, lesser-known companies, here are a few of our partner companies that you might not realize we work with:

Did you know?

We now represent Allstate, a company that historically has only sold policies through their own captive agents. Allstate may or may not be a good fit for you, but they are well known for their leadership and expertise in personal lines, claims and customer service, as well as their financial stability.

We also represent Nationwide Insurance. The Ohio-based insurance carrier provides a range of insurance and financial services, including auto, home insurance, and commercial policies.

Travelers has been around for more than 165 years and is a top-10 writer of personal insurance in the U.S. In addition to personal lines, they also write landlord policies and commercial policies for many types of businesses.

Mercury Insurance has been named one of “America’s Most Trustworthy Companies” by Forbes Magazine several times. They offer auto, home, condo, renters, and business insurance. We’ve found that Mercury is a good fit for families with young drivers.

The Hartford offers a full line of personal and commercial policies. They also have special programs for drivers over 50, and The Hartford is the only direct auto and home insurance program endorsed by the AARP for their members. 

In addition to the companies listed above, we also represent Progressive, Safeco, GMAC, and many other financially stable insurance carriers. Whether you need insurance for your home, car, motorcycle, boat/personal watercraft, or you need commercial insurance for your business, we can get you covered.

Personalized service

So if you want to combine the personalized service of an independent agency with the benefits of a big-name insurance company, look no further than L & M Insurance Group. We will be happy to compare insurance rates of both well-known insurance companies (like Allstate) with our lesser-known carriers, and explain the benefits and drawbacks of your options. Give us the chance to serve you—please call us at 813-672-4100 if you’d like a quote, or get things started online by clicking below for an auto or homeowners insurance quote.

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