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Prepare Now for the 2022 Hurricane Season

It’s that time again. Just like death and taxes, preparing for the Atlantic hurricane season every year is inevitable for Tampa Bay residents. However, just because it happens every year, doesn’t mean you should become complacent or neglect your preparations. You and your loved ones have a much better chance of riding out the season safely if you take a few minutes to review your hurricane season plans. (And if this is your first Florida hurricane season, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post for more detailed information!)

Before the storms

One of the first steps you should take is to review your homeowners insurance policy limits and coverage. See the declarations page of your policy for this information. Are the policy limits adequate to repair or rebuild your home? What about coverage for your personal property? An up-to-date home inventory will help to make the process smoother if you need to make a claim. Take photos or video of your belongings, and keep receipts for big ticket items.

Remember, homeowners policies have a special deductible which applies only to hurricanes. It’s usually a percentage of your home’s insured value rather than a flat dollar amount, as with a fire or theft claim. While raising your deductible may save you a little money on your premiums, you’ll need to be sure you’re able to pay that deductible should you need to make a claim.

Please call your agent at L & M Insurance Group (813-672-4100) if you need help understanding your policy, if you need to adjust your policy limits, or you need a homeowners insurance quote.

Consider buying flood insurance, even if you’re not in a flood zone. Ninety percent of all natural disasters involve flooding, and flood damage is NOT covered under homeowners insurance. (Click here for a flood insurance quote.)

You might also consider sewer backup coverage, which is also not covered by standard homeowners insurance. It can usually be added to a policy for a nominal fee.

Important: If you decide to buy flood insurance, or make changes to your homeowners insurance policy, don’t wait until a storm is brewing. Coverage cannot be bound when a storm is approaching.

Store your insurance agent’s number and the claims number for your homeowners insurance company in your phone, and make a note of your homeowners insurance policy number.

Collect emergency supplies, especially water (one gallon per person/per day for at least seven days). You’ll also want to stash non-perishable food, extra batteries, first aid supplies, prescription medications, diapers and formula, and pet supplies.

Make plans for evacuation if you’re in an evacuation zone. Know where to go and what to take with you.

Make other basic preparations, including gassing up your car and checking air in tires, as well as oil and water levels. Have some cash on hand, charge your cell phone, tablet, and laptop, and refill prescriptions if possible. Have a portable, battery-operated or NOAA weather radio available for storm updates and instructions if the power is out.

Enable wireless emergency alerts on your cell phone.

Prepare your home and landscaping against a hurricane’s effects. Have trees and branches trimmed, especially those hanging over a structure. Consider installing storm shutters and a wind-rated garage door. Plan what to do with smaller items like potted plants, children’s toys, pool and patio furniture.

If a storm is imminent, turn the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings to keep food cooler longer. You may also want to store some perishable items you’ll want access to in a cooler with ice if the power goes out. If you don’t open the door to the refrigerator or freezer, the food will also stay cooler longer. Please be mindful of food safety—click here for more information.

Clean and fill tubs and sinks with water to use for flushing toilets and washing.

During the storm

Stay inside and away from windows, glass doors, or skylights. The safest spot is an interior room with no windows. Close the garage door, exterior doors and windows, as well as all interior doors. Research found that closing interior doors helped to compartmentalize pressure inside a home, reducing pressure on the roof by as much as 30 percent.

Preparing for a hurricane ahead of time can help you minimize its impact. Spend a few minutes now reviewing what you plan to do, what supplies you have on hand, and which ones you need to replenish. Check out the links below for more detailed information. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is here to serve all your insurance needs. Please let one of our agents help you make sure you’ve got the homeowners insurance coverage that best fits your needs this hurricane season, and beyond. Call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

For more information:

Hillsborough County Disaster Planning Guide

Floridadisaster.org

Ready.gov

NOAA.gov

Weather.gov

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AOB Abuse and Fraud Help to Drive the High Cost of Insurance

If you’ve purchased or renewed homeowners insurance lately, you know that premiums are skyrocketing. While there are several factors driving Florida’s insurance crisis, our high insurance prices are, in part, due to fraud and assignment of benefits abuse.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening.

