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Prevent House Fires with These Tips

A house fire can be one of the scariest perils a Florida homeowner can face. House fires are a major cause of injury and death at home, and young children and the elderly are most at risk. It only takes a few minutes for a small flame to become a major fire. Let these fire prevention tips help keep your family safe.

How common are house fires? In 2021, according to U.S. Fire Administration estimates, there were 353,500 residential fires, 2,840 deaths, 11,400 injuries, and nearly 9 billion dollars in fire losses.

The most common causes of accidental house fires include cooking mishaps; electrical fires (due to faulty wiring or appliances, overloaded circuits, and so on); fires started by heat sources such as space heaters or fireplaces; and careless smoking (the leading cause of fire deaths). Here are some simple tips to help you prevent a deadly house fire.

Simple fire prevention basics

Cooking fires: Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended. Keep stove free of grease buildup, and make sure flammable items like paper towels or oven mitts are kept well away from heat sources.

Electrical fires: Inspect electrical cords and replace any frayed ones. Don’t cover electrical cords with rugs or pinch them between other objects. Don’t use too many extension cords or multiple multi-outlet power strips because this can cause an electrical overload.

Heating fires: Keep objects at least three feet away from space heaters. Space heaters shouldn’t be used while you sleep, and should be equipped with safety features including an automatic shut off if they’re knocked over. Space heaters shouldn’t be the main source of heat in a home.

Maintain your fireplace and chimney properly—have chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep and keep fireplace clear of excess ash.  Don’t burn trash, wrapping paper, or cardboard in your fireplace.

Smoking fires: Do not smoke in bed, or leave burning smoking materials unattended. Make sure all ashes are cool before disposing of them.

Safety and preparation

The most crucial safety precaution you can take is to equip your home with working smoke alarms on every level and in every bedroom. Smoke and poisonous gases are more deadly than the fire itself and can harm you before you even know there is a fire. Smoke alarms more than double your chance of surviving. Change batteries regularly, and replace the detectors themselves every 10 years.

You should also have at least one multi-purpose fire extinguisher which is capable of putting out several types of fires. Keep one in the kitchen, and additional ones in your home’s main gathering areas and garage.

(Click here to see more ways you can protect your home from fire and other disasters!)

In addition to these methods of preventing fires, you should also prepare your family in the event a fire does break out. Create an escape plan and practice it. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear that sound. If they’re unfamiliar with the sound, a wailing smoke alarm could frighten them and cause them to hide rather than try to escape.

Keep bedroom doors closed when sleeping. Each bedroom should have two exits—a window and a door. Remind all family members to stay low—crawl on the floor to a safe exit—and to use the back of a hand to test if their exit door is hot.

Agree on a place to meet after getting out of the house. If necessary, draw a simple map easy for all to understand.

Be sure children know their last names and street address, and how to call 911 for help. If you don’t already know your neighbors, introduce yourself and your children, so your family will have someplace to go in case of emergency. Stress that no one must go back into the house to get toys, clothes, or pets. If pets are inside, let firefighters know immediately.

Homeowners insurance is there to help

If your home is damaged or destroyed by a fire, your homeowners insurance should help you repair or rebuild your home’s structure, as well as your garage, fence, or shed if it was damaged in the fire. Homeowners insurance also covers your personal property—clothing, furniture, and other personal belongings. And if you have to move out of your home while it’s being repaired, your homeowners insurance usually covers loss of use, also known as additional living expenses.

We know that getting the right homeowners insurance at an affordable price can be difficult in Florida’s volatile homeowners insurance market. Your home is your most valuable asset, so you want to be sure you’re properly insured. That’s why choosing an independent agency with many homeowners insurance markets, like L & M Insurance Group, can be a great way to compare policies to find the one that is just right for your situation. Give one of our agents a call today 813-672-4100 for a homeowners insurance quote. If you prefer, you may contact us online by clicking here.

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Simple Ways to Create a Home Inventory

In addition to the structure of your home, your Florida homeowners insurance also covers your belongings if they’re stolen or destroyed by a covered peril such as a house fire. But if you’re already stressed by a disaster, will you be able to remember what you own to make a claim? That’s why we recommend that you create a home inventory of your belongings. (It’s also a good idea to create a home inventory if you rent—renter’s policies also cover personal belongings.)

A detailed home inventory will not only make it easier to file a claim—it can also help you qualify for tax breaks or disaster assistance following a major loss.

