9 Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

Who doesn’t love to hear the words, “pool party”?

 

Swimming and playing in a backyard pool is one of the best ways to have fun and stay cool during our hot Florida summers. However, homeowners need to be aware that swimming pools can be dangerous for children, especially young children who don’t know how to swim. Drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 years old. Here are some pool safety tips to help you swim safe all summer.

 

  1. Create a barrier around your pool to prevent children from entering it without supervision. Your pool should be fenced or otherwise blocked off on all four sides. Fences should be at least four feet tall with no openings or protrusions that would enable a child to climb over or under them. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches out of reach of small children. Alarm the doors and windows that face the pool, especially if your house itself provides the fourth side of the barrier. For added protection, install a surface wave or underwater alarm that will alert you when someone goes in the pool.

If you have an above-ground pool, be aware that children leaning against soft sides can fall in. Surround it with a fence just as you would an in-ground pool. Remove the ladder or steps when the pool isn’t in use, and install a safety cover.

 

  1. When it’s time to swim, a responsible adult should always supervise children in and around the pool. Stay within arm’s reach of young children. Children should never be left unattended, even if they know how to swim.

 

  1. Keep rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and fiberglass shepherd’s hook, on hand. Also have a portable phone nearby when the pool is in use.

 

  1. Establish pool rules such as “walk don’t run,” “no diving,” and “never swim alone.” Make sure everyone in the family and all visiting children know and understand the rules, and be sure to enforce them.

 

  1. Sign children up for age-appropriate water safety and swimming lessons. Keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t “drown proof” a child.

 

  1. Get your CPR certificate. Knowing how to perform CPR could save a life!

 

  1. Avoid the drain. Suction from pool drains can catch bathing suits, hair, or jewelry and trap swimmers underwater. Make sure all drain covers are present and in good repair, and remind swimmers to stay clear of drains.

 

  1. Maintain the pool water. Pool water can be the source of earaches, rashes, and other more serious afflictions if it’s not maintained properly. Test water on a regular basis, and adjust the chemicals as needed.

 

  1. Make sure your homeowner’s policy carries adequate liability coverage in case of accident. Call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 or contact us online if you have any questions about your limits, or for a free, no-obligation quote.

Happy swimming!

For more information on pool safety for children, please visit poolsafely.gov.

Insurance Coverage Options for Uber and Lyft Drivers

Insurance for Uber and Lyft Drivers

What Auto Insurance Coverage do Uber and Lyft Drivers Need

Thinking of making a little side income by becoming a rideshare driver* for Uber or Lyft? Before you sign up, make sure you’ve got insurance coverage. Will your personal auto policy be enough? Or do you need a commercial auto policy?

 

A typical personal auto policy only covers you for personal use, not when you’re using your vehicle for commercial purposes, as you would as a rideshare driver. However, since you only occasionally use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you probably don’t want or need a commercial auto policy. The company you work for will likely carry some coverage, but you’ll still need to carry coverage to protect your liability and your vehicle when you’re driving for them. What should you do?

 

Auto Insurance Endorsements for Uber and Lyft Rideshare Drivers

We’re happy to say that insurance companies have seen the need for endorsements that reflect the needs of rideshare drivers. Give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 to discuss your options.

Commercial Auto Insurance versus Insurance Endorsements

Remember, if you use your vehicle for your job—if you’re a realtor, an outside salesperson, or a professional construction worker, for example—you will need a commercial auto policy. We can help with that, too! Just give us a call, or contact us online for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

*A rideshare driver is an individual who provides taxi-like services to passengers via smart phone app for a Transportation Network Company (TNC), such as Uber or Lyft. Drivers use their own personal vehicles, rather than a limousine or taxi, to carry passengers.

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Hurricane Season Is Almost Here–Will You Be Ready?

After 2017’s Hurricane Irma impacted nearly the entire state of Florida, most of us in the Riverview and Brandon area are taking hurricane preparations seriously this year. Hurricane experts have already indicated that the 2018 season should have slightly above-average activity and probability that a major hurricane will make landfall along the continental United States.

 

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

 

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 on hurricane preparedness, please visit:

 

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If My Garage Burns Down and My Classic Car Is Destroyed, Am I Covered?