What is Assignment of Benefits (AOB)?

Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a legal agreement between a policyholder and a third party in which the policyholder gives (“assigns”) some of his or her rights and benefits under the policy to that third party. Under certain circumstances, this works well, such as when preapproved health care service providers bill your health insurance company directly for covered benefits. However, in the world of homeowners (and auto insurance), AOB abuse has become rampant, adding more strain to an already stressed insurance market. Most AOB abuse claims stem from homeowners insurance (primarily related to roofing scams or water losses), PIP claims, and damaged windshields. This article will address AOB abuse related to homeowners insurance claims.

What does AOB abuse entail?

In Florida, two things are at play. First, unscrupulous companies are submitting inflated or fraudulent homeowners insurance claims. One common scenario involves roofing companies canvassing a neighborhood after a storm, offering “free roof replacement” after they look for damage that may or may not exist or be caused by that storm. In this and other situations, fraudulent contractors also may do unnecessary repairs, overcharge for repairs, or in some cases, charge for repairs they don’t make.

Second, when an insurance company balks at paying an inflated claim, the fraudulent contractors are hiring attorneys to file excessive lawsuits alleging breach of contract or bad faith. In some cases, lawsuits have been filed even before the insurance company has been notified of the claim!

As we noted in a previous article, “Florida has, by far, the largest number of lawsuits related to homeowners insurance claims. For instance, in 2019, only 8.15 percent of all homeowners claims in the U.S. were filed in Florida, but more than 76 percent of property claim lawsuits were filed here. And what’s worse: only eight percent of the fifteen billion dollars that property insurance companies paid out in claims costs between 2013 and 2020 went to consumers. Seventy-one percent went to attorneys!”

Of course, not every claim is inflated, nor is every lawsuit unwarranted. But Florida currently has an environment of abuse.

AOB abuse “acts like a tax”

Put plainly, even if you’ve never had an insurance claim, AOB abuse and fraud are costing you money. Insurance companies have no choice but to pass legal costs to defend AOB lawsuits as well as the costs of inflated claims to all insurance consumers. According to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), “…had legal costs tracked nationwide averages, the cumulative total savings for Florida homeowners insurers (and their policyholders) would have been nearly $1.6 billion.” This statistic only refers to legal costs themselves, not the amount of money paid out in inflated claims settlements. “AOB abuse acts like a tax on Florida consumers,” according to iii.org.

If you have a claim

If you have a homeowners insurance claim, contact your insurance company as soon as you can. Most have 24/7 claims service, either by phone or online. Insurance company representatives will be happy to walk you through the claims process. Don’t allow a contractor or water remediation company to contact your insurance company for you. You don’t need to sign an AOB to have your claim paid.

(For more information, see “Demolish Contractor Fraud.”)

L & M Insurance Group—your source for insurance

We hope this has helped you understand one of the major factors driving the skyrocketing costs of insurance in Florida. Please remember that reputable insurance companies, like the ones L & M Insurance Group represents, will be there for you if you have a claim. If you need a quote for personal auto, homeowners, renters, or business insurance, we partner with multiple insurance companies, and our agents are experts at finding the right match for your individual situation. Please call 813-672-4100 or click here to contact us online.

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Help Prevent Homeowners Disasters With This Spring Maintenance Checklist

There are always plenty of things to do to maintain your Florida home—and spring is the perfect time to cross a few items off that home maintenance list. While there are many more than we’ve listed here, these spring home maintenance tasks will help you protect your home and family from two of the worst perils a homeowner can face: home fires and water damage.

Fire protection

Home fires are every homeowner’s nightmare. Once a fire starts, you may have as little as two minutes to escape. That’s why it’s so important to do everything you can to prevent fires and make sure you’ll be alerted immediately if a fire starts. (Click here for more information on what to do before, during, and after a fire.)

