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I’ve Never Had a Claim—Why Does My Insurance Keep Going Up?

This is a common complaint among our customers who find their home and auto insurance rates continue to rise, even when they haven’t had any claims. We know this can be frustrating and we always do our best to find the most competitive insurance rates, no matter what type of insurance our clients need.

As we’ve noted before, the Florida insurance marketplace has some unique challenges, but the cost of insurance is rising in most states. Insurance companies look at many factors when they set their rates, only some of which you can influence—like keeping your driving record clean or improving your credit score. But there are some things which are beyond both your control and your insurance company’s control, factors which are at work in the industry at large. Here are a few things which affect the price of your insurance—even if you, personally, don’t have a claim.

Insurance is a “pool of risk”

First, understand that the central function of insurance is the sharing or pooling of risk. In return for a premium, the insurer agrees to pay for the covered losses of its policyholders. As the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org) rather poetically explains, “If risks—chances of loss—can be divided among many members of a group, then they need fall but lightly on any single member of the group. Thus misfortunes that could be crushing to one can be made bearable for all.”

Insurance protects against catastrophic loss, and in that role it helps to keep society functioning. We couldn’t get credit to buy a house or car, or to start a business if creditors couldn’t have some guarantee of being paid back in the event of a loss. A family who loses a home and all their belongings in a fire would be devastated without an insurance policy. A small business owner could lose everything if someone sued them after slipping and falling at their business. Insurance helps protect us all from financial ruin.

Claims have become more frequent

So remembering that insurance is a pool of risk, if claims become more expensive or more frequent, everyone in the pool will be affected. Simply put, you may not have made a claim, but plenty of other people have. According to Climate.gov, “In 2021, the U.S. experienced 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, putting 2021 in second place for the most disasters in a calendar year, behind the record 22 separate billion-dollar events in 2020.” These events include wildfires, tornadoes, floods, and, of course, hurricanes. Plus, those claims numbers don’t include the more mundane events that take place every day—the fender benders, the burst pipes, and so on.

The cost of everything is increasing

This includes the costs to rebuild or repair homes and vehicles in the event of a loss. Home renovations, demand for new construction, and supply chain issues have limited the availability of construction supplies and materials, inflating prices. Auto claims costs are also rising because of similar factors.

Another significant expense for insurance companies is the rising cost of reinsurance (insurance for insurance companies).

Because of these factors, the cost of doing business has insurance companies scrambling. In order to stay in business themselves, they pass on these increased expenses to policyholders.

L & M Insurance Group—your independent agency

Despite the cost, buying appropriate insurance is still one of the best ways you can protect your assets. If you want to be sure you’re paying the most competitive rate for your insurance, why not call a local, independent agency like L & M Insurance Group? Our agents are well-versed in the Florida insurance marketplace and will be happy to answer your questions and give you a quote. We handle personal lines, such as homeowners and auto, as well as business insurance, health, and life insurance. Please call (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online. Let us help you find the best insurance coverage at the most competitive price.

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New Homeowners Insurance Legislation—Will It Bring Your Premiums Down?

If you own a home in Florida, you know that homeowners insurance premiums are skyrocketing, and it’s getting harder for some to even find homeowners insurance. In 2022 alone, six Florida homeowners companies became insolvent, leaving thousands of consumers scrambling for coverage. Many insurance companies are cancelling or non-renewing policies, as well as tightening underwriting requirements. Florida property insurance companies have recorded underwriting losses of more than 1 billion dollars for the past two years, and many are fleeing the state or raising premiums as much as they are allowed to by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

And while hurricanes and other covered perils contributed to their losses, insurance experts note that lawsuits and assignment of benefits abuse have been the main reasons for underwriting losses.

In December 2022, Florida lawmakers met in a special session to address the crisis in the homeowners insurance market. They passed Senate Bill 2A (SB 2A) which was signed into law by the governor on Dec. 16.

