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Is Your Business Hurricane Ready?

Every year private residents hear a lot about preparing for hurricane season—but what if you own a business? Are there any hurricane-readiness actions Tampa Bay business owners should perform?

Business owners should also make plans for hurricane season. How you prepare depends on your type of business, and what assets, property, data, and people you need to protect.  Below are some general considerations for how to make your business hurricane ready. For detailed instructions, see ready.gov’s Ready Business Hurricane Toolkit.

Assess your risks

When a hurricane approaches, what will be the biggest risks to your business? Wind damage to structures, flooding, power outages, losing data, losing inventory? Will you and/or employees need to shelter in place?

Check your business insurance coverage—will it be adequate for your needs? If you have any questions, contact your insurance agent. (If you need a business insurance quote, please call us at 813-672-4100.)

Don’t wait until a storm is bearing down on you to decide what hurricane readiness plans you need to make for your business. Make a list of any items that need to be bought or stored, and set out in writing your business hurricane preparedness plan.

Create your business hurricane preparedness plan

Once you know which risks you need to account for, start preparing immediately. You should communicate with and include your employees in your plans, as they may have their own roles to play in your hurricane preparedness plans.

Some actions you might take to prepare include:

Make a checklist of things to do just before a hurricane. This downloadable hurricane preparedness checklist for businesses is a great resource.

If your business relies on stored data, sign up for data storage and/or backup services if you don’t already have them. If your business has physical files or other important physical documents, make sure you have waterproof containers to store them in.

Create an emergency communications plan to keep in touch with employees, clients, and suppliers. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for these people, and that information is readily accessible. Include contact information for your insurance agent and business insurance company.

Find a place to store vehicles and movable equipment to protect them from wind and water damage.

If you own your own building, be prepared to secure it as you would your residence. In addition, examine roof-mounted and other signs, benches, vehicles, outbuildings, and other outside items, such as potted plants. Decide how you’ll secure or store them before a hurricane strikes.

Find a suggested evacuation route.

If you or any of your employees will shelter in place, stockpile a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food, flashlights, a battery-operated radio and cell phone charger, a first aid kit, and bedding where you will be staying. 

Locate a secondary location you can use for your business if your primary location isn’t safe or accessible.

Enact your plan

When a hurricane is forecast, track the storm using sources such as the National Weather Service and your local news station. Secure your property, evacuate, or shelter in place. Monitor local authorities using a radio or the internet if possible.

Return to work safely

Once the storm has passed, contact employees to check on them. Watch for any warnings from local authorities, and only return to your business when it’s safe to do so. Be careful of damaged buildings, downed power lines, and so on. If your business has been damaged, take photos or video, and call your insurance agent or insurance company to report the damage.

We at L & M Insurance Group hope the 2022 hurricane season passes us by, but in the event that it does not, we hope these tips prove helpful. If you need business or personal insurance, please consider calling us for a quote. You can reach us at 813-672-4100, or contact us online. We’ve been serving Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, Lithia, and surrounding communities for many years—and many hurricane seasons!

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3 Factors Raising Your Commercial Property Insurance Rates

There have been plenty of headlines lately about Florida’s skyrocketing homeowners insurance prices. Unfortunately, we’re also beginning to see rising commercial property insurance premiums as well. Some of the same troubling trends plaguing homeowners insurance are also driving up the cost of commercial property insurance. If you are wondering why commercial property insurance rates are increasing here are some of the major factors.

Troubling trends in commercial property insurance

As a business owner, you carry commercial property insurance to protect your company’s physical assets—such as office equipment, inventory, and the physical property you own or rent. You can buy commercial property insurance by itself, or as part of a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP). Covered perils generally include fire, explosion, storms, theft, and vandalism. Since the coverage protects your financial investment in physical property, the premium increases are being driven by factors which include:

Catastrophic losses—In the U.S., we’ve endured more frequent and catastrophic storms, floods, tornadoes and fires than usual. There have been 89 weather/climate/disaster events over the past five years with losses totaling more than 764 billion dollars, according to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Rising construction and replacement costs—Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace damaged or destroyed property without deducting for depreciation, up to the policy limit. Rising retail prices mean property items are more expensive to replace. In addition, construction costs have risen, largely driven by the cost of lumber and steel. Shortages in materials, project delays, and a shortage of skilled labor are also increasing the amount of time and money it takes to rebuild after a loss.