  • Test smoke alarms and replace batteries. According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately three out of five fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms when they reach 10 years old.
  • Check fire extinguishers and replace if out of date. And make sure you know how to use them!
  • Clean dryer vent ductwork. You should clean your lint filter after every load, but it’s also important to have dryer hoses and vents cleaned on a regular basis to prevent lint fires.
  • Test GFCI outlets. These outlets prevent electrical shock, and can also help to prevent electrical fires.
  • Inspect and clean refrigerator coils. In addition to helping to prevent fire, cleaning coils can help your refrigerator run more efficiently.

Prevent water damage

Water damage is extremely expensive to repair, and depending on the cause, may not be covered by homeowners insurance. Proper home maintenance is the best way to avoid water damage. Take these precautions to help prevent water intrusion or damage to your home.

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves and other debris can clog them and allow water to run down your home’s exterior and pool at its foundation where it can seep in through any existing cracks. Make sure downspouts direct water away from your home.
  • Check your foundation for drainage problems or water damage and make necessary repairs.
  • Repair any leaks or other damage to your roof.
  • Check plumbing for leaks, especially around toilet bases and under sinks. Consider installing a leak detector device.
  • Inspect exterior doors and windows for leaks. Caulk or apply weatherstripping to make a tight seal to reduce water intrusion.
  • Check appliance hoses (washing machine, dishwasher, icemaker) for damage or leaks.

And while this isn’t a maintenance issue, make sure you know where the main water shutoff is to your home so you can quickly turn off the water in case of a leak or burst pipe.

Is it time for a homeowners insurance review?

Once you’ve completed your spring home maintenance, you may want to review your homeowners insurance. The Florida homeowners insurance market remains in turmoil, but L & M Insurance Group is here to help. We write with multiple insurance companies, and will be happy to review your homeowners policy with you, or to give you a homeowners insurance quote. Please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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Builder’s Risk—Insurance for New Builds and Renovations

In this tough real estate market, you’re excited that you found an older home to completely renovate before moving in. It’s going well—then you get the phone call. A fire burned the structure to the ground. Now what? Did you have the right insurance policy to cover your losses?

When you’re building a new home, or renovating an existing one, you need a specialized kind of insurance coverage. A standard homeowners policy (HO-3) will not cover homes while they’re being built, or in the case above, while they’re being renovated. You need a builder’s risk policy to protect your financial investment during the construction process.

What is builder’s risk insurance?

Builder’s risk insurance protects a home from property damage and loss while it’s being built. This can be new construction from the ground up, or coverage for a major renovation project. Builder’s risk is a valuable coverage for both property investors and private homeowners, and it can cover either residential or commercial properties.

Most builder’s risk policies cover damage to the building itself and/or the construction materials on site from perils such as:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Fire
  • Explosion
  • Lightning
  • Wind and hail

Builder’s risk policy premiums are calculated using several factors, including location of property, type of project, type of construction, and the estimated date of completion. The property will typically be insured based on the estimated cost to rebuild the completed home. An experienced insurance agent, like those at L & M Insurance Group, can help you figure out the coverage limits and deductibles best for you.

Since there is always some uncertainty surrounding construction timelines, especially now with supply chain and labor shortages, builder’s risk policies offer flexible policy term lengths. Many builder’s risk policies are written for nine months to a year, and can be rewritten if construction is delayed. We also can write policies for as short a time as one month if the project is a short-term one.

Don’t forget liability coverage

A construction site can be a dangerous place. What about liability coverage? Builder’s risk policies do not provide liability coverage for claims that happen during the construction period—for example, if someone is injured while on the property. Be sure to ask your L & M Insurance Group agent to explain your options for protecting your liability in this situation.