Home inventory options

Creating a home inventory can be as simple as a handwritten list, a printable home inventory checklist, or a spreadsheet (like this one from non-profit United Policy Holders).

Another good way to create an inventory or add documentation for a written inventory, is to use your smartphone to take photos and video of your possessions. Record everything in each room, including what’s inside cabinets and drawers. Take photos of serial numbers, bar codes, brand names, and receipts if you have them. Verbally describe what you own if you’re taking video, and include where and when you bought each item and how much it cost if you know that information.

Make sure to include high-ticket items like appliances, TVs and other electronics, jewelry, rugs, art or collectibles. You don’t need to be as detailed with smaller items like clothes or kitchen basics. Make note of them (“Three pairs of jeans,” etc.), but your insurance company may create a “bulk estimate” for contents of closets or cabinets.

If you store belongings in a self-storage unit, remember to document them, too. Your homeowners insurance may also cover these items against theft or fire. You may choose to use a smartphone app to create your home inventory. There are many home inventory apps, both free and paid, and some insurance companies offer their own apps or forms to help you create your home inventory. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has created a free home inventory app that does not collect personal information. Check the privacy policy of any home inventory app you plan to use if you’re concerned about if and how your personal information might be collected and used.

If all this seems overwhelming, start slow. Record recent purchases (maybe a special holiday gift?), or choose one room to document at a time. Even a partial inventory will be helpful in case of a loss.

Storing and updating your home inventory

If you have a paper home inventory, keep a copy of it with other important documents in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box, and store a copy with a trusted friend or family member. Back up digital home inventory files on the cloud or to an external drive. Upload photos and video to a cloud-based service or email it to yourself.

Also remember to update your home inventory when you make a major purchase—and at least once a year, review it to see if anything has changed.

Review your homeowners insurance coverage

After documenting your possessions with a home inventory, review your homeowners insurance coverage to see if it continues to meet your needs. Check your homeowners or renters insurance declarations page to see what the limit is for your contents coverage. Standard homeowners insurance may limit coverage amounts on certain items, but you can add coverage for many of those items if you need to, usually for a nominal amount.  Also check to see if your contents coverage is replacement cost rather than actual cash value (the value of your items, less depreciation).

If you need homeowners or renters insurance, give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 (click here to contact us online). L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency, partnering with multiple homeowners insurance companies. We can help with all your insurance needs, from homeowners and auto, to business or investor insurance, and even life insurance. Our agents will be happy to discuss your insurance needs and help you find a policy right for you.  

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High Tech—and Affordable—Ways to Protect Your Home

With the cost of everything rising, from personal goods to homeowners insurance, it’s smart to look for ways to prevent loss before it happens. In our last post, we talked about ways to harden your home against damage. Today, let’s discuss some additional ways to protect your home using high tech and “smart” gadgets. These products are becoming more affordable all the time—and you might even find some of these included in Black Friday deals.

Water leak detector

Damage caused by a burst pipe or other water leak can cost thousands of dollars in repairs. If a leak goes undetected, you might have to rebuild walls, kill mold, and replace personal belongings damaged by water. Installing a leak detector is one way to stop that damage before it starts.

Leak detectors sense water leaks and alert you to the problem. Some can even automatically shut off water to your home if a leak is detected. These models are more expensive and need to be professionally installed, but if you’re often away from home for extended periods, they could be a great investment. Some are able to monitor water flow in pipes to detect a leak behind your walls, saving you money on your water bill as well as alerting you to a leak.

Ting

Ting (no affiliation) is a small sensor device you plug into a wall socket and monitor using an app. Its purpose is to prevent home fires by detecting unique signals given off by tiny electrical arcs that are “precursors to imminent fire risks,” Bob Marshall, co-founder of Ting’s maker, Whisker Labs, told the Insurance Information Institute.

According to U.S. Fire Administration data from 2012-2021, while home fires from cooking and heating have decreased, electrical fires have increased by 11 percent during that time.

“Electrical fires are often the most devastating type of house fire. Ting monitors your electrical network for the main precursors to electrical fires, micro-arcs, and sparks that develop in faulty wires, loose connections, and faulty appliances or devices. These signals usually develop over weeks and months, so Ting is designed to provide you with advanced warnings to address these hazards, prior to the hazard starting an electrical fire,” according to information found on Ting’s website.