Cost of reinsurance—Reinsurance is “insurance for insurance companies.” It’s a way for insurance companies to limit the extent of their own losses in case of disaster. Global reinsurance rates have been rising for several years.

The danger of being underinsured

Even though the cost of business insurance is rising, it’s still an essential part of your business plan. As the U.S. Small Business Administration notes, statistics show 1 in 4 small businesses will have to close if hit by any type of catastrophe. Carrying the proper business insurance can help you avoid that fate. Even if you carry commercial property insurance, you should remain vigilant that you’re not underinsured, meaning you don’t have the right coverage or enough coverage for the risks your business faces. That’s where an expert in insurance can help!

L & M Insurance Group—your partner in commercial insurance

Is it time to review your commercial property insurance? Let L & M Insurance Group help you protect your business. We are an independent insurance agency, with the expertise to find the best coverage for your unique situation. Please call us at 813-672-4100 to discuss your commercial property insurance needs, or request a quote online.

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L & M Insurance Group Is Your Source for Affordable Commercial Auto Insurance in Florida

Of all the many decisions Florida business owners have, choosing the right commercial insurance coverage is one of the most important. Without proper insurance protection, you could easily find yourself in serious financial trouble—you might even lose your business. L & M Insurance Group can help you with all your commercial insurance needs, but today we’re going to highlight commercial auto insurance.

Who needs commercial auto insurance?

Anyone who operates one or more vehicles in the course of doing business, or who owns or leases a vehicle for business use needs commercial auto insurance (also known as business auto insurance). All kinds of businesses need commercial auto insurance, including trucking and hauling services, taxi or limo services, moving companies, delivery services, repair services, locksmiths, landscaping companies, and day care or van services. You need a commercial auto policy if:

  • The vehicle is registered in the name of the business
  • You have permanently attached equipment or pull a trailer in relation to your work
  • You have a commercial license plate
  • You have a sign or advertising for the business on your vehicle
  • Employees drive the vehicle, or drive their own vehicles while working for your business
  • The vehicle is used to deliver packages or food
  • The vehicle is used to transport clients or other employees
  • You transport people for a fee, such as driving for Uber or Lyft

Don’t expect your personal auto policy to cover business use. Business use is almost always excluded under personal auto policies, and your insurance company could deny claims if they find you’re using your vehicle in your business. (If you still have questions about whether your usage qualifies as business use, please consult a commercial auto agent.)

A commercial auto insurance policy offers the same types of coverages as a personal auto policy, including liability (property damage, bodily injury, uninsured motorist) and comprehensive and collision. Commercial auto policies are designed to address the needs of the business owner, and whatever situations might arise from business use of a vehicle. The good news is that the cost of commercial insurance is often quite reasonable—and not always more expensive than a personal auto policy. The best thing to do is to discuss the types of coverage and limits you need with a commercial auto insurance agent, like one of the professionals at L & M Insurance Group.

How to get a commercial auto insurance quote

It’s simple! Just give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online. Our experienced agents will help you choose a commercial auto policy that suits your needs. Some info that will help us give you the most accurate quote includes:

  • How many vehicles you need to have insured
  • Who the drivers will be, and as much of their driving history as you know
  • How the vehicles are used
  • Whether or not you transport cargo or people
  • How many miles will be driven each year

Protect your business with a commercial auto policy

A commercial auto policy will help to protect your business—and you, personally—from financial loss stemming from the cost of an accident if you or one of your employees is at fault. L & M Insurance Group writes commercial auto insurance for both large and small businesses. We have more than 30 years’ experience serving the insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding communities. Please give us the chance to help you protect your business!

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Make These Insurance Resolutions for the New Year

At the start of a new year, many people resolve to get their finances in order. L & M Insurance Group would like to remind you that appropriate insurance coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from financial disaster. Insurance can protect your most valuable assets, like your home and your vehicle, protect you from lawsuits, and even care for your family after you’re gone.

Here are a few things you can resolve to do now to make sure you have the financial protection you need—for the lowest possible insurance premiums.

Review your life changes. Was 2021 was an eventful year for you? Did you experience any major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child? Did you renovate your house, buy a new vehicle, turn 55, or start a business? Become an empty nester? Even if you already notified your insurance agent about these changes, now is a good time to do a more thorough review of your insurance coverage to make sure you’re properly protected.