Choose L & M Insurance Group for your builder’s risk needs

L & M Insurance Group has years of experience working with individual homeowners as well as property investors in organizations like SREIA (Suncoast Real Estate Investors Association), TBREIA (Tampa Bay Real Estate Investors Association), Sarasota REIA, and GOREIA (Greater Orlando Real Estate Investors Association). If you would like more information about builder’s risk policies, or if you’d like a quote, please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online. We understand the insurance needs of property investors as well as private individuals, and would love to help you with all your insurance needs.

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Three Things You Should Know About Water Damage

When you think of Florida, you probably also think of water. We’re lucky to have gorgeous rivers, lakes, and the ocean practically right on our doorstep. Unfortunately, we also have the ever-present threat of water damage—whether from leaks, flooding, or sewer backup.

Florida residents file thousands of water damage claims every year. Water damage claims are second only to wind and hail claims in frequency. The high cost of water damage claims is one of the factors contributing to higher insurance premiums for everyone, and because of this, most homeowners insurance companies now put restrictions and limits on water damage coverage.

Here are three things you should know about water damage.

Water damage is expensive

The average home insurance claim for water damage is $11,098, and nationwide household water damage claims cost up to $20 billion each year. One inch of water can cause more than $25,000 worth of damage.

Water damage isn’t always covered by homeowners insurance

Water damage causes include burst pipes, leaks (either plumbing or roof), appliance failures, sewer backup, and flooding. Homeowners policies generally cover the “sudden and accidental discharge of water,” such as from a burst pipe, accidental overflow of an appliance or fixture, or water damage done in the course of putting out a fire. They won’t cover water damage caused by maintenance issues or failure to make repairs. Frequently, there is no coverage for water damage if mold is present or it is clear that the damage has been in existence for 14 days or more without being fixed. The key is that the problem must be sudden and accidental, not an ongoing maintenance/repair issue.

Sewer backup isn’t covered by most Florida homeowners policies, but you can add coverage via endorsement for a nominal amount of money.

What about water damage from flooding? Flood damage is not covered under a Florida homeowners insurance policy, regardless of the cause of the flooding. If you need flood coverage, you can buy a separate flood insurance policy.

When shopping for homeowners insurance, be sure to read your potential policy carefully, and ask your agent to explain any water damage exclusions or restrictions if you have questions.

You can help prevent water damage

There are some home maintenance tasks you should do to minimize significant water damage to your home, including:

  • Inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles and make repairs if necessary.
  • Caulk and seal windows.
  • Inspect and maintain your plumbing system.
  • Know the location of the main water shut-off valve to your home. Being able to shut off the water quickly can minimize damage if a pipe or hose bursts.
  • Replace your traditional water heater every 10 years.
  • Shut off the water supply to your washing machine when you go out of town.
  • Don’t leave the house when the dishwasher or washing machine are running.
  • Check that gutters and downspouts are clear, and that water drains away from your foundation.
  • Install a humidity sensor in areas where a leak might occur, such as near a washing machine or dishwasher.
  • Install a wireless water valve—these monitor water flow and usage and can potentially alert you to a leak.

Let L & M Insurance Group help

If you’re in the market for a new homeowners insurance policy, you want to know that you have the appropriate coverage for your needs, including water damage coverage. We know sorting through insurance information can be confusing. That’s where we can help. Please consider independent insurance agency L & M Insurance Group for all your insurance needs, including homeowners insurance. We have many years of experience serving the communities of Tampa Bay, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding areas. Give us a call at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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Florida Home and Auto Premiums Are Skyrocketing—Is There Anything You Can Do?

Almost every day we receive calls or emails from upset clients whose insurance premiums are going up, even when they’ve never made a claim. Some policies are going up by hundreds of dollars per year—what is happening?

The Florida insurance market is in crisis, particularly the homeowners and auto insurance sectors. A perfect storm of factors is contributing to today’s skyrocketing premiums and a market in which it’s getting harder to find insurance at all. In addition to rate increases, insurance companies are pulling out of Florida and tightening their underwriting guidelines. Florida consumers are facing insurance premium sticker shock and are finding it harder and harder to get the insurance coverage they need at a price they can afford.