What you need to know about Classic Car Insurance in Brandon, Florida

You might think that if your classic car is damaged or destroyed by fire while locked in your garage that your homeowners insurance would cover the loss.

 

Think again. Your homeowners insurance will not cover your classic car, because it doesn’t provide coverage for motor vehicles. The good news? It’s simple to make sure your classic car is covered in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event by purchasing a classic car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage.

 

Classic car coverage—your best option

You could simply add your classic car to your conventional car insurance, but it likely will not cover the true value of your classic car. Unlike the car you drive every day, classic cars don’t depreciate over time—often they go up in value. Conventional car insurance covers your car up to actual cash value, but classic car insurance covers your vehicle up to a guaranteed amount agreed upon by you and your classic car insurance company. This amount is determined by appraisal, documentation, and/or consultation with a collectible car value guide such as the Old Cars Report Price Guide or the value guide at www.buyclassiccars.com.

 

What coverage is included in a classic car insurance policy?

While there are a few differences among insurance companies, a basic classic car policy will typically include the same coverage for liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision that a conventional policy does. However, since you don’t drive your classic car every day, you’ll probably pay less for equivalent coverage. Also, classic car policies often include coverage specific to classic cars, such as specialized repair or restoration, or special towing and spare parts. If you don’t plan to drive your classic at all, you may be able to purchase a comprehensive only classic car insurance policy.

 

While there is no single definition of a “classic car,” vehicles that may qualify for classic status include cars that are at least 25 to 30 years old, certain hotrods or modified vehicles, exotic luxury vehicles, muscle cars, or classic trucks. To be eligible for a classic car policy, your classic car cannot be used as a primary vehicle, and your insurance company may restrict the number of miles you can drive it each year. You must also store your classic car in a locked, covered enclosure, such as a garage or storage unit.

 

Get Started on Your Classic Car Insurance Policy with L&M Insurance Group in Brandon, Florida

If you need a classic car policy, please give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about covering your classic vehicle. We’re a locally-owned, independent agency serving the Tampa Bay area, including Bloomingdale, Sun City Center, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Valrico, and nearby communities, and our agents are experts in finding you the best coverage at a competitive price.

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Should You Carry Dog Bite Liability?

 

Most of us consider our dogs members of the family. They share our lives and our homes—but unfortunately, they may also leave us open to lawsuits. Even though it’s unlikely that your family pet will bite someone, it might be a good idea for you to make sure you have dog bite liability coverage, otherwise known as dog or animal liability.

 

In addition to dog bite claims, dog liability will also protect you if your dog knocks someone over, causes them to trip and fall, or damages their property. It will also protect you if your dog hurts another animal.

 

It used to be that your homeowners insurance policy covered you in the event that your dog injured someone. However, because of the rise in claims and litigation surrounding dog bites this is no longer a given. Florida ranks second behind California for the largest number of dog bite claims, and has the highest average cost per claim at $44,700. In fact, in 2017 dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost almost $700 million dollars and accounted for more than one third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurance companies exclude certain dog breeds, some exclude all animal liability, and others place limits on the amount they will cover. If you have a dog and are concerned about your liability, you should check with your homeowners insurance company or your L & M Insurance Group agent to make sure you have the coverage you need.

 

And it’s not only homeowners who should be aware of the necessity for this coverage. If you’re a renter, some landlords now require dog liability insurance before they will rent to you.

 

Please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4200 (or contact us by email) if you have any questions about whether or not your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers dog liability—or if you have any other questions about your insurance needs.

 

If You Need an FR-44, We Can Help

Florida FR-44 Insurance

If you’re in the difficult position of putting your life back together after a DUI conviction, we can help.

Since 2008, Florida has required that drivers who’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carry an FR-44.

 

What is an FR-44?

An FR-44 is a financial responsibility insurance certificate, similar to an SR-22. You’ll need to carry an FR-44 if you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because of this, you’re considered a “high risk” driver and the state of Florida requires you to show financial responsibility by purchasing a car insurance policy with high limit bodily injury and property damage liability, in this case, limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 bodily injury per person/$300,000 per accident, plus $50,000 property damage). In most cases, you must carry an FR-44 for three years.
As you can imagine, combining high limits with a driver considered high risk can make this type of coverage costly.

