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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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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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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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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.

Home insurance

Auto insurance

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Own a Townhouse or Condo? Which Homeowners Policy Do You Need—an HO-3 or an HO-6?

If you’re buying a townhouse or condo, you might think that because your unit is one of a larger building, your home insurance needs will be different. This is not necessarily true.

The Difference between HO-3 and HO-6 Insurance Policies

As you may be aware, there are several classifications of home insurance policies. If you own a townhouse or condominium, you will likely be buying an HO-3 policy or an HO-6 policy. Both of these policies cover your personal property, the interior finishes of your unit (walls, flooring, ceilings, etc.), and your liability. The main difference between and HO-6 condo policy and an HO-3 policy is that under an HO-6, the building structure and exterior are not covered. Therefore, if your townhouse or condo were to burn down or be destroyed in any other way, you would only receive an insurance claim payout to reimburse you for your personal belongings and the interior finishes—not the structure itself—a considerable difference in reimbursement.

How a Master Building Policy Can Save You Money

Some clients who own or are buying a townhouse ask about the possibility of buying the often cheaper HO-6 condo policy rather than an HO-3 homeowners policy. An HO-6 policy is only appropriate if you have a condo association that has a master building policy that will cover the entire structure of your building, not just part of it.

HO-3 Insurance Policies Protect Your Condo or Townhouse

If your association doesn’t have a master building policy that will pay if your unit is destroyed, your mortgage holder will likely require that you buy an HO-3 rather than an HO-6. Even if you don’t have a mortgage, it’s also in your best interest to do so, because if you have a total loss, your claims payout will come nowhere near being enough to reimburse you for your losses.

An independent agency that works for you

We understand that homeowners insurance in Florida can be expensive, and we all want to save money where we can. However, you don’t want to skimp on insuring your home. The purpose of homeowners insurance is to provide you with peace of mind, whether your home is a townhouse, condominium, or traditional home.

At L & M Insurance Group, we represent multiple homeowners insurance companies, and we’re committed to finding you the most cost-effective policy to suit your needs. Please call us at 813-672-4100, or request a homeowners insurance quote online. We are an independent agency and we work for you!

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Don’t Let Your Holiday Go Up in Flames!

The holiday season is upon us—finally something to celebrate in this challenging year! Most of us are decorating the house, wrapping or mailing gifts for loved ones, and planning (cautious) holiday meals. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a season of accidents, fires, and other mishaps. Just because you’re celebrating, don’t neglect safety precautions. No one wants to have to file a homeowners insurance claim in the middle of their holiday celebrations.

Holiday Fire Prevention Tips

One of the major and most devastating holiday risks is a house fire. Here are some holiday fire safety reminders from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Red Cross:

Christmas trees

  • If you have a live tree, make sure you keep it watered. A dried out Christmas tree can catch fire and burn in an instant (click here to see a video).
  • Even if your tree is artificial, be sure to turn off the lights on your tree before going to bed or leaving the house.

Electrical

  • Make sure holiday light strings are in good condition, with no loose or damaged wires or connections that could shock you or start a fire.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets or connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together—use a power strip if you need more than three strings of lights.
  • Don’t pinch cords or force them into small spaces, put them under rugs, or use staples or nails to position them. Keep all cords away from heat sources.
  • Make sure you hang light strings where they’re intended—some are only for use indoors or outdoors, not both.

Fires and candles

Flickering candles and firelight are certainly beautiful and festive, but they can also lead to home fires.

  • Make sure all open flames are at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire—two out of every five decoration fires happen because decorations are too close to an open flame.
  • Don’t leave candles or fires burning when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Make sure children and pets are not left unattended in a room where there is a fire or burning candles.
  • If you’re celebrating with a menorah or kinara that uses candles, make sure to keep all flammable items at least three feet away, and place it on a non-flammable surface, like a tray covered in aluminum foil.
  • Consider using battery-operated candles, since candles cause more than a third of home decoration fires.
  • If you have a fire in the fireplace, use a fire screen to keep sparks from flying out and starting a fire. Keep clothes, wrapping paper, and decorations at least three feet away.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high and locked away to keep little ones safe.

Cooking

Historically, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have been two of the three leading days for home fires caused by cooking (Thanksgiving is number one).

  • Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stovetop.
  • Turn pot handles toward the back to help keep kids from grabbing them.
  • Make sure all flammable items are kept well away from the stove.

One more thing…

Remember to make sure your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. And if you have one, review your emergency fire escape plan with your family.

No matter how you celebrate this year, we hope you have a very happy and safe holiday season. And remember that if you’re in need of insurance, L & M Insurance Group is here for you. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. Happy holidays!

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Insurance 101: Terms You Should Know

Just like any specialized industry, insurance has its own vocabulary. When you’re shopping for a new policy—or trying to make sense of the policy you already have—it helps to understand some of the most commonly used insurance terms. Plus, understanding these terms can also help you get the best insurance rate. How? Because understanding a few key terms will help you compare policies accurately, buy the coverage you need, and even help determine how much money you’ll receive if you make a claim!

General terms

There are a few general terms that apply to several different types of insurance. For instance, you probably know that a deductible is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. An endorsement (also known as “rider”) is an amendment to the insurance policy that changes its coverage, terms, or conditions. Some examples of endorsements include a change of address when you move, adding or removing a vehicle or driver on an existing auto policy, or adding coverage for sewer backup to a homeowners insurance policy.

Homeowners insurance terms

One of the most important sets of terms you should know is actual cash value versus replacement cost. These terms are most often found in a homeowners insurance policy.

Actual cash value refers to the amount you would be reimbursed for replacing damaged or destroyed property with comparable new property, minus depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace damaged or destroyed property or personal belongings without deducting for depreciation, up to the policy limit. If you make a claim thinking you have replacement cost but you actually have actual cash value, you could receive thousands of dollars less than you expect.