Ting is not a smoke detector—it doesn’t alert you if a fire has started. What it does do is help to prevent an electrical fire from starting in the first place.

Some homeowners insurance companies offer Ting as a benefit to their clients, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy the device yourself and subscribe to Ting’s monitoring service on your own. Click here to learn more about Ting.

Smoke alarm

Most of us already have smoke alarms installed, but newer models have more features like voice alerts and flashing lights. Smart alarms offer text messaging so even if you’re not home you can be notified if the unit senses smoke. Some alarms must be wired into your electrical system, so you may need to hire someone to install them.

Video doorbell camera

Using live video and audio connected to an app on your phone, a video doorbell camera lets you see who’s at your door, even if you’re not home. Thieves often ring the doorbell to see if anyone is home, so being able to see and talk to someone at your door can be a deterrent to both break-ins and package theft.

Peace of mind

Installing these high-tech products can help you improve your family’s safety as well as prevent or reduce damage to your home. To add to your peace of mind, make sure you also have the best homeowners insurance coverage for your needs. This is where L & M Insurance Group can help. We are an independent insurance agency with more than 30 years of experience serving the insurance needs of Tampa, Brandon, Riverview and surrounding communities. We offer a wide range of choice of insurance carriers, and we’ll help you find the one that is right for you. Please call 813-672-4100 for a homeowners insurance quote, or click here to contact us online.

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Fall Is the Perfect Time to “Harden” Your Home

We’ve weathered another hurricane season in the Tampa Bay area. It’s always a relief when we escape major damage. But even though hurricane season is over, home disasters can happen at any time. For instance, home fires increase and are more severe during the winter holiday season. Flooding, fires, wind, and water damage are also possible at any time of year.

Before you get too comfortable, in addition to making sure your Florida homeowners insurance is up to date, why not take some time to strengthen (or “harden”) your home against the most common perils of wind, water, and fire? Of course, homeowners insurance is there to help you recover from disaster, but there are things you can do to lessen the extent of the damage. When we talk about “hardening your home,” we’re referring to ways to improve your home that make it less likely to be severely damaged by a peril such as wind, water, or fire.

Now that you likely don’t have to worry about an impending hurricane, you can take your time to shop for the best prices for any home improvements you make. Some home improvements may even save you money on your homeowners insurance!

(Check with your insurance company to see if any discounts on your homeowners insurance are available when you take steps to harden your home against loss.)

Water

Water damage is one of the most common homeowners claims, and is very costly to repair. To be covered, water damage must be “sudden and accidental”—such as a burst pipe or overflowing appliance. It can’t be due to lack of maintenance. Make sure you regularly inspect and maintain appliances and plumbing.

One great way to protect your home from water damage is to install a leak detector. By alerting you to a leak, leak detectors can keep a minor problem from becoming a major one. Some can even shut off water to your home.

What about flood damage? Coverage for flooding is not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy. You’ll need a separate flood policy if you need flood coverage. Click here for a flood insurance quote.

Wind

Strong winds, not just hurricanes, can damage your roof or send debris flying into your windows. Install wind mitigation features such as storm-resistant shutters, hurricane clips, and impact-resistant windows and doors. Keep trees trimmed and make sure limbs aren’t hanging over your roof or screen enclosure.

Florida homeowners take note: Certain items used to harden your home against hurricanes—impact-resistant windows, doors and garage doors—are exempt from sales tax until June 30, 2024.

What else can you do?

We realize some of these home hardening ideas require professional installation or may be too expensive for some of our clients. There are still ways you can help protect your home. Make sure your smoke detectors are working and have fresh batteries. Install items like deadbolt locks, surge protectors, and gutter guards. Install an alarm system. If your smoke detectors and alarm system are monitored, you may be able to get a small discount on your homeowners insurance.

(See “Fall Maintenance for Your Florida Home” for more ways to protect your home.)

Even though Florida homeowners insurance is there to protect you in case of a major loss, no one wants to go through the hassle of living through the repairs. Maintaining and upgrading these areas of your home may save you money and headaches in the future. Please call an L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 if you need a quote for homeowners insurance. If you prefer to contact us online, please click here.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency in Riverview, FL, and we write personal insurance such as homeowners and auto, as well as commercial auto, business insurance, and more. Please give us a chance to help you with all your insurance needs!

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If Your Pet Hurts Someone, Will Your Homeowners Insurance Protect You?