Review your coverage. Once you’ve reviewed your personal situation, you’ll want to see how it lines up with your insurance coverage. Insurance is meant to protect your financial assets in case of accident, crime, or disaster, including providing liability protection in case someone sues you. Some common areas of concern we see frequently include:

For auto insurance, do you carry bodily injury in high enough limits? (Insurance experts recommend 100,000/300,000 for most situations, even though Florida state requirements are much lower.) Do you carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage? (In Florida, we have many un- or under-insured drivers on the roads, so we recommend carrying UM coverage.)

For home insurance, does your policy provide replacement cost coverage? Your home should be insured for enough to rebuild, repair, or replace it and your personal possessions with comparable quality—not just for how much you owe on your mortgage or the home’s market value.

And speaking of personal possessions, did you buy or receive any expensive items in 2021—such as jewelry, art, or home electronics? High value items may need special coverage, over and above what is covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Consider your life insurance needs. Do you have life insurance? Do you need it? If you do have life insurance, be sure that your policy is up to date with the correct beneficiary, and any other details that may have changed. Life insurance is surprisingly affordable, especially for younger people who are most in need of it to help safeguard their families’ futures. If you don’t have life insurance but would like to explore your options, please call 813-672-4100, or click here for an online quote.

Keep your driving record clean. Still one of the most basic things you can do to keep your auto insurance rates down!

Maintain or improve your credit record. Many insurance companies look at your credit when calculating insurance premiums. Boosting your credit record can result in cheaper insurance rates and more policy options to choose from. (Even if your credit is not great, L & M Insurance Group can still help. Give us a call at 813-672-4100.)

Work with an independent agency. Independent agencies, like L & M Insurance Group, represent multiple insurance carriers instead of just one. This means we have more flexibility to shop for the best policy and insurance company for your individual situation. We can also write just about any type of insurance you need, including personal and commercial auto, home, life, renters, and business insurance. And OUR number one new year’s resolution is to help YOU find the best insurance deal! Give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for all your insurance needs.

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Protect Your Vacant Investment Properties

Property investors who own rental properties, or who buy, renovate and resell homes, may occasionally find they have vacant properties on their hands. If your property is vacant, it could be a magnet for trouble, attracting thieves, vandals, squatters, even neighborhood kids looking for a place to hang out. Here are seven steps to take to protect your vacant investment properties:

1. Secure the property

Make it hard to get in by ensuring doors and windows have sturdy locks, and keep them locked! If a tenant has recently moved out, have the locks changed or re-keyed. You may also consider reinforcing exterior doors with metal doorjamb or hinge shields in case someone tries to kick down the door.

2. Monitor and maintain the exterior

Check on your vacant property frequently to make sure it’s secure. Keep landscaping tidy by pruning shrubs and keeping lawns mowed. Make sure plants and trees don’t provide hiding spots or cover for thieves or vandals. Remove any mail or newspapers that arrive—nothing says no one is home more quickly than a stack of newspapers in a driveway or an overflowing mailbox.

To guard against fire, remove any flammable debris around the structure, including construction materials, dead vegetation, paper, cardboard, and so on.

3. Light the property at night

To deter thieves and vandals, make sure your property has working exterior lighting, either on a motion sensor or a timer. In addition, have a few lights on timers inside the property to help it make it look like someone is there. These simple measures can make a casual thief or vandal think the property is occupied.

4. Set up an alarm system

In some cases, you may want to set up security cameras or an alarm system to protect your investment property. Even if you don’t have an alarm system, simply placing a sign or sticker saying you do may help to deter thieves.

5. Make friends with the neighbors

If possible, become friendly with the neighbors near your property. They can act as an extra set of eyes and ears when you’re not around. Give them contact information, yours or your property manager’s, to call regarding any suspicious activity.

6. Advertise wisely

While you want potential buyers or renters to know your property is available, you should be careful about how you share information. Don’t share too much with people calling or inquiring online. Some professional thieves locate vacant properties to hit this way. You’ll probably want to leave a For Sale sign up, but you might consider whether leaving a For Rent sign at your vacant property may attract unwanted attention.

7. Carry insurance

Vacant properties and properties being renovated still need insurance coverage, to protect the structures themselves, and your liability as a property owner. You may need a builder’s risk policy that provides coverage for damage to the insured structure and liability coverage during renovation. Or perhaps you need a vacant dwelling policy, which covers properties that do not meet the requirements for a builder’s risk policy, properties that are between tenants, or those waiting for a buyer. If you have any questions about what type of insurance you need…

We can help!

