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Is Your Homeowners Insurance Rate Going Up? Here’s Why

Central Florida is a great place to live—we have great beaches, warm temperatures, and a laid-back lifestyle. We also have the second highest average homeowners insurance premiums in the U.S., and our rates are most likely about to go up again.

5 Factors for Why Homeowners Insurance Rates are Going Up

Even though Florida homeowners rates are higher than average, they have been stable, or even going down slightly, for the past 10 to 15 years. Insurance companies have not been increasing their premiums at a rate that matches the reality of the Florida homeowners insurance marketplace, and we are now seeing some big rate increases on the horizon. Here are five factors that have contributed to this situation:

Insurance companies have paid out billions in claims and litigation

Despite nearly 15 years of low hurricane activity, in the past couple of years, Florida has been seriously impacted by hurricanes. Hurricane Irma cost insurers $11 billion in claims, and Hurricane Michael cost $7 billion. Insurers are also seeing something called “loss creep,” which means that the loss estimates are increasing considerably over what the insurance companies predicted they would be, not because of poor planning, but because of a rise in lawsuits (see below).

In addition to hurricanes and loss creep, water damage losses and roof replacement fraud have also increased insurance companies’ cost of doing business in Florida.

Potential Demotech downgrades

Demotech rates the financial stability of more than 40 Florida homeowners insurance companies. They recently announced they plan to downgrade a number of these companies if the companies don’t take steps to become more financially stable. One of the recommendations is that carriers raise their rates to an “actuarially sound” level. (Read more about what this downgrade means here.)

Reinsurance costs are rising

Simply put, reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies. When catastrophic losses occur, reinsurance helps insurance companies cover those losses. Like it or not, the worldwide reinsurance market has been affected by disasters all over the globe—not only hurricanes, but also such catastrophes as the recent California and Australian wildfires.

Some reinsurance companies have pulled out of Florida, while others are asking for substantial rate increases. Reinsurance rates are expected to rise by 15 to 20 percent at the June renewal period, and insurance companies, who operate on razor thin margins, are forced to pass this expense on to their policyholders or face going out of business altogether.

Lawsuits have increased

Insurance companies are spending increasingly more money defending themselves against lawsuits. In addition to the expense of assignment of benefits litigation, one homeowners carrier noted that the percentage of claims represented by an attorney has risen from four percent to 36 percent, and another company reported a 727 percent increase in lawsuits.

Legislation recently passed that should help curb assignment of benefits lawsuits, but another aspect of the legal system is still causing insurance companies’ legal costs to rise. Under current law, attorneys can earn up to three times their hourly rate for a basic insurance lawsuit. This was originally intended to help consumers who couldn’t afford to sue an insurance company. However, now some attorneys are using it as an excuse to collect large fees, and many lawsuits are frivolous or fraudulent. Insurance companies who don’t want to risk losing in court wind up settling out of court. Even if they do so, it costs them much more than paying a claim to an individual not represented by a lawyer.

The homeowners market is hardening

More and more companies are pulling out of the Florida homeowners insurance market or tightening their underwriting rules, making it harder for consumers to get insurance at all. As rates rise and coverage options shrink, the market is said to be hardening. That’s what appears to be happening right now.

At L & M Insurance Group, we understand that this may be a challenging time for Florida homeowners. As an independent agency, we remain committed to finding you the best coverage at the most affordable rates. We represent dozens of financially sound insurance companies, not just one. We pride ourselves on offering personalized service to all our clients. Review your homeowners policy when it comes up for renewal, and give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to compare rates for you. If you prefer, contact us via email by clicking here.

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L & M Office Tentatively Set to Reopen to the Public May 4

As you may know, for the month of April, we decided to close our office to the public in order to protect both our employees and our clients from possible exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus.  During this time, we have still been able to serve the needs of our clients by working remotely, just a phone call, live chat, or email away. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.

We are happy to announce that after monitoring the local situation, the L & M Insurance Group office has a tentative reopening date of May 4. Our office will continue to monitor coronavirus developments, and act according to directions from local and national authorities.