For many people, a house is not a home without a dog—in fact, 85 million dogs live in U.S. households. While the vast majority of dogs never hurt anyone, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, most of them children. And in 2022, Florida had the second highest number of dog bite insurance claims as well as the second highest average cost per claim ($78,203), according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org).

Even if your dog is calm and well-mannered, it’s still true that even the sweetest of dogs can bite someone if they’re scared or agitated. In addition, your dog doesn’t need to bite to injure someone. He could knock over a child or an elderly person, or cause someone to trip and fall. What financial protection do you have if that happens?

(View more tips for preventing dog bites.)

Homeowners insurance and dog bite liability

Dog bite coverage, also called pet or animal liability, covers legal and medical expenses for anyone your pet accidentally injures. While many homeowners (and renters) insurance policies do offer liability protection if your dog bites or otherwise injures someone, more and more home insurance companies are excluding dog bite liability or limiting coverage. Some companies won’t cover certain dog breeds thought to be aggressive, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers.

If you have a dog, review your homeowners insurance policy to make sure it includes animal liability. And if you buy or adopt a dog during your policy term, check with your insurance company to make sure you have animal liability coverage should you need it. 

Animal liability options

If your homeowners policy doesn’t cover animal liability, or doesn’t provide enough coverage, you have some options. You may be able to buy an umbrella policy to supplement your homeowners coverage—just make sure the policy you choose includes animal liability.  

Also, some Florida insurance companies have created separate dog bite liability policies or endorsements that offer more coverage and/or don’t have any breed restrictions.

Finding the appropriate policy is something you’ll want to discuss with your insurance agent.

L & M Insurance Group for all your insurance needs

Whether or not you have a dog, if you need a homeowners insurance policy, please give L & M Insurance Group a call (813-672-4100) or click here to contact us online. One of our trusted agents can guide you through the process of finding the insurance coverage that’s best for your individual situation.

In addition to homeowners, we also write most types of insurance, including auto, business and commercial, flood, and life. L & M Insurance Group is an independent agency located in Riverview, and serves clients in Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, Gibsonton and surrounding communities.

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Considering Solar Panels? Call Your Homeowners Insurance Agent First!

Solar panels and Florida sunshine might seem like a perfect match. And while it’s true that solar power is becoming more popular, installing solar panels on your roof can actually put your homeowners insurance coverage in jeopardy! Many Florida homeowners who have installed solar panels have been shocked to find their coverage dropped by their homeowners insurance company.

Ask first: Does my insurance cover solar panels?

Before you spend thousands of dollars to install solar panels on your home, please call your homeowners insurance agent or company to make sure your insurance company won’t drop you!

Solar panels and your homeowners insurance

While some homeowners insurance companies in Florida will take homes with solar panels, many of them won’t. Carriers cite concerns about wind damage and water intrusion into your home where solar panels are attached, as well as added claims costs if your roof is damaged and has to be replaced. The solar panels will have to be removed then reinstalled, adding significant cost. Some homeowners carriers have opted not to accept the risk at all.

If a homeowners insurance company accepts solar panels, and those panels are permanently attached to your roof, they would be considered part of your home and covered by the dwelling portion of your policy. Since solar panels are expensive, you may need to raise your coverage limits be sure to include them.  However, even if a homeowners insurance carrier accepts a home with solar panels, sometimes wind or hail damage to solar panels will be excluded.

In some instances, homeowners will lease solar panels rather than buy them. Even if you lease the panels, you still may need to carry additional coverage, AND you still need to check with your insurance agent first to avoid any problems with insurance coverage.

Avoid any unpleasant surprises

Any time you’re considering making a significant change to your home you should contact your insurance agent to find out what impact it will have on your homeowners insurance. Florida already has a tumultuous homeowners insurance market with premiums far above the national average. Before you make a change that could raise your premiums or seriously harm your chances of getting coverage at all, take the time to make a simple phone call to your insurance agent.

Our Agents are here to help

At L & M Insurance Group, our agents work with many different insurance carriers in an effort to find you the insurance policy that best suits your financial needs. As an independent agency, we are able to compare the rates of several companies rather than just one. We can also compare rates for your other insurance needs, such as auto, flood, commercial, renters, and recreational vehicles. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or click here to contact us online.

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If a Tree Falls…Does Homeowners Insurance Cover the Damage?

Trees are a great landscape feature, providing beauty, shade, a windbreak, and other benefits. But what if a tree falls on your property, or a large limb crashes down on your car? Will your Florida homeowners policy cover the damage?