Why insurance premiums are skyrocketing

As a locally-owned, independent insurance agency, L & M Insurance Group is committed to helping you find insurance that fits your needs and that you can afford. We also want to help you understand the factors contributing to this crisis. Here are the main reasons Florida insurance is seeing such steep increases:

Catastrophic losses. In 2020, Florida insurers lost nearly $1.6 billion dollars, and are reporting even greater losses in 2021. These losses mainly stem from litigation and reinsurance costs (see below), as well as continued payouts for hurricanes Irma and Michael.

Reinsurance costs. It might seem odd that wildfires in California or Australia would affect the price of insurance in Florida, but they can. That’s because disasters all over the world affect the cost of reinsurance for everyone. Reinsurance is “insurance for insurers”—a way for insurance companies to limit the extent of their own losses in case of disaster. The cost of reinsurance has been rising, and experts expect it to continue going up.

Skyrocketing construction and repair expenses. With the price of everything from car parts to lumber going up, it costs more than it did in past years to repair your vehicle or rebuild your house in case of a loss.

In addition, the value of vehicles and homes is also going up, which means in order for you to receive replacement cost in case of a loss, your insurance company will have to pay out more. It follows that if a covered item is worth more, then the cost of insuring it will be more.

Labor shortages are also affecting the price of construction, home, and auto repair. (Read more about how supply chain issues and labor shortages are affecting car insurance premiums.)

Lawsuits and fraud. For years, bad actors have exploited both policyholders and property insurers. Homeowners have been talked into filing claims and lawsuits by third parties like attorneys, contractors, or water remediation firms. Often times, homeowners don’t understand the claims process, or are relieved to have someone else take over. Unfortunately, every insurance consumer in Florida is paying the price for inflated or fraudulent claims and lawsuits.

Florida has, by far, the largest number of lawsuits related to homeowners insurance claims. For instance, in 2019, only 8.15 percent of all homeowners claims in the U.S. were filed in Florida, but more than 76 percent of property claim lawsuits were filed here. And what’s worse: only eight percent of the fifteen billion dollars that property insurance companies paid out in claims costs between 2013 and 2020 went to consumers. Seventy-one percent went to attorneys!

What can you do?

Much of what is happening in the insurance industry is out of individuals’ control, but here are three things you can do:

Review your insurance needs with an L & M Insurance Group agent. We can help you make sure you have the appropriate coverage for your situation, and that you’re taking advantage of all discounts available to you. We can also discuss whether or not an option such as switching to a higher deductible to lower your insurance premium is right for you.

If you have a claim, be sure to contact your insurance agent and/or your insurance company yourself. Do not sign anything without talking to your insurance agent or directly to your insurance company.

Contact your elected officials and tell them that continued insurance reform is still needed. Though recent legislation has helped to reduce assignment of benefits lawsuits, other types of lawsuits are still going up, at a cost to all of us.

We at L & M Insurance Group understand your worries and frustrations about the cost of home and auto insurance. We promise we will do the best we can under these difficult circumstances to provide you with the best coverage at the most cost-effective price. Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you need to discuss your insurance options. If you prefer, you may also contact us online.

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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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Home Shopping in Tampa Bay? These Factors Can Affect Your Homeowners Insurance Rates

If you’re looking for a home in the Tampa Bay area, you’re home shopping in a real estate market that’s as hot as one of our August days! Zillow reported that home prices are still increasing, and that homes spent a median of just six days on the market in the months of September and October.

As thrilling as buying a home can be, it is a big investment and you have many decisions to make and options to consider. Many people don’t think about the additional expenses which come with being a Florida homeowner. One of those expenses—homeowners insurance—can be a significant cost in our area. If you want to keep your homeowners insurance rates as low as possible, here are a few factors that will affect your premiums:

Credit rating

You’re probably already dialed in to how important your credit rating is since you’re trying to qualify for a home loan. But did you know that good credit can often net you lower homeowners insurance premiums? If your credit is less than stellar, now is the time to try to improve it.