Continued enhanced cleaning and social distancing

When we do reopen, rest assured that we will continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. We will continue to practice social distancing, and we’ll also continue enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the office, including sanitizing desks, chair arms, door handles, and so on. Employees will continue frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizers, and using face masks when customers visit.

And remember, as much as we love to see you, before you come to the office in person, we’d like to encourage you to call or email first to see if we can help you over the phone or Internet so that we can continue to reduce physical contact. We also suggest that, if possible, only individuals essential to the transaction at hand come into the office.

We’re always here for you

We’re proud of the way our community has come together to protect the most vulnerable among us, and we’re also proud to be able to serve your insurance needs. If you need a quote, have questions about coverage, need to make a claim or a change to your insurance, we are always here for you. Please call us at 813-672-4100, use the live chat option on our website, or click here to contact us via email.

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L & M Insurance Group—Déjenos Servirle

Si esta buscando un nuevo agente de seguros, o si es nuevo en el area de Tampa Bay, queremos su negocio! Permitanos presentarnos.

Una Agencia de Seguros Independiente

L & M Insurance Group es una agencia de seguros independiente, con mas de 30 años de experiencia. Servimos a clientes de Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Valrico y otras comunidades de los alrededores en el area de Tampa Bay/Hillsborough County. Nuestros agentes son expertos en líneas personales, como polizas de automovíles, propietarios de casa, inquilinos, botes y paraguas. También escribimos todos los tipos de seguros comerciales, incluidos los de responsabilidad personal, seguro de inversionistas y auto comercial. Y también podemos proporcionarle un seguro de salud y de vida, así como cobertura complementaria de medicare. Queremos ser su agente de seguro de por vida!

Razones para seleccionar nuestra agencia independiente

Como agencia independiente, no trabajamos para ninguna compañia de seguros– trabajamos para usted. Cuando usted llama para una cotización, le haremos algunas preguntas que nos ayudaran a determinar que poliza de seguro se adapta mejor a sus necesidades únicas. Cuantos mas detalles pueda proporcionar mejor podremos servirle. Nosotros representamos a mas de 30 compañías de seguros de alta calidad para que nuestros clientes tengan muchas opciones para elegir. Estamos dedicados a encontrar la mejor cobertura posible al mejor precio posible para usted.

Hay agentes que habla español

En L & M Insurance Group, estamos orientados al servicio al cliente. Nosotros proveemos un toque personalizado y personal—alguien con quien puede hablar sobre sus necesidades de seguro. Nuestro personal tiene la experiencia, el conocimiento y el compromiso para encontrar la cobertura de seguro que lo protegera a usted, a su familia y a su propiedad, y tenemos personal que habla español listo para ayudarlo. Por favor llámenos al 813-672-4100 para obtener una cotización de seguro o si lo prefiere, contactenos por correo electronico haciendo clic aquí.

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Is Your Homeowners Insurance Company Going Out of Business? Let Us Help

Florida homeowners insurance is some of the most expensive in the nation, and the homeowners market here is one of the most complex for property insurers. Homeowners insurance companies in Florida must deal with many financial challenges, including claims from major hurricanes like Irma and Michael, fraudulent insurance claims, and the high cost of litigation due to Assignment of Benefits abuse.

Demotech, a company that monitors the financial stability of property insurers, reported recently that nearly half of the 40 property insurance companies it monitors face the possibility of having their Financial Stability Rating (FSR) downgraded from A status.

What Losing an A Rating Means for you

Losing their A rating is a serious matter for these companies, indicating that they are in financial trouble. Most companies that lose their A rating eventually go out of business.

These insurance companies, which have not been publicly named, will now have to undertake measures to strengthen their financial position. Companies that don’t improve their financial condition risk failing altogether, reducing the number of options Florida consumers have when choosing a homeowners insurance company. Less choice almost always means higher premiums.

If your homeowners insurance company is downgraded, you may want to or even have to change insurance carriers. For instance, the company that holds your home mortgage may require you to find an insurance carrier that retains an A rating.

What if your insurance company goes out of business?

If your insurance company does go out of business, several different things could happen. If another insurance company has bought or merged with your company, your policy may remain the same as long you continue to pay your premiums. In other cases, you may be notified that your policy will be cancelled or non-renewed. No matter what happens, you should receive notification ahead of time, with instructions of what you should do so that you won’t have a lapse in coverage.