Does homeowners insurance cover tree damage?

Since homeowners insurance protects your belongings, the structure of your home, and other structures on your property, it’s likely that if a tree falls on your home and damages it, as long as the tree damage is “sudden and accidental” and not stemming from negligence, then yes, your homeowners insurance will likely cover damage to your home.

If a tree falls on your car, your auto insurance will pay for repairs if you have comprehensive coverage (the “comp” part of comp and collision).

What if it’s your neighbor’s tree?

In general, if your home is the one with the damage, you would make a claim on your own homeowners insurance (and vice versa if one of your trees falls on your neighbor’s home). However, if it’s clear that your neighbor was negligent and didn’t remove a dead or diseased tree in a timely fashion, you or your insurance company may be able to make a claim against your neighbor’s insurance. It’s not easy to prove negligence, though.

Maintain friendly relationships with your neighbors, and discuss any concerns you have about their trees before they become a problem. And be sure to keep your own trees properly maintained.

If you find that your neighbor is unwilling to cooperate, you may want to put your concerns in writing. That way if the tree does damage your property, you or your insurance company may be able to recover at least part of the cost of repairs.

Tree maintenance

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to frequently inspect and maintain your trees, especially after a storm or heavy winds. Keep trees properly trimmed, and remove any that are dead, diseased or leaning and that could fall and damage your property or your neighbor’s. You may want to hire a certified tree expert to inspect your trees for disease, and/or trim them.

What about tree removal?

If a tree falls on and damages your home, the cost of the tree and debris removal would be covered up to policy limits as part of the damage claim. It would also likely be covered if a tree blocks your driveway or blocks a handicap access ramp. If the tree simply falls into the yard but doesn’t damage or block anything, the expense of removing it wouldn’t be covered.

If a neighbor’s tree falls into your yard, you’re still responsible to pay to have it removed, but you may be lucky enough to get your neighbor to split the cost of removal—especially if you’ve developed a good relationship with them. (And remember to be willing to do the same thing if one of your trees falls into their property!)

When to file a claim…and when not to

If the damage to your property is major—say the tree has destroyed a section of your roof—you will want to file a claim with your homeowners insurance. However, if the damage to your property is minor and likely won’t be more (or much more) than your deductible, you may not want to file a claim. Filing small claims is often not worth it in the long run, since you may lose discounts for not having any claims for a certain length of time.

Insurance for your most valuable asset

As a Florida homeowner, making sure you have homeowners insurance to cover your most valuable asset should be one of your top priorities. L & M Insurance Group is an independent agency committed to helping our clients find the most cost-effective coverage for their individual needs. We’ll help you navigate the Florida homeowners insurance market to find a policy that’s right for you. Please call us at 813-672-4100 or contact us online for a homeowners insurance quote. We also write auto insurance, commercial insurance, and life insurance—please give us the chance to earn your business!

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Insurance 101: Understanding the Insurance Claims Process

When you buy insurance, you’re paying for something you hope you won’t need to use. But if you have a loss—your car is damaged in an accident, or a fire destroys your kitchen, for example—you’ll be thrilled that you have insurance in place! The right insurance policy can help you come out of a disastrous situation in good shape financially.

You might be concerned, however, about the unknowns surrounding the insurance claims process. How does it work? While each insurance company has its own procedures, and all claims are unique, here is a rundown of the basics.

(For the purposes of this article, we will be concentrating on property damage claims for home and auto insurance.)

What you need to file a claim

When you have a covered loss—a loss that your insurance company specifies that they will reimburse you for as found in your policy documents—filing an initial claim is fairly simple. Some companies let you file claims online, or have a dedicated claims number you can call. Before you make the claim, you’ll need certain information on hand. (If you don’t immediately have all the information at your fingertips, you may be able to provide it later.)

Auto Insurance

For auto insurance, you’ll need your policy number, the names of those involved in the accident, the other driver’s insurance information, details of the accident, and a copy of the police report if you have one.

Homeowners Insurance

For a homeowners claim, you’ll need your policy number, and eventually documents like receipts or a home inventory that provides a record of the value of the property you need to replace. It’s helpful to take photos or video of the damage if possible.

Once you’ve filed your claim, your insurance company will begin an investigation, usually sending an adjustor to review the damage. Once the adjustor files his or her report, the insurance company will evaluate your claim and accept or deny it. If your company denies your claim, you often have the ability to appeal that decision.