SB 2A provisions

While there are still many issues to address, we hope this bill will help stabilize the homeowners insurance market in Florida, stop the steep rise in premiums, and keep homeowners insurance available to everyone. Here are a few of the main provisions of SB 2A:

  • Creates a state-backed reinsurance fund to offer reinsurance (insurance for insurance companies) at lower rates to insurers struggling with the cost. Reinsurance prices have risen significantly, and experts expect them to continue to go up in 2023.
  • Eliminates one-way attorney fee provisions. In the past, property insurers were responsible for paying the attorney fees of policyholders who sue them over a claim and win. Now, each party will pay for their own attorney fees.
  • Prohibits the assignment of benefits for both residential property and commercial property claims. Assignment of benefits is an agreement that gives a third party, such as a contractor, authority to do such things as file claims and collect insurance payments, without the involvement of the homeowner. Originally intended to streamline the claims process, assignment of benefits has become a vehicle for abuse and fraud.
  • Attempts to return Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to the status of insurer of last resort by requiring policyholders to accept renewal or take-out offers from an authorized company that is within 20 percent of the policyholder’s Citizens insurance premium.
  • Requires those with Citizens policies to purchase flood insurance.

The bill also contains provisions to encourage insurance companies to pay claims promptly, including requiring them to begin an investigation of a claim within seven days, and reducing the time for them to pay or deny a claim from 90 to 60 days.

Will homeowners insurance premiums come down?

The question everyone wants to know the answer to! Unfortunately, we won’t see the price of homeowners insurance come down right away, though it’s possible we might see decreases in a year to 18 months’ time. It will take time to see the results of the changes taking effect. State regulators and lawmakers say they will continue to monitor the situation and have requested data from the insurance companies about litigation and other factors which contribute to insurance company insolvencies.

Your partners at L & M Insurance Group

The insurance professionals at L & M Insurance Group are experts in navigating the Florida homeowners insurance market. If you receive a cancellation or non-renewal notice for your homeowners policy, or your renewal offer goes up drastically, we can help. Give us a call at 813-671-4200, (or click here to contact us online) and one of our agents will help you review your homeowners insurance options. L & M Insurance Group is a locally owned, independent insurance agency. We’ve served Riverview, Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities for more than 30 years.

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How Inflation Is Affecting Your Insurance Rates and What You Can Do About It

Florida residents already pay some of the highest auto and home insurance rates in the country—and now inflation is making it worse. Some of the same factors driving inflation in general are driving premium increases across nearly all lines of insurance. These factors include supply chain issues, labor shortages, and the rising cost of goods and services. Insurance companies are businesses, and the cost of doing business has gone up considerably. Read on for how inflation is affecting your insurance, and for a few tips to help lower your premiums.

What’s driving up car insurance prices?

Cars have become so high tech that not only do they cost more to repair, they require new training for auto mechanics. Add that to an already existing shortage of qualified mechanics and getting a vehicle repaired becomes even more challenging. In addition, repair shops can’t get the parts they need to fix damaged vehicles so they’re forced to total them, resulting in larger claim amounts being paid out. These higher expenses are taken into account when insurance companies calculate their rates. You can learn more on how supply chain problems can affect your car insurance in a recent blog article.

Homeowners insurance and inflation

Homeowners across the nation are facing rate increases that Florida homeowners have been enduring on a larger scale for the past couple of years. Inflation-related drivers of these price increases include the cost of building materials and a labor shortage of construction workers. Simply put, houses cost more to repair or rebuild, so once again, insurance companies are calculating these costs when setting their rates. (In Florida, the homeowners insurance market faces even more challenges. See: “AOB Abuse and Fraud Help to Drive the High Cost of Insurance.”)

How can you reduce insurance premiums?

There’s only so much you can do in the tight insurance market we have here in Florida, but every little bit helps. Here are a few suggestions for saving money on your insurance premiums:

  • Shop for your insurance with an independent insurance agency. An independent agency like L & M Insurance Group has more options than captive agents when quoting a policy. We represent more than 80 high-quality insurance companies.
  • Improve your credit score. A higher credit score almost always results in lower insurance premiums.
  • Keep your driving record clean. Still one of the best ways to help you get the lowest rate possible.
  • Ask about discounts. You may be able to get small discounts on your auto or home insurance for things like safe driving, safety features or alarm systems, having no gaps in your insurance coverage, signing up for auto pay or paying in full, living in a gated community, and so on.
  • Reduce coverage. Sometimes if money is tight, it makes sense to reduce coverage in order to save on premiums. You’ll need to think carefully about your situation, and what you can handle financially if you were to have a loss. An L & M Insurance Group agent will be happy to help you consider your options.
  • Increase your deductibles. You’ll have to decide if the amount you save in premium is worth the additional amount you’ll owe out of pocket if you have a claim.