If you have a new or ongoing homeowners insurance claim, it will likely be handled by the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA). FIGA handles covered claims for property and casualty insurance companies that have been ordered liquidated. 

If your policy is canceled before the end of the term, if there is any money left over after the insurance company’s financial affairs are wound down, policyholders will receive any applicable refunds.

If your homeowners insurance company goes out of business, or you’re concerned about its financial stability, please give L & M Insurance Group a call. We strive to partner with financially stable, A-rated homeowners insurance companies. As independent agents, we can work with you to find the most cost effective policy for you. We serve Riverview, Brandon, Valrico, Tampa, and surrounding areas. Give us the chance to help you protect your most valuable asset—your home. You can reach us at 813-672-4100, or email us for a no-obligation quote.

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Florida Drivers, Remember Texting While Driving Is Against the Law

Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida since 2013, but law enforcement could only ticket you for it if they pulled you over for another violation. Not anymore. The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law went into effect July 1, but officers have been issuing warnings rather than ticketing drivers during a grace period which ends Dec. 31. After that, they will issue tickets.

What is/is not allowed

The law forbids texting, emailing and instant messaging—anything that involves you manually typing multiple characters into your phone.

You may still use your phone or GPS for navigation, but be sure to type in the address before you start driving. Use the voice feature so that you don’t have to look at your device while you’re on the road.

Hands-free requirements for certain zones

Another change is that while it’s still legal to talk on your hand-held phone while driving (though it’s not recommended), the new law prohibits using a hand-held phone if you are in a school zone or construction zone. If you use a hands-free device, you may still talk on your phone in one of these zones.

Your rights

If you are stopped by law enforcement for texting, the police officer must inform you of your right to decline a search of your phone. He or she may not search your phone without a warrant, confiscate your phone while waiting for a warrant, or coerce you into allowing him or her to search your phone.

We all know how dangerous distracted driving is. In 2016, Florida had nearly 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving (233 of which resulted in death), according to statistics cited by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And, of course, texting is not the only thing that can distract you from your driving. We at L & M Insurance Group encourages you to abide by this law, as well as minimize any other activity that could distract you while you’re behind the wheel. Not only will you be more likely to avoid an accident that could harm you or others, you’ll also avoid getting ticketed for a violation that could raise your insurance rates.

Have a happy and safe holiday season! 

L & M Insurance Group is a locally owned, independent insurance agency, serving Riverview, Tampa, Brandon, Valrico, and surrounding communities. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or email us if you need any assistance with your personal or business insurance needs.

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Assignment of Benefits Abuse Continues to Expand

Why are Florida Insurance Premiums so high?

Florida consumers pay some of the highest insurance premiums in the country for auto and homeowners insurance, and it’s not because we are worse drivers or live in a state where hurricanes are prevalent. A major contributor to our higher insurance rates is assignment of benefits abuse. When we first wrote about assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse in July 2016, we mainly discussed AOB abuse related to homeowners insurance and water claims. Unfortunately, AOB abuse is still growing, and is spreading across insurance lines and across the state.

AOB Abuse is growing in Florida

AOB abuse started with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims, moved into homeowners claims (often water or roof damage), and is now spreading to the auto glass repair industry. After 2012 PIP reform, PIP AOB abuse cases dropped, but they’re on the rise again—and will likely cause the cost of PIP to rise once more.

AOB agreements have long been used in the auto glass repair industry in order to settle claims efficiently. Unfortunately, there’s been a large increase in bulk lawsuits for glass claims—in the Tampa Bay/I-4 corridor area alone (where much of the abuse is centered) auto glass lawsuits jumped from 3,723 to 17,165 between 2013 and 2017.

AOB abuse equals higher premiums

AOB is a contract between a policyholder and a business in which the policyholder turns over (“assigns”) his or her rights and benefits under the policy. There are many occasions where this type of contract is standard practice and works well, such as in health insurance and auto physical damage claims.

It becomes abuse when a vendor submits inflated claims, provides unnecessary repairs, or doesn’t do the repairs at all but still bills the insurance company. If the insurer balks at paying the claim, the vendor’s attorneys sue the insurance company. Some consumers don’t even know litigation is taking place in their name.