Car insurance terms

Occasionally, clients become confused about the different types of injury and liability coverage available in a car insurance policy.

Some states, including Florida, are no-fault states, meaning that drivers must carry insurance for their own injuries, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. This coverage is called personal injury protection (PIP). It covers both the named insured and his or her passengers.

Property damage pays for damage you cause to another vehicle if you’re at fault in an accident.

Bodily injury refers to coverage for injuries you cause in an at-fault accident.

Uninsured motorist pays for your injuries (once you have used up your PIP) if you’re hit by a driver who does not have bodily injury liability insurance or is underinsured.

Still have questions?

These are just a few of the more commonly asked-about insurance terms. There are many more. If you still have questions, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to explain. Personal service is one of the prime benefits of working with an independent insurance agency like L & M Insurance Group. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have questions about your policy. Please click here for a car insurance quote, or here for a homeowners insurance quote.

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What Your Homeowners Insurance WON’T Cover

You expect your homeowners insurance to protect you if your home is damaged or destroyed by a disaster like a hurricane, if you’re burglarized, even if your home is hit by a car (or an aircraft)! But there are a few things that aren’t covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, and you can save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache if you know what they are. Here are four of the most commonly misunderstood things a standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover:

  • Floods. Many people are surprised to find there is no coverage for flood damage under a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you want flood coverage, you’ll need to buy a separate flood insurance policy. L & M Insurance Group represents several private insurers that write flood insurance policies at a more competitive rate than the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  These private companies also provide higher limits, and often there is no waiting period, unlike with the NFIP policies. 
  • Sewer backup. A sewer backup can do a lot of damage, aside from the “Ick” factor. Anything from tree roots disrupting pipes to storm waters, to an outdated sewage system can cause a sewer backup, and it’s one peril that most homeowners insurance doesn’t cover automatically. The good news is, it’s usually not that expensive to add sewer backup coverage to your homeowners insurance policy. Ask your L & M Insurance Group agent how you can get this coverage.
  • Maintenance issues. Homeowners insurance is not intended to pay for maintenance issues, such as mold or water damage due to a leaking roof, insect or rodent damage, or general wear and tear. For example, if your roof is getting old and needs to be replaced, that is a maintenance issue, not an insurance claim. As a homeowner, you’re expected to maintain your home and keep it in good repair. Neglect or failure to maintain property is not a cause for a homeowner’s insurance claim.
  • High value personal property. Since certain personal property, like jewelry, is easily stolen, most homeowners insurance policies limit personal property coverage to around $1,500. This may not be enough coverage if you have valuable family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, furs, or an art or firearms collection. If you need more coverage, ask your agent for higher policy limits or a special endorsement to cover your valuable property.

Is it time for a homeowners insurance review?

Things change—so it’s a good idea to review your homeowners insurance coverage from time to time to be sure it still meets your financial needs. Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have questions about your homeowners insurance, or you’d like to compare rates. (Click here if you prefer to contact us online.) As an independent insurance agency, L & M Insurance Group works for you, not for any individual insurance company. Our agents are experts in finding the best coverage for the most competitive rates—so give us a call and let us help you!

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Florida’s Extreme Weather: Tornadoes

In addition to preparing for hurricanes, central Floridians should also be aware of another natural disaster common to our area: tornadoes. Surprisingly, Florida has a higher frequency of tornadoes (per 10,000 square miles) than any other state—and the coast between Tampa Bay and Fort Myers is one area particularly affected. While tornadoes in Florida aren’t usually as destructive as those in other areas, the problem, according to some experts, is that Floridians are often taken by surprise by them.

Tornadoes in Florida form because of a number of different weather conditions. They form along squall lines where masses of warm air converge, from isolated summer thunderstorms, within a hurricane, or ahead of the cooler air in a spring cold front coming from the north.

Some of the warning signs of an approaching tornado include:

  • Greenish skies
  • Hail
  • Dark, spinning, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar or rumble, like the sound of a train

So how can you be ready?

What to do

It’s simple to prepare for the possibility of a tornado. Make sure you have a safe room or space in your house that you can retreat to if a tornado is spotted in your area. This room should be on the lowest level of your home, and in a central space that has no windows, perhaps a bathroom, closet, or hallway.  It’s also a good idea to buy a NOAA weather radio, if you don’t already have one, so that you’ll be notified of official Weather Service warnings, watches and other emergency information.

If a tornado has been spotted near your home, head to your safe room, and crouch low to the floor and cover your head with your hands. Experts also recommend covering yourself with a heavy blanket or something similar to protect yourself from falling debris.

If you’re in a public place, such as an office building or store, calmly go to the lowest level, away from glass. Don’t use the elevator because you could become trapped if the power goes out.

If you’re outdoors or driving, head for sturdy shelter immediately.

Once the tornado has passed, check those around you for injuries, and seek help if needed. Also check for damage to your utility lines. Open the windows if you smell gas, and turn off the main valve, and don’t turn on anything electric or light any matches until the gas has dissipated. Turn off electricity if wires are shorting, and do not go near any downed power lines outside, especially if they are in water. Be careful of broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.

Is Tornado damage covered by homeowners insurance?

Tornado damage is usually covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. If a tornado damages your home, contact your homeowners insurance company or your L & M Insurance Group agent as soon as possible. Take photos of damage, and make any temporary repairs you need to avoid further damage.

Need a homeowners insurance quote? Let an L & M Insurance Group agent help you! Please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online. L & M Insurance Group is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency in the Riverview/Tampa/Brandon area. We have more than 25 years of experience helping our neighbors with their insurance needs, and we’d love to help you.