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Show Your Home Some Love With These Maintenance Tasks

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air! Once you’ve taken care of your significant other, why not show your home some love? Maintaining your home can save you money, hassles—and maybe even a homeowners insurance claim!

You don’t have to do a major remodel to improve your home. Here are a few areas where a little loving attention will do the most good.

First, see your home with fresh eyes. Walk through your entire home, noting areas of wear, safety issues, and so on. Don’t forget your attic, deck, patio, porch, or lanai. Take pen and paper, and jot down any areas that need attention.

For instance, are there signs of leaks, such as discoloration on walls, floors, or ceilings? What about around toilets, tubs, and sinks? Is a faucet dripping or a toilet running?

Even minor leaks can do major damaged, and unlike a sudden accident, such as a burst pipe, gradual damage caused by neglected maintenance is not covered under homeowners insurance policies.

Check Fire Safety Items

Check and replace fire safety items. Change batteries in smoke detectors, and every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors themselves.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Click here for instructions on how to properly inspect your fire extinguisher. (And remember, only use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire. In many cases, it’s more important for everyone to get out of the house and let the fire department handle a fire.)

Drains and Pipes

Keep drains and pipes clear. If water drains slowly from sinks or tubs, try using vinegar and baking soda, or commercial drain cleaner, to get things moving again. Don’t put things down the kitchen sink unless it’s equipped with a garbage disposal. In the bathroom, use traps in drains to keep hair from clogging the plumbing, and don’t use flushable wipes as these also cause plumbing backups.

Air Conditioning

Maintain your HVAC system. Replace air filters on an appropriate schedule, and have the unit cleaned and serviced according to manufacturer’s directions. These tasks improve air quality and help your unit operate more efficiently, as well as lessen the chance of a breakdown when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Check Large Appliances

Inspect and clean large appliances. This includes cleaning the dishwasher, which can become clogged with food particles or soap residue, resulting in dirtier dishes or even a breakdown. If your dishwasher has a filter, take it out and clean it. Run some white vinegar through a wash cycle, or use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.

Check dishwasher and washing machine hoses and replace if they’re cracked or worn.

Clean refrigerator coils.

Empty the dryer lint trap after every load, and periodically clean dryer exhaust vents in order to prevent fire.

Review Home Insurance Coverage

Review and update your insurance coverage if necessary. Are you receiving all available discounts? Have you made home improvements that have added value to your home? Did you replace your roof? Notify your L & M Insurance Group agent of any changes to your personal situation, such as marriage or divorce.

L & M Insurance Group is Here to help

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have a question about how a home improvement project might affect your homeowners insurance, or if you need a quote. Happy Valentine’s Day to you—and your home!

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We Can Insure That! Let L & M Insurance Group Help With Specialty Insurance Coverage

You already know L & M Insurance Group can get you great deals on your homeowners, car, and business insurance (and if you don’t, contact us today for a free quote!). But what if you buy a recreational vehicle, boat, or personal watercraft? Where should you go for insurance? Wonder no longer—we can insure that!

We want to be your one-stop insurance agents. Not only can we insure your home, car, and business, we can also provide specialty insurance coverage.

What is specialty insurance coverage?

Simply put, specialty insurance coverage is insurance for special or unique items or situations not typically covered under a standard home or auto insurance policy. This might include insurance coverage for classic cars, boats, ATVs, motorcycles, RVs, or personal watercraft.

In addition, important coverages such as flood insurance and umbrella policies can also be considered specialty insurance.

Protection from financial loss

The purpose of any insurance is to provide protection from financial losses—both physical losses and liability losses. Once you have the basics covered—insurance on your home and vehicles appropriate for your situation—you should consider what losses you might incur that would not be covered by those policies. What assets do you want to cover—like boats, RVs, and other “toys,” for example? You may need flood insurance, since flood damage is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, or an umbrella policy to protect your financial assets in case of a lawsuit.

This might sound confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. As an independent agency, L & M Insurance Group has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Tampa and nearby communities for more than 10 years. We represent dozens of financially stable, A-rated insurance companies, and we will be happy to advise you in choosing the right specialty insurance coverage for your needs. Please call 813-672-4100, contact us, or visit www.landminsurancegroup.com for more information.