Location, location, location

Where your home is located is important for many reasons. You may be considering school districts, your commute to work, and other factors. Homeowners insurance companies are interested in things like how close you are to the coast, and if you’re near a fire department or even a fire hydrant.

In Florida, you also need to be aware of your potential home’s flood zone. Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t include flood coverage, and many areas in our communities are prone to flooding, even if they aren’t in what’s considered a high risk zone.

Age, size, and condition of home

Common sense tells us that it will cost more to insure a larger or more luxurious home, or a home near the water. Additional factors that matter include things like the home’s roof and its systems, like plumbing and electrical. Many homeowners insurance companies have strict underwriting guidelines for roofs—if your prospective home has an older roof, you may pay more or even have trouble getting coverage at all. And if you’re looking at an older home, note whether the home’s systems have been updated. A home that is well constructed, under up-to-date building standards, will be more likely to withstand natural disasters—and cost less to insure. Be sure to have a home inspection done on any home you’re considering buying.

Special features

As wonderful as it is to have a pool or hot tub, these special features can drive up the cost of your homeowners insurance. You will want to be sure to carry enough liability coverage in case someone is injured and sues you. You may even need an umbrella policy in addition to your homeowners insurance in order to protect your financial assets from possible lawsuits.

The home’s loss history report

Prior claims filed on the home by the previous owner are also a big factor in obtaining homeowners insurance coverage. Lenders are starting to require loss history reports from the seller to make sure the home will qualify for new coverage. Let your real estate agent know you’ll need this information.

Shopping for homeowners insurance?

Don’t wait until the last minute to look for homeowners insurance coverage for your new property. In today’s tumultuous insurance market, you want to choose an insurance agency you can trust—like L & M Insurance Group. We’ve been serving the needs of our neighbors in Tampa, Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities for more than 30 years. Give one of our agents a call at 813-672-4100, or click here for a homeowners insurance quote. Our agency is local and independent, and we represent multiple financially sound homeowners insurance companies. Let us find a homeowners insurance policy that is just right for you!

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Fall Maintenance for Your Florida Home

Florida homeowners may not have to prepare for cold weather the same way our northern neighbors do—but fall is still a great time to perform some important home maintenance tasks. Keeping your home in good shape will save you money by preventing expensive home repairs later, and is more likely to help your home withstand Florida’s extreme weather.

Fall is the perfect time to address some of these tasks—since hurricane season is over and the temperatures and humidity have eased. Some of the following maintenance tasks you can do yourself. For others, look for a reputable professional company to do the inspections or repairs. And remember, homeowners insurance is for unexpected damage to your home, not routine maintenance.

As any homeowner knows, there are many necessary home maintenance tasks, but for now, we’ll concentrate on ones that relate to two of your home’s biggest enemies: fire and water.

Fire prevention                                                                                                                

Did you know that during the approaching holiday season, the risk of a home fire rises? Be prepared by making sure your fire extinguisher is full and properly pressurized, and that you know how to use it. You should also test your smoke detectors and replace batteries as necessary.

Even in Florida, it’s nice to sit around a cozy fireplace. Before you light that first fire, ensure your fireplace flue and gas line are in good condition. You may need a professional to inspect your chimney, and to clean it and remove any blockages. A blocked chimney can send toxic gasses and smoke into your home, or even start a fire.

Gutters and downspouts

Gutters and downspouts serve an important purpose by channeling water away from your home’s foundation. Blocked or damaged gutters allow water to drip and pool around your home, possibly causing flooding or roof leaks, or damaging your foundation. Clear out leaves or other debris or blockages in your gutters, and repair any damage to gutters and downspouts. And check that water drains away from the house, not toward it.

Roof

Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against rain and wind. Though we had a relatively mild storm season, fall is a great time to check your roof for any damage. Look for popped nails, broken, or damaged shingles, and check flashing around skylights, pipes, and chimneys. Keeping your roof in good repair keeps water from entering your home, damaging the structure or causing mold growth. Tip: Try using a pair of binoculars to examine your roof—no ladder climbing necessary.