Before your claim is paid, you will have to pay your deductible, the amount of money you’re responsible for paying before your insurance takes over. A homeowners insurance deductible may be a specific dollar amount, or it may be a percentage of the insured value of your home.  Auto insurance deductibles are set dollar amounts, such as a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision coverages. Sometimes you will pay the deductible to the person repairing your car or home, or your insurance company may simply subtract your deductible from your claim check.

How and when will you receive your claim payout?

How your insurance company will pay your claim also differs, depending on your policy, and the size and type of the claim.

For car insurance, if you lease your vehicle or have a car loan, your claims check may be made out to both you and your lender, since your lender has a financial interest in your vehicle. You’ll need to work with them to manage the funds so you can have your car repaired. In some cases, your insurance company may pay the repair shop directly. If your vehicle is totaled, the claim payout will go towards paying off your loan. Any funds remaining will come to you.

Home insurance claims can be more drawn out because they’re more complex. Homeowners insurance policies cover your home’s structure, your personal belongings, and in some cases your personal living expenses if you have to move out of your home while it’s being repaired. You may receive one or more payments for each part of the claim. When receiving payment for structural damage, your checks may also be made out to you and your mortgage lender, who typically releases funds to allow you to get work started on your damaged home. They’ll release more funds as needed, with the final amount released once the repairs are completed and the home passes inspection, if necessary.

Payment for your personal belongings or additional living expenses should come to you directly. If you have replacement cost coverage for your belongings, you will need to actually replace the items and submit receipts to your insurance company to receive full replacement cost reimbursement.

Will a claim affect your insurance rates?

Whether or not an insurance claim affects your rates depends on several factors. For car insurance these include whether you were at fault, whether the claim is above a certain dollar amount, your personal claims history, and your overall driving record.

Multiple homeowners insurance claims can also drive up the cost of insuring your home. If your claim is small, only a few hundred dollars more than your deductible, it may not be worth filing. Some home and car insurance companies offer discounts if you go a certain number of years without filing a claim, so you’ll lose that discount if you file a claim. Filing multiple small claims can often backfire in the form of higher insurance premiums, or insurance companies refusing to cover you. 

That said, if you have a significant covered loss to your home or vehicle, don’t hesitate to make a claim on your insurance. That’s what it’s there for.

Personalized attention at L & M Insurance Group

Choosing the right insurance coverage can be confusing. L & M Insurance Group is here to help. If you’re in the market for a home or auto insurance quote, please call a L & M Insurance Group agent today at (813) 672-4100 (click here to get a quote online). Our agency works with many standard and non-standard insurance companies, and we’ll be happy to shop around for a policy that fits your personal situation.

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Are You Ready for the 2023 Hurricane Season?

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, and whether you’re a hurricane veteran or a newcomer to the state of Florida, now is the time to ready your home and family for the 2023 hurricane season. Here is some information to help.

Hurricane risks

The biggest risks a Florida homeowner faces from a hurricane are storm surge, flooding, and wind damage.

Experts emphasize that the deadliest hurricane risk is that of storm surge. A storm doesn’t have to be a monster like Hurricane Ian to be deadly and damaging. Storm surge from even a category 1 or 2 hurricane can be life-threatening. It takes only six inches of fast-moving water to knock down an adult, and only two feet to wash away a vehicle.

Even if you don’t live right on the water, during a hurricane, your home may still be at risk for flooding. Flood damage is not covered under a standard home insurance policy, so you’ll need a separate flood policy. Remember, flood insurance often requires a waiting period before coverage goes into effect, so don’t wait until a storm is bearing down on you to call for a policy.  (If you need a flood insurance quote, click here.)

Both on the coast and inland, high winds from hurricanes (or tornados spawned by a hurricane), can cause wind damage your home.

Preparation basics

Before the storm season starts in earnest, take some time to review or prepare your plan to survive a hurricane. Some basics include (see below for links to detailed hurricane preparation guides):

Have a communication plan for your family. How will you get in touch with each other if you’re not together when a storm hits?

Understand the terminology of hurricane watches and warnings, and learn your evacuation route(s) if you’re in an evacuation zone.

Prepare your home. Trim trees and shrubs; make necessary repairs to your roof, windows or doors; and purchase storm shutters or cut plywood to fit windows.

Keep your vehicle gas tanks at least half full. Pumps won’t work if the power goes out.