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Stock Your Car With a Roadside Emergency Kit

Roadside Emergency Kit Benefits

Even though you take good care of your car, you never know when an emergency will arise. Stocking your car with a roadside emergency kit will may help you get back on the road more quickly if you have a breakdown. At the very least, you’ll be safer and more comfortable while you wait for help.

What to Put In your Roadside Emergency Kit

You can buy pre-made roadside emergency kits, but when you make your own, you know exactly what’s in it, and you can tailor it to the needs of your local climate. (In Florida, we don’t need kitty litter for icy roads, for example!) In addition to the supplies needed to change a tire, here are some basics your kit should contain:

  • First Aid supplies: antiseptic, Band Aids, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, insect repellent, tweezers, Ace bandage, instant cold compress, etc.
  • Road flares or reflective triangles
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher intended for automotive use. Use to fight a small fire, but if your car is on fire, don’t try to put it out yourself. Move to safety and wait for emergency help.
  • Rain poncho
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Baby wipes
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Blanket
  • Can of tire inflator, such as Fix-a-Flat
  • Gloves

You may also want to add a car cell phone charger, and pen and paper to your kit. If you drive an older vehicle, include oil, anti-freeze, and brake fluid.

Store your kit in a plastic container with a lid, a cardboard box, or other storage item and keep it in your trunk. Arrange everything neatly, preferably in a single layer so you can see what you have and get to it quickly. Also, do an inventory every few months, making sure to replace anything you use up or that expires.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money to create a roadside emergency kit. Stock your vehicle with one, and you’ll be prepared if you’re ever stuck by the side of the road.

Remember, if you need car insurance, we’re here to help.  Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online for a free quote.

Start the Year Right With Insurance Savings

Insurance Savings

Shopping for insurance is no one’s idea of a good time, but here at L & M Insurance Group, we try to make it as simple and painless and cost-effective as possible. We are an all-lines, local independent agency based in Riverview, and we work hard to get you the best insurance savings:

  • Write many different types of insurance, including auto, home, renters, boat, RV, general liability, commercial auto, life, and health.
  • Represent dozens of A-rated insurance companies (including more than 15 different car insurance companies), not just one.
  • Offer “one-stop shopping.” Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for your needs, call us! We’ll do the comparison shopping for you.
  • Represent YOU. We’ll help you understand your insurance needs, help you through the claims process, and treat you like a person, not a policy number. After all, this is our community and you are our neighbors!

Insurance Savings for the New Year

Our goal is always to find you the right insurance plan for your needs at the most affordable price, and in many cases, we’re able to save our clients hundreds of dollars per year while also improving their coverage. Our staff has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Lithia, Valrico, Bloomingdale, and surrounding areas for 25 years, and we’d love to serve you!

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance, or if you’d like a quote. If you prefer, click here for an auto quote, or here for a homeowners quote. For general inquiries, click here.

As 2018 winds down, L & M Insurance Group would like to thank you for letting us serve you. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Four Ways You Can Drive More Safely on Florida’s Roads

 

Challenges to Safe Driving in Florida

While Floridians don’t have to cope with driving in extreme winter weather the way other parts of the country do, just like everywhere else, we do have challenges to safe driving. Challenges like distractions, traffic, construction, and yes, weather (think driving home from work in the pouring rain!). Since one of the best ways to lower your car insurance premiums is to keep your driving record clean, here are four ways you can drive more safely Florida’s roads.

 

Watch out for weather conditions

We may not get snow, but we do get rain, fog, and even sometimes smoke. Whenever visibility is reduced, slow down and make sure your low beams are on (high beams can reflect back and further impair your ability to see). Unless it’s unsafe, try to drive with the flow of traffic and avoid changing lanes. (Click here for tips on safe driving in the rain.) Don’t drive with your hazard lights on.

 

Don’t stop on the road. If you must stop, after signaling, pull safely as far off the road as possible. Then you may put on your hazard lights.

 

Ditch the distractions

While you’re behind the wheel, put your phone away, turn off the radio if it’s distracting you, and avoid having animated and engrossing conversations—save those for when you’re safely at your destination. Try not to let anything distract you from your driving. It only takes a moment of inattention to cause an accident.

 

Maintain your vehicle

Proper maintenance will help you avoid breakdowns or equipment failures, both of which might cause an accident. Click here for car maintenance tips.