We can help

L & M Insurance Group is an independent agency and we have many quality insurance companies to choose from, including companies who can provide you with an auto insurance policy with the higher limits required for an FR-44 filing at a competitive rate. If you’re in Riverview or one of the surrounding communities such as Lithia, Gibsonton, or Wimauma, please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us for a free, no-obligation quote. We’d love to help you make a difficult situation a little easier.

Buyer Beware—Could That Car Be Flood Damaged?

Watch out for used cars with floodwater damageIf you’re in the market for a used car, be aware that hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged vehicles were left behind by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And many of these vehicles may have hit the used car market. These vehicles, often sold at auction, or on Craigslist or via private ad, should be avoided, even if they appear to run fine. Damage from floodwater can be unpredictable and your new-to-you car could prove extremely unreliable.

 

Flood Damaged Used Car Warning Signs

Don’t be sandbagged—watch for these signs of a flood-damaged vehicle:

 

  • Unusually low price compared with similar models. (Check out a vehicle’s fair market value at kbb.com.)
  • A damp, mildew-y smell, or conversely, a strong smell of cleaning products—used to cover up a musty smell
  • Water damage or marks on carpets, upholstery, seat belts, or ceiling fabric
  • Brand new carpets or other fabrics in an older model car
  • Visible water lines on the headlights or taillights
  • Sand or silt under floor mats or under the spare tire
  • Rust on the inside of the car where water would not normally reach
  • Mud or debris in hard-to-clean areas
  • Electrical components that don’t work, such as windows, blinkers, or the radio

 

Your best protection with any used car purchase is still to have a trusted mechanic thoroughly inspect the vehicle. In addition, if you have the vehicle’s VIN, use CARFAX’s free flood check tool, or check its flood history at the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINcheck. Flood history is usually a part of the information you receive in any complete vehicle history report you purchase as well.

 

Be sure to give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 (or contact us via email) whenever you buy a new or used car. We’ve been serving the insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Dover, Gibsonton, Lithia, Apollo Beach, and surrounding areas for more than 10 years. As an independent agency, we specialize in providing quality insurance coverage at competitive prices.

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No Welcome Mat for Burglars—Try These Simple Home Security Tips

While you want your home to be welcoming to your family and friends, you also want it to be unattractive to burglars. A few simple home security measures can decrease the chance that your home will be broken into.

Burglars target homes that look like they’ll be easy to get in and out of quickly without being seen. If it takes a thief more than four or five minutes to break in, he’s likely to move on. In fact, “Time, sound, and visibility” are the three main factors you need to keep in mind when securing your home, according to safehome.org.

Time

Make it hard for a burglar to enter your home. Locks, doors, and windows are your first line of defense against intruders. To help keep a thief from kicking in a door, make sure all exterior doors are solid hardwood or metal, and that your locks are grade 1 or grade 2 deadbolts. Security experts also recommend installing a heavy-duty strike plate—the metal plate attached to the doorjamb that the bolt extends into—with three-inch screws that will penetrate to the doorframe stud.

If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden dowel, stick, or safety bar in the interior track, or add a floor bolt.

Also be sure you close and lock every door and window when you leave home, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Sound

Burglars don’t want any attention drawn to their presence, so if you have a dog that barks when a stranger is around, you already have one method of deterring intruders. If you don’t have a dog, or the family pet is likely to welcome a burglar as a long-lost friend, you may want to invest in an alarm system. Be sure to display the alarm company’s sign and decals to notify thieves of the presence of an alarm.

(Before you invest in a home security system, call your L& M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 about what features your system needs to qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance.)

Visibility

Trim or remove plants or shrubs that offer a place for a criminal to hide. If you have a two-story home, make sure no tree limbs offer a way for a burglar to break into an upstairs window.

Make sure all entries to your home have good lighting, and consider installing motion-activated lights to illuminate the perimeter of your home.

Don’t leave easily stolen items like bikes or even that expensive grill out in the yard or driveway. And if you’ve recently bought a pricey new item, be discreet about how you dispose of the packaging. If a thief sees the box from a new big screen TV in your trash, he might decide to pay you a visit!