Windows and door seals

Another area to inspect and fix to keep moisture out: the seals around windows and doors. A well-sealed home also helps to keep cool or warm air in and rodents, and insects out. Re-caulk or re-weatherstrip any holes or gaps you find near windows, doors, or baseboards.

The role of homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance is another important way to protect your home. The right policy will help you rebuild your home and replace your belongings should they be damaged or destroyed by a covered peril. That’s where L & M Insurance Group can help! We represent multiple homeowners insurance companies, and our agents will be happy to help you find the coverage that’s best for you. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 (or click here to request a quote online). As a local, independently-owned insurance agency (based in the Brandon/Riverview area), we’re experts in the complicated Florida homeowners insurance market.

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Homeowners Insurance and the Attractive Nuisance

As summer winds down, your family might be spending more time playing outdoors—and maybe you have a jungle gym, pool, or even a trampoline so they can have a blast. While these things are great fun for your family and invited guests, how do they affect your homeowners insurance? What if a child comes onto your property without your permission, say maybe when you’re on vacation, and gets hurt while playing in your yard? Are you responsible for that child’s injuries?

You certainly could be.

The attractive nuisance

Items like pools, swing sets, zip lines, trampolines, hot tubs, skateboard ramps, and so on, are not just fun items for your family to enjoy. They’re also what is known as attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is something on your property that is “attractive,” especially to children, but is also potentially dangerous. Even things like heavy equipment (perhaps used for construction or remodeling), holes, and non-working cars can be considered attractive nuisances!

And because of what’s known legally as the attractive nuisance doctrine, homeowners can be held responsible if a child* is injured on their property due to an attractive nuisance. As a homeowner, you are required to safeguard children from an attractive nuisance if at all possible, even children who have not been invited onto your property.

How homeowners insurance is affected

Some attractive nuisances, like pools, may make your home insurance premiums more expensive. Many insurance companies charge higher premiums if you have a pool on your property, due to the higher risk of accident. They will also only cover liability for a pool if you meet state and county requirements regarding fencing or screening in your pool. Pools are not only the cause of drownings, but slippery pool decking can also cause falls. Other backyard equipment, such as trampolines, may even be excluded by some insurance companies, as are diving boards and pool slides. It’s important to disclose the presence of these things on your property to your homeowners insurance agent so he or she can place you with an insurance company that will insure you. Future claims could be denied if your insurance company is not aware of the presence of attractive nuisances such as the ones listed above. Be sure to talk to your insurance agent if you have any questions about what might or might not be covered under your homeowners insurance policy.

Do you have enough liability coverage?

Another consideration: If you have a pool or other backyard play equipment, make sure you have enough liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy to cover the cost of injuries a visitor (invited or uninvited) could incur on your property. If the injury expenses are more than your policy’s limits, you will be responsible for the rest of the cost. Many standard homeowners policies come with a $100,000 limit, but it costs very little to raise that to $300,000. You might also consider buying an umbrella policy, which will kick in once you reach the limit of your homeowners insurance liability coverage.

Aside from buying adequate insurance coverage, if your property contains an attractive nuisance, you also should take precautions that include:

  • Creating physical barriers to the attractive nuisance: a fence with a locked gate around your yard, a fence and alarm for your pool, and so on.
  • Making sure guests, especially children, understand and follow safety guidelines.
  • Supervising children while they’re playing at your home.
  • Installing proper lighting.
  • Keeping walkways clear of items that might cause a trip and fall.

Insurance agents you can trust

At L & M Insurance Group, we understand the importance of finding the right homeowners insurance policy. We are an independent insurance agency partnered with many great homeowners insurance companies, and we’d love to help you find the most cost-effective coverage for your individual situation. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100, or request a quote online. 

*Usually, in Florida, an adult has no right to recover damages incurred while trespassing.