Review your insurance coverage. Homeowners insurance covers damage from hurricanes, but there is a special deductible that applies only to hurricanes. This deductible is usually a percentage of your home’s insured value rather than a flat dollar amount. Review your policy and make sure you have money put aside to pay your deductible if you have to make a claim.

Prepare for a power outage. Have some cash on hand, stock up on ice if you’ll need to put perishables in an ice chest, charge electronics and portable power sources, and if you have a generator, make sure it’s in good operating order.

Connect with your neighbors before and after a storm, especially if they are elderly.

Check and update/replenish your emergency supplies and/or “go kits.”

Download the FEMA app. While you’re at it, you might also check that you have any apps for your bank and insurance companies downloaded to your phone. Also save the phone numbers for your insurance companies (home and auto) and your insurance agent’s phone number in a safe place, along with your insurance policy numbers.

(Own a business? Click here to learn how to prepare your business for a hurricane.)

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for a hurricane. Spending a little time now could prove life-saving later.

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

L & M Insurance Group is your source for all types of insurance, both personal and commercial. If you need homeowners insurance, flood insurance, or business insurance, please give a L & M Insurance Group agent a call at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

For more information:

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

https://www.noaa.gov/hurricane-prep

https://www.ready.gov/hurricane-toolkit

https://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/hurricane-supply-checklist/

https://www.stateofflorida.com/articles/hurricane-preparedness-guide/

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Why Is My Homeowners Insurance Cancelling or Non-renewing?

Florida homeowners insurance is some of the most expensive in the nation, and it’s getting more challenging to find appropriate coverage. Once you’ve shopped for a policy that meets your needs, you’re all set, right? Hopefully, yes, but with the homeowners insurance market’s continuing volatility, there’s a chance that your homeowners policy could be cancelled or non-renewed. What then?

Sometimes this is out of your control, such as when an insurance company decides to reduce or eliminate coverage in a certain geographical area, or becomes insolvent, something we’ve seen far too often in Florida. But there are a few things you can do to lessen the chance of your policy being cancelled or non-renewed.

Cancellation vs. nonrenewal

First, what is the difference between cancellation and non-renewal? If you receive a notice of non-renewal, that means you will not be able to renew your homeowners policy at the end of the policy term. By state law, insurance companies are required to notify you at least 45 days before the end date of your policy in order for you to be have time to find a new policy.

Cancellation can take place during the policy term. Generally, a homeowners insurance policy is cancelled due to either fraud/misrepresentation or failure to pay insurance premiums.

Why your homeowners insurance might be cancelled or non-renewed

Homeowners insurance companies aren’t looking to cancel or non-renew your insurance coverage—they need policyholders or they wouldn’t be in business. But there are a few situations that make it more likely that your policy will be cancelled or non-renewed.

  • You don’t make your payments on time. It seems obvious, but for your policy to remain in effect, you need to make your homeowners insurance payments. If you’re being cancelled for non-payment, contact your insurance company to see if you can get back on track. Some companies offer a grace period and will reinstate your policy when they receive your payment. If your homeowners insurance is paid through an escrow account by your mortgage company, you’ll need to call them to make sure the payments are sent on time.
  • You make excessive claims (even if the insurance company doesn’t pay out). If you have significant damage to your home, of course you should make a claim. But too many people try to make claims that don’t fall under the limits of homeowners insurance. If you wonder if your problem is one that homeowners insurance should fix, call your insurance company or agent to check before making a claim. (For more information, see “What Your Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover.”)
  • Your home is in an area of high risk, such as one prone to wildfires, flooding, or hurricanes.

  • You own certain types of pets—a dog breed considered aggressive, or certain reptiles, for example.
  • You don’t maintain your property in good condition. An insurance company may cancel or non-renew your policy if an inspection reveals structural damage or other significant maintenance issues. Avoid this by keeping your home in good repair. (Click here for a spring maintenance checklist!)

How L & M Insurance Group can help

If your homeowners insurance policy is cancelled or non-renewed, whatever you do, don’t wait to shop for a new policy. Florida’s homeowners insurance market is still in crisis, and you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to find coverage to protect your home. If you need to shop for a new homeowners insurance policy, give L & M Insurance Group a call at (813) 672-4100, or click here for an online quote. Our agents will be happy to help you find coverage to protect your greatest asset—your home.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency serving the personal and commercial insurance needs of Riverview, Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, and surrounding areas.