Inflated claims and large attorneys fees drive up insurers’ costs above the national average, and they pass on those costs to Florida consumers in the form of higher insurance premiums. The average homeowners insurance premium rose 30 percent between 2007 and 2015, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation blames AOB abuse for this large increase. Insurer’s legal expenses in Florida are growing at more than twice the national average. If legal costs had followed the national trend, the cumulative savings to Florida insurers and their policyholders would have been nearly $1.6 billion, according to an Insurance Information Institute report.

More than just higher premiums

There are other problems for consumers besides higher insurance premiums when AOB abuse runs rampant. If you as a homeowner were involved in an AOB lawsuit, whether or not you even knew about it, you may now have a large claim on your loss history. This can result in even higher premiums and make it harder to get homeowners insurance. In addition, an AOB agreement can also give contractors and suppliers the legal right to recover unpaid bills from the homeowner if the insurer delays or denies payment, even to the extent of placing a lien on your home.

Obviously, not every claim is inflated and not every lawsuit is unwarranted, but the situation is such that Florida consumers should be extra cautious if they’re approached by a business asking for an AOB agreement. If you’re in a claim situation, and a company or contractor wants you to sign an AOB contract, think twice. Before you sign anything, talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent or to your own insurance company, especially if you’re being pressured to sign or being asked for a substantial up-front deposit before repairs can be started.

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency serving eastern Hillsborough County, Tampa, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, Seffner, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas for more than 25 years. If you need help with any of your insurance needs, please give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100, or request an insurance quote by clicking here. We represent you, and we’re here to help!

Start the Year Right With Insurance Savings

Insurance Savings

Shopping for insurance is no one’s idea of a good time, but here at L & M Insurance Group, we try to make it as simple and painless and cost-effective as possible. We are an all-lines, local independent agency based in Riverview, and we work hard to get you the best insurance savings:

  • Write many different types of insurance, including auto, home, renters, boat, RV, general liability, commercial auto, life, and health.
  • Represent dozens of A-rated insurance companies (including more than 15 different car insurance companies), not just one.
  • Offer “one-stop shopping.” Instead of calling multiple insurance companies for your needs, call us! We’ll do the comparison shopping for you.
  • Represent YOU. We’ll help you understand your insurance needs, help you through the claims process, and treat you like a person, not a policy number. After all, this is our community and you are our neighbors!

Insurance Savings for the New Year

Our goal is always to find you the right insurance plan for your needs at the most affordable price, and in many cases, we’re able to save our clients hundreds of dollars per year while also improving their coverage. Our staff has been serving Riverview, Brandon, Lithia, Valrico, Bloomingdale, and surrounding areas for 25 years, and we’d love to serve you!

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance, or if you’d like a quote. If you prefer, click here for an auto quote, or here for a homeowners quote. For general inquiries, click here.

As 2018 winds down, L & M Insurance Group would like to thank you for letting us serve you. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Have a Happy—and Safe—Holiday Season

Holiday Safety Tips

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the fun and excitement of getting together with family, traveling, exchanging gifts, and enjoying special holiday traditions. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be one of increased risks, whether of fire, theft, or accident. Here are some holiday safety reminders from your friends at L & M Insurance Group:

Decorate safely

  • Live trees are beautiful, but they can also be fire hazards. Water your tree regularly so it doesn’t dry out, and keep open flames away from it. Also be sure to check Christmas lights for frayed or exposed wires that could spark and start a fire.
  • Keep fragile, breakable ornaments securely fastened at the top of the tree and out of reach of children and pets.
  • If you decorate with candles, snuff them out before you go to bed or leave the house (and turn off flameless candles, too). Don’t leave them burning unattended where children or pets could burn themselves or knock them over.
  • Be cautious when decorating up high—use a ladder, not a chair or other piece of furniture. You’ll be less likely to fall.

Foil thieves

  • Don’t give thieves the gift of easy access to your holiday purchases. Help avoid a car break-in by keeping purchases locked in your trunk or where no one can see them. Lock car doors, keep windows rolled up, and park in a well-lighted area.
  • Be alert when shopping in a crowd. Don’t carry a lot of cash, keep your purse close to your body, or carry your wallet in a front pocket.
  • If no one is home and you’re expecting delivery of holiday packages, keep them safe from “porch pirates” by seeing if you can have packages delivered to you at work, or by arranging for the post office to hold them.
  • After the holidays, don’t advertise the new gifts in your home. Dispose of boxes and other packaging discreetly.
  • If you plan to travel, don’t announce your plans beforehand on social media. Stop your mail and newspaper, and set up lights on timers so your home looks occupied. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.

Drive carefully

  • Holiday traffic can be busier than usual, and drivers may also be more distracted. Be extra careful, and remind your teen driver to do the same. Remember to buckle seat belts, put aside cell phones, and pay full attention to the road.
  • If you plan to drink alcohol at a holiday party, designate a driver beforehand, or use a taxi or car service to bring you safely home.

Remember your pets

  • Holidays can be stressful for pets. Provide a safe, quiet place for them to retreat if the holiday festivities become too much for them.
  • Also avoid bringing toxic plants such as mistletoe, holly, lilies, or amaryllis into your home.
  • Don’t give them “people food,” and make sure any holiday chocolate is kept out of reach—chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

With a little thought and preparation, you can avoid potential holiday mishaps. We hope you have a very happy—and safe—holiday season!

And remember, we are here to help with any of your insurance needs. Just give us a call at 813-672-4100.

Need Auto Insurance and Have PIP Claims? L & M Insurance Group Has You Covered!

Multiple PIP claims can hurt your ability to get auto insurance. Florida Low rate auto insurance alternative for FAJUA quotes

Let’s say you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, and the other driver is at fault. Under current Florida requirements, all drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, and even though you weren’t at fault in the accident, in order to have your injuries covered, you make a claim on your PIP. (PIP pays for your injuries if you’re hurt in an accident, no matter who is at fault.) You make the claim and think no more about it.

 

But then later, you may find yourself in a predicament: your auto insurance company non-renews you, and other insurance companies don’t want to insure you. If you have more than one PIP claim, you may find it nearly impossible to get insurance.

 

Why PIP Claims can cost you

 

Unfortunately, PIP claims are associated with insurance fraud: “While PIP premium represents roughly two percent of Florida’s collected insurance premium, this issue accounts for nearly 50 percent of fraud referrals,” according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Because of the high rate of fraud, many insurance companies now consider clients with PIP claims high risk—even if they were not at fault in an accident. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for clients with PIP claims on their records to buy car insurance.

Florida Auto Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA) Low Rate Alternative

Until recently, clients with one or more PIP claims have been forced to rely on the Florida Auto Joint Underwriters Association (FAJUA). We’re happy to say that L & M Insurance Group now has an alternative to the high rates of the FAJUA. If you’ve had one or more PIP claims, please call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us via email for a free, no-obligation quote. We’ve been serving Riverview, Sun City Center, and surrounding communities in Florida for more than 10 years, and we’re here to help.

Avoid These Thanksgiving Dangers

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Happy times spent with family, a delicious meal, maybe a football game on TV? You probably don’t picture putting out a fire in your kitchen or a trip to the emergency room! Unfortunately, too many people experience those events on Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous holidays of the year!

Since we want all our clients to be happy and healthy through the entire holiday season. L & M Insurance Group would like to offer some tips to help you avoid the most common Thanksgiving dangers:

Fire

Thanksgiving is the number one day for home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). We know with family around it’s easy to get distracted, so remember to closely monitor food cooking on the stove, and never leave your house with the turkey in the oven. Move anything flammable, such as kitchen towels or oven mitts, away from the stove, make sure all your smoke alarms are working, and have a fire extinguisher handy. Keep small children out of the kitchen when active cooking is taking place.

And don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey! It’s such risky business that the NFPA strongly discourages the practice.

Lit candles are another fire hazard to be aware of during the holiday season. Make sure they are at least three feet from anything that could catch fire, and never leave children unattended in a room where candles are burning.

Illness

Improper preparation and storage of your Thanksgiving turkey can result in serious illness, such as Salmonella poisoning or Listeria. Make sure turkey