The agents at L & M Insurance Group have years of experience working with property investors, and we’re familiar with the insurance requirements of properties purchased in the name of an entity such as a land trust, LLC, or corporation. We are proud to partner with companies that also understand your needs—like REInsurePro, an insurance program specifically designed with real estate investors in mind.

Please allow us to help you with all your insurance needs including protecting your vacant property. You may reach us by phone (813-672-4100) or contact us online by clicking here. For more than 30 years, L & M Insurance Group has been serving the personal and commercial insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Tampa, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and surrounding communities.

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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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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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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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Commercial Landlords: Protect Your Liability with Lessors Risk Insurance

Owning a commercial building that you lease to others can be a great investment, but it’s not without risk. That’s why making sure you have the right insurance coverage to protect both your physical property and your liability in case of a lawsuit is crucial. This week, let’s talk about lessors risk insurance, also sometimes called landlord’s insurance.

What is lessors risk insurance?

Lessors risk is a type of small business insurance which protects you if you own a building that you lease or rent out as commercial space, such as retail, warehouse, or office space. It provides property damage coverage as well as liability coverage in case one of your tenants sues you because of a covered event that took place in your building or on your property. Of course, your tenant(s) should also carry their own general liability and commercial property insurance, but lessors risk is an important protection for you as a landlord.

Covered risks may include injury due to slip and fall, weather damage, fire, water damage (from a burst pipe or sewer back up), theft, vandalism, and auto accidents on the property.

To be eligible for lessors risk insurance, you as the landlord may not occupy more than 25 percent of the building. Generally, the building must be completely or mostly occupied, have no electrical hazards, have working smoke detectors, sprinklers and fire extinguishers, and be properly maintained.

You will be able to choose the coverage limits you want to carry. Many landlords find one million dollars worth of liability coverage to be enough, though each situation is different. However, if you have multiple tenants or tenants who engage in hazardous business, like manufacturing, for example, you may need higher limits.

Look to L & M Insurance Group for all your insurance needs

Whether you need business insurance (like lessors risk) or personal insurance, the experts at L & M Insurance Group are here for you. We’ve been helping customers find coverage tailored to their needs for more than 30 years. If you’d like an insurance quote, please call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us online. L & M Insurance Group is a full service, independent insurance agency, primarily serving the communities of Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding areas. We hope you’ll allow us to be your partner in business, and in life. 

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Does Your Small Business Need Commercial Property Insurance?

As a business owner, you face many financial risks. For example, if your office or workspace is damaged or destroyed, not only have you lost your assets; you may have also lost your ability to do business at all. Even if you don’t own your own building, if your business has physical assets, you need commercial property insurance to cover your equipment, tools, or inventory.

What it covers

Commercial property insurance covers property owned by your business, including your building, equipment, inventory, furniture, documents, storage sheds, attached outdoor signs and other business assets, with some exceptions explained below. It will pay to repair or replace property damaged, destroyed, or stolen, including property belonging to others under your care and custody. Perils covered include fire, theft, damage from faulty plumbing, wind, and vandalism. Many policies also include coverage for loss of income or increased business expenses due to a covered peril.

What it doesn’t cover

Commercial property insurance does not cover vehicles used in your business—for that, you’ll need a commercial auto policy.

If your business is in a flood zone, you’ll need a separate flood policy, either through the National Flood Insurance Program or through one of the private companies offering flood insurance in Florida.

Commercial property insurance also doesn’t protect your liability if someone sues you. If you also need liability coverage, consider buying a Business Owners Policy (BOP) that combines commercial property insurance with general liability coverage.

Custom coverage

When discussing your business with your insurance agent, be sure to mention whether you transport equipment or supplies to work sites, or your work primarily takes place away from your physical business address. A typical commercial property insurance policy doesn’t cover your assets if they are removed from your business premises, but this is a fairly common issue so insurance companies do offer special coverage for that.

An insurance agent experienced in writing commercial insurance, such as those at L & M Insurance Group, will be able to help you decide what coverage you need to carry to protect your business assets. Take time to answer your agent’s questions—he or she is on your side, working to make sure you not only get the best insurance rate, but you also get the coverage you need for your unique business.

Commercial property insurance is an affordable way to reduce risk to your business’ financial health. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 for a quote, or to discuss your business insurance needs. You may also contact us online by clicking here.