 

Drive defensively

We know you’re a good driver, but what about everyone else on the road? We share the road with other drivers, bicyclists, motorcycles, and even pedestrians, some of whom are distracted or drive recklessly. Drivers who speed, change lanes abruptly, or drive much slower than the flow of traffic create a dangerous environment. Slow down and change lanes to allow reckless drivers to pass, or stay a safe distance away from them. Watch for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles. Also be sure to move over a lane when passing emergency vehicles or an accident at the side of the road.

 

Two areas of special concern are construction zones and areas where there are children. In construction zones, follow posted speed limits, and watch for debris in the road—change lanes if possible to avoid running over it. Also be mindful of workers in the area who may be near traffic or need to cross the road.

 

Where children are present, such as in school zones or near parks, use extra caution. Children are unpredictable and can be hard to see. Slow down and be prepared to stop. (And click here for back-to-school safe driving tips.)

 

And we don’t need to remind you to use your turn signal when preparing to turn, do we?

 

Follow these tips to drive safely, keep your driving record clean, and reduce your car insurance premium. If you have any questions about insurance, or you need a quote, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100, or contact us online.

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Protect Your Business With Commercial Auto Insurance

 

If you’re in an accident, the last thing you want to hear is, “I’m sorry, this isn’t covered under your personal auto policy.” That’s the risk you take when you don’t purchase a commercial auto policy for any vehicles you or your employees use in your business.

Commercial Auto Insurance for Businesses

Because a business has an increased liability in comparison to an individual, insurance companies exclude most business-related activity from personal auto policies. Commercial auto policies protect your business from financial losses resulting from an accident. They often include a broader range of coverages, such as physical damage (comprehensive and collision coverage), medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection, loss of use/rental reimbursement coverage, and emergency roadside assistance. They can be tailored to suit your needs—and they don’t always cost more than a personal auto policy would.

 

Do I need a Commercial Auto Policy?

If you’re not sure if you need a commercial auto policy, think about how and if your vehicles are used in your business. Certain types of activities and situations definitely call for a commercial auto policy, including the following:

  • The vehicle is used for pick up or delivery of goods, or for a taxi or other livery service (Uber or Lyft drivers have special needs—see “Coverage Options for Uber and Lyft Drivers.”)
  • The vehicle is owned or registered to a partnership, business, corporation, or some other entity
  • The vehicle is driven on an occasional or regular basis by employees or non-listed drivers
  • The vehicle is leased or rented to someone else
  • The vehicle is outfitted with permanent equipment, such as a ladder rack or permanent tool box used in your business

 

Whether you’ve started a side hustle, you’re an owner/operator of a one-person business, or if you employ multiple people and have a fleet of vehicles, we can help you find a competitive commercial auto policy. L & M Insurance Group has been serving the car insurance and commercial auto insurance needs of Riverview and surrounding communities for more than 10 years. Please call us at 813-672-4100 to discuss your situation, and/or to get a free, no-obligation quote, or contact us online.

 

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Have a Happy—and Safe—Holiday Season

Holiday Safety Tips

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the fun and excitement of getting together with family, traveling, exchanging gifts, and enjoying special holiday traditions. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be one of increased risks, whether of fire, theft, or accident. Here are some holiday safety reminders from your friends at L & M Insurance Group:

Decorate safely

  • Live trees are beautiful, but they can also be fire hazards. Water your tree regularly so it doesn’t dry out, and keep open flames away from it. Also be sure to check Christmas lights for frayed or exposed wires that could spark and start a fire.
  • Keep fragile, breakable ornaments securely fastened at the top of the tree and out of reach of children and pets.
  • If you decorate with candles, snuff them out before you go to bed or leave the house (and turn off flameless candles, too). Don’t leave them burning unattended where children or pets could burn themselves or knock them over.
  • Be cautious when decorating up high—use a ladder, not a chair or other piece of furniture. You’ll be less likely to fall.