Talk to an independent agent

We know you have many choices when it comes to insurance, and we’d like to thank you for considering L & M Insurance Group for your insurance needs. If you have any questions about what coverage you need, or you need a quote for a car, home, or business policy, please call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online. We’ve been helping our neighbors in Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding areas for more than 30 years.

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Insurance News You Can Use

The Florida insurance market is especially volatile right now, with many factors influencing the price of coverage. At L & M Insurance Group, we follow developments in the insurance industry, and share them with our clients and prospective clients so you can understand some of what’s happening to the price of insurance. Here are three recent news stories that may affect you.  

Florida Homeowners Insurance Legislation

After a special session to address Florida’s homeowners insurance crisis, Governor Ron DeSantis signed bipartisan legislation intended to improve the situation.

“Lawmakers made changes that involve the broader market, such as allowing insurance policies to include new deductibles for roof damage, imposing restrictions on insurers that seek to refuse to write or renew policies based on the ages of roofs and placing additional restrictions on what are known as ‘bad faith’ lawsuits against insurers,” according to a story from News Service of Florida.  

The Florida homeowners insurance market remains in critical condition, with additional insurance companies going into bankruptcy or limiting the policies they write in Florida. It remains to be seen what relief homeowners will see, and how long it will take for them to see it.

Post-pandemic Distracted Driving

According to the 2022 Travelers Risk Index for Business, 30% of drivers are more anxious on the road and 54% believe distracted and aggressive driving have increased since before the pandemic. Contributing to this anxiety and distraction is the expectation that employees respond to work-related messages when out of the office during work hours. Employees feel pressured to answer work-related calls, emails, and text messages even while they’re driving.

Employers should address safe driving practices with employees, and refrain from calling or texting employees when they’re likely to be behind the wheel. Employees should not be required to read texts (or type them) while driving. An immediate response to a message isn’t worth a life!

Dog-related Claims Rising

In 2021, dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost homeowners insurance companies $881 million—or more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim payments. (Florida is second only to California in the number of claims made.) Aside from the cost of these claims, no one wants to be responsible for their pet injuring someone else.

Take time to train and socialize your dog, and teach children the basics of dog safety. Dogs may develop behavioral issues when left home alone when pet owners return to school or the workplace, so don’t hesitate to address these. Dog owners may also need to carry pet liability coverage and/or an umbrella policy. (Contact L & M Insurance Group if you need a quote for an umbrella policy.)

An independent agency for all your insurance needs

We understand that the insurance market in Florida can be confusing and volatile. L & M Insurance Group is a full-service, independent insurance agency serving Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, Riverview, and surrounding communities for more than 30 years. We write auto, home and commercial insurance, and represent multiple quality insurance companies. We pride ourselves on finding the right coverage for each person, tailored to fit your specific situation. Please call us at (813) 672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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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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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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Simple Ways to Avoid Holiday Hazards

The holidays are almost here! You’re probably looking forward to spending time with family and friends, enjoying delicious meals, and giving and receiving gifts. Maybe you’re even going to travel to spend a holiday with far off loved ones.

As you prepare to travel or host festivities for family or friends, L & M Insurance Group would like to remind you to take a few simple precautions so you can have a safe and crime-free holiday season.

Safe at home

Hosting meals and decorating the house for holiday cheer doesn’t seem risky, but it is! Falls and fires are two of the most common holiday hazards to watch out for. In fact, home fires are the most frequent disaster in the US, according to the American Red Cross, and many of them take place during the holiday season. Cooking fires peak on Thanksgiving Day, with Christmas Day not far behind. Stay in the kitchen when something is cooking, and be sure no decorations are near the stove where they could catch fire.

Christmas trees, candles, and holiday lights can be the cause of a fire, so take precautions. Keep real trees well watered, and all decorations at least three feet from heat sources. And don’t forget fireplace safety. Make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire, and keep all decorations and Christmas stockings well away from it. Also, don’t burn wrapping paper—it can flare up dangerously. Store matches and lighters up high in a locked cupboard to keep them out of children’s hands.