A few more tips

  • Keep your garage door closed unless you’re in the garage or nearby where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Don’t hide a spare house key outside your home. Leave one with a trusted neighbor, or invest in a combination lock box you can put in an out-of-the-way place.
  • If you park on the street or in your driveway, take all valuables inside with you, and lock the doors and roll up the windows. Don’t forget to take your garage door opener inside!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t participate in an official neighborhood watch program, you can still watch out for each other on an informal basis.
  • Walk around the outside of your home looking for possible modes of entry for a thief. Is that window always open a little bit? Does that door look like it could be easily forced? Think like a burglar—then take the home security measures to keep him out!

If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, be sure to give us a call or contact us via email.

 

Need Auto Insurance and Have PIP Claims? L & M Insurance Group Has You Covered!

Multiple PIP claims can hurt your ability to get auto insurance. Florida Low rate auto insurance alternative for FAJUA quotes

Let’s say you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, and the other driver is at fault. Under current Florida requirements, all drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, and even though you weren’t at fault in the accident, in order to have your injuries covered, you make a claim on your PIP. (PIP pays for your injuries if you’re hurt in an accident, no matter who is at fault.) You make the claim and think no more about it.

 

But then later, you may find yourself in a predicament: your auto insurance company non-renews you, and other insurance companies don’t want to insure you. If you have more than one PIP claim, you may find it nearly impossible to get insurance.

 

Why PIP Claims can cost you

 

Unfortunately, PIP claims are associated with insurance fraud: “While PIP premium represents roughly two percent of Florida’s collected insurance premium, this issue accounts for nearly 50 percent of fraud referrals,” according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Because of the high rate of fraud, many insurance companies now consider clients with PIP claims high risk—even if they were not at fault in an accident. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for clients with PIP claims on their records to buy car insurance.

Florida Auto Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA) Low Rate Alternative

Until recently, clients with one or more PIP claims have been forced to rely on the Florida Auto Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA). We’re happy to say that L & M Insurance Group now has an alternative to the high rates of the FAJUA. If you’ve had one or more PIP claims, please call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us via email for a free, no-obligation quote. We’ve been serving Riverview, Sun City Center, and surrounding communities in Florida for more than 10 years, and we’re here to help.

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Tips for First-time Home Buyers

Thinking of buying your first home? Buying a home is a big investment, so you want to make sure you understand the process and you’re ready to take the plunge. Doing your homework before starting to look for your dream home is one way to make sure you make a good decision rather than one entirely based on emotion.

 

Here are some tips to make your home-buying experience more enjoyable and less stressful:

  • Get pre-qualified for a loan before you begin house hunting—but carefully consider how much you actually want to spend for your mortgage each month. How do you know how much house you can afford? When figuring costs per month for your new home, remember you’ll be responsible for more than just a mortgage. Consider property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, maintenance, and possibly higher utilities.
  • Also take a hard look at your finances and consider your personal goals and the lifestyle you want to maintain. Do you want to travel? Have children? Pursue hobbies? Make sure you’ll still have the discretionary income to do those things after you buy your home.
  • Hire a buyer’s agent to protect your interests. Ask family and friends for recommendations to find a reputable agent. He or she should take the time to answer your questions, and help you understand the process of buying a home, as well as represent you in negotiations for your new home.
  • Don’t rush. Take time to research the real estate market in your desired area. Make a list of features you want and features that are deal-breakers. Be sure to communicate these to your agent so you don’t waste time looking at unsuitable properties.
  • Don’t spend all your savings on the down payment. There may be unexpected expenses once you close on your home, or you may want or need to make some changes or improvements to it. Also, now more than ever, you’ll need to keep funds on hand for emergencies.
  • Shop around for homeowners insurance. You can start with the company that carries your car insurance, but don’t stop there. They might not have the most competitive rate for you. Get several quotes, and be sure that each quote contains the same coverage types and limits. We recommend that you carry replacement cost coverage. (At L & M Insurance Group, we represent multiple homeowners companies, and we’d love the chance to give you a free, no-obligation quote on homeowners insurance.)
  • Be realistic in your expectations. Your new home doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should be aware of what repairs or cosmetic changes you’ll want to make. Be sure to have a home inspection so you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

Buying that first home can be one of the most exciting milestones in your life. Once you’ve found your dream home, be sure to protect your investment with the appropriate homeowners insurance coverage. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value.

Call us at 813-671-4200, or contact us for a homeowners insurance quote for your home in Hillsborough County or throughout Florida.