Foil thieves

  • Don’t give thieves the gift of easy access to your holiday purchases. Help avoid a car break-in by keeping purchases locked in your trunk or where no one can see them. Lock car doors, keep windows rolled up, and park in a well-lighted area.
  • Be alert when shopping in a crowd. Don’t carry a lot of cash, keep your purse close to your body, or carry your wallet in a front pocket.
  • If no one is home and you’re expecting delivery of holiday packages, keep them safe from “porch pirates” by seeing if you can have packages delivered to you at work, or by arranging for the post office to hold them.
  • After the holidays, don’t advertise the new gifts in your home. Dispose of boxes and other packaging discreetly.
  • If you plan to travel, don’t announce your plans beforehand on social media. Stop your mail and newspaper, and set up lights on timers so your home looks occupied. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.

Drive carefully

  • Holiday traffic can be busier than usual, and drivers may also be more distracted. Be extra careful, and remind your teen driver to do the same. Remember to buckle seat belts, put aside cell phones, and pay full attention to the road.
  • If you plan to drink alcohol at a holiday party, designate a driver beforehand, or use a taxi or car service to bring you safely home.

Remember your pets

  • Holidays can be stressful for pets. Provide a safe, quiet place for them to retreat if the holiday festivities become too much for them.
  • Also avoid bringing toxic plants such as mistletoe, holly, lilies, or amaryllis into your home.
  • Don’t give them “people food,” and make sure any holiday chocolate is kept out of reach—chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

With a little thought and preparation, you can avoid potential holiday mishaps. We hope you have a very happy—and safe—holiday season!

And remember, we are here to help with any of your insurance needs. Just give us a call at 813-672-4100.

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Does Your Homeowner’s Insurance Come Up Short?

Do you Have Enough Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage?

Your homeowner’s insurance policy is a key piece of your financial safety net. Not only does it cover what is probably your most valuable asset, your home itself, it also covers what’s inside your home—or does it?

 

Here are ways your homeowners insurance might come up short:

 

You don’t have enough homeowner’s insurance coverage.

If your home is completely destroyed, will your insurance pay to have it rebuilt with similar quality and craftsmanship? What about coverage for your personal belongings? In the event of a claim, would you receive replacement cost or actual cash value?

 

Also, remember every time you make any significant upgrades to your home, you should notify your L & M Insurance Group agent. Certain upgrades, such as a new roof, could net you a discount. Even if no discounts result, you’ll still want your insurance company to know the true value of your home in case you have a claim.

 

You run a business from your home

Homeowners insurance policies offer no liability coverage and limited coverage for business equipment. Home office policies are reasonably priced and offer both liability and contents coverage.

 

You don’t have flood insurance

Standard homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage, and Florida is essentially one big flood plain. L & M Insurance Group represents several private companies that write flood insurance at a more competitive rate than those of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These policies also have higher available limits than the NFIP’s standard coverage. Also, private flood companies offer replacement cost coverage on your contents. The NFIP will pay only the actual cash value. (Click here for a flood insurance quote.)

 

Your policy doesn’t have water/sewer backup coverage

A standard homeowners policy usually covers damage from overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning as long as it originates on your property. However, if the backup damage comes from outside of your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer back up into your home, you may not be covered. This is a scenario all too common in our rainy, hurricane-prone state.

 

You have a special collection of wine, art, jewelry, or other valuable assets

Your personal property is covered up to a percentage (usually 50-70 percent) of your dwelling limit. There are also limit caps on certain categories like firearms, jewelry, silverware, furs, coins, etc. If you have high value items or special collections, you may need a personal floater. You may also need separate floaters for each category of asset—such as jewelry and artwork. Floaters usually have no deductibles, and you may need to have your collection appraised.

 

Why Choose L & M Insurance Group for your Homeowner’s Insurance

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency located in the Riverview/Brandon area. We have multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, and the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online.

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Insure Your Rig: Commercial Trucking Insurance

Photo courtesy Chris Sharkman via Pixabay

Need Insurance for your Rig? We’ve Got you Covered.

Whether you’re an independent owner-operator, or you manage a fleet of trucks, L & M Insurance Group can provide all your commercial trucking insurance needs. We cover all types of trucks, including tractor trucks, semi-trailer trucks, tow trucks, box trucks, and dump trucks.

Commercial Trucking Insurance Coverage Types

Commercial trucking insurance protects your assets and your business in the event of an accident. Here are the major types of coverage your policy can provide:

 

  • Liability coverage is mandatory. This pays for any legal liability you have towards others for physical damage as well as injuries caused by the truck in an accident. Liability limit requirements depend on the type of truck, what you’re hauling, and whether or not you operate intrastate (only in Florida) or interstate (crossing into other states). Call L & M Insurance Group and we can help you determine what limits you need.
  • Bobtail/deadheading or non-trucking liability coverage protects a driver’s or company’s liability when the truck is traveling without a trailer (“bobtailing”) or with an empty trailer (“deadheading”).
  • Cargo coverage protects your truck’s load (cargo). Some shipping companies require it. We bundle cargo coverage with liability coverage to save you money.
  • Physical damage coverage covers the truck and/or trailer itself if it’s damaged in an accident, or other covered peril, such as fire or theft.

Get a Commercial Trucking Insurance Quote

To get an accurate quote, you’ll need a copy of your current insurance policy’s declarations page (“dec” page), the driver’s license numbers of all drivers, vehicle identification numbers of all trucks, and information on any safety features of the trucks. You’ll also need your DOT number and your FEIN number.

 

How to save money with Commercial Trucking Insurance

Commercial trucking insurance isn’t cheap, but there are ways to save money. Some companies offer a three to 10 percent discount up front if you give them access to the information from your truck’s electronic logging device (ELD). Insurance companies periodically check the information from your ELD to evaluate driving habits and number of safety inspections compared to other drivers in the industry. The more safety conscious you and your drivers are, the larger your discount will be—even rising as high as 18 percent of your policy premium.

 

Other factors determining your premium include the type of equipment your truck has, the type and value of the cargo you typically carry, and your route.

 

Protect yourself and your business by buying a commercial trucking policy that best fits your needs. Call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 for a free, no-obligation quote.

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Protect Yourself and Your Business From Cyber Security Threats

Cyber Security Threats can Affect You and Your Business

You’ve probably read about data breaches at large companies such as Equifax, Target, and Home Depot as well as other types of cyber attacks. But did you know that small businesses and even individuals are also at risk and can find themselves devastated by a cyber attack? In fact, Florida has the second highest number of victims of cybercrime in the U.S., and ranks third in the nation for frequency of identity theft, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

 

Phishing and Ransomware Cybercrime

Two of the most common cybercrimes are phishing and ransomware. Phishing refers to hackers trying to trick you into sharing your private information through an email or a webpage offer. Popular phishing schemes include emails that purport to be from your bank or credit card company, a friend in need of money, or threatening you for some unnamed illegal action.

 

Ransomware is malicious software (malware) designed to block access to your system and demanding ransom payment to restore access.

 

There are things you can do to protect yourself. These tips apply to individuals, employees, and business owners.

 

To Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks

  • Create strong, unique passwords. Passwords are your first line of defense against cyber criminals. DO NOT use the same password for all your login credentials. If you have a hard time remembering your passwords, download an app to store them.
  • Use extreme caution when clicking links or opening email attachments. Don’t click links appearing in emails if you have any doubt at all about their legitimacy, even if the email looks like it’s from someone you know. Be skeptical of any urgent requests for money or bank transfers.
  • Protect your personal information. If you get an email from your bank or credit card company requesting personal information, call the number on your credit card or statement to verify the request.
  • Look for the security lock symbol in the web address of any site that asks for your personal information. Click on the lock to check that it has an up-to-date security certificate.
  • Keep all system software up to date.
  • Install, update and run security software such as anti-virus and malware protection programs.
  • Back up and store data at a secure offsite location.

How Cyber Insurance Can Protect Your Business

One more tip, if you have your own business: Consider buying cyber insurance (also known as cyber liability insurance). Business owners policies may provide some coverage for losses related to cyber incidents such as a computer virus or hardware failure. However, to better protect your business, consider buying a stand-alone cyber insurance policy tailored to your specific business needs. Cyber insurance covers several types of risks including, loss or corruption of data, business interruption, liability, identity theft, cyber extortion, and data breach.

 

“Virtually all businesses use information technology (IT) in some way—to communicate via email, to provide information or services through a website, to store and use customer data and more. Your business can be held liable if certain data is compromised….” notes the III.

 

At L & M Insurance Group, we take cyber security seriously, taking steps to protect both our business and our clients’ personal information. Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you need to discuss cyber insurance, or any other aspect of commercial or personal lines insurance.