Click here for holiday decoration safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Click here for more holiday fire safety tips.

In addition to fires, injuries from falls are another holiday hazard to watch out for. If you need to climb a ladder to hang lights or other decorations, make sure you position it properly and keep three points of contact on it at all times (two feet and one hand, for example). Also keep doorways and walkways clear of extension cords, decorations, bags, toys, and gifts—anything that could cause someone to trip and fall.

Don’t be a crime victim

Criminals often take advantage of the extra shopping (both in person and online) and packages being delivered. Reduce the chances of being victimized with these tips from the Florida Sheriff’s Association:

  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Park in a well-lighted area and be sure to lock your car doors.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
  • Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • Avoid carrying cash if at all possible. Use credit cards instead.
  • Double check that you have your credit cards and wallet after you pay for your items.
  • Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases.
  • If you are shopping with your children, talk to them ahead of time about what to do if they get lost in the crowd.
  • When shopping online use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Beware of online “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

At home, don’t advertise your gifts by leaving them in plain sight, or by putting the boxes they came in out for garbage collection. Break down the boxes and put them in your recycling bin or inside a trash bag.

Leaving home?

Don’t let your home become a target of thieves. Package thefts and home break-ins spike between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you plan to travel this holiday season, don’t announce your plans on social media. Make your home look “lived in” while you’re gone. Set some lights on a timer (including outdoor lights), and perhaps ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway. Have mail and newspapers held, or ask friend or neighbor to pick them up for you. Make sure all doors and windows are locked, and trim back any landscaping around your home so thieves have nowhere to hide. Leave a key and a contact number with a friend or neighbor, but don’t hide one outside. Thieves are familiar with all the best hiding spots.

Protect your valuables

Taking precautions to avoid holiday hazards such as fires, falls, and crime can help you have a much happier and safer holiday season. Another way to protect your valuables is to carry insurance tailor-made for your situation. If you need an auto policy, homeowners insurance, or umbrella policy to cover some of those new Christmas gifts, please consider giving L & M Insurance Group a call. We represent dozens of financially stable insurance companies for all your personal and business insurance needs. Please call 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online—and have a very happy (and safe) holiday season!

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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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Yes, We Can Insure Your E-bike!

The popularity of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, has soared over the past couple of years—sales were up 145 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to market research firm NPD Group. If you’re one of the many people zipping around for fun, or even commuting to work with a little help from an e-bike, you might wonder if you need insurance for your new toy.

Do I really need insurance for my e-bike?

While Florida doesn’t require insurance for e-bikes as long as they’re not capable of going more than 28 miles per hour, it’s not a bad idea to carry it. Here’s why:

The main reason is that while your homeowners or renters insurance policy may provide some coverage for an electric bike under personal property (be sure to check with your insurance company for details), that coverage will likely be limited and subject to your deductible. In addition, you’ll need to make sure you have adequate coverage for your injuries if you’re hurt while riding, and for protection for your liability if you injure someone or damage property while riding your e-bike.

Since e-bikes are heavier and more complex machines, and they travel faster than a pedal-only bike, the potential for injury (to rider or pedestrian) and property damage is greater. And since e-bikes are more expensive than standard bikes, if yours is stolen or damaged, you may find it a financial hardship to replace it. Quality e-bikes often cost thousands of dollars.

What does e-bike insurance cover?

The good news is that a standalone e-bike policy is usually inexpensive—policies start at around $100 a year. Cost depends on the coverage you choose, the value of your e-bike, and your deductible.

Basic bike policy coverages include:

  • Physical damage to your bike if you hit something—another vehicle, a curb, a tree, and so on.
  • Liability if you’re at fault and you injure someone or damage property.
  • Theft and vandalism—coverage to repair or replace your bike if it’s stolen or vandalized.
  • Uninsured motorist—coverage that pays for your injuries if you’re hit by an uninsured driver (and unfortunately, we have many of those in Florida).

Whether you use your e-bike to commute or just for recreation, protect your investment and your personal liability with a standalone electric bicycle insurance policy. Give L & M Financial Group a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for a quote. Happy riding!

We can insure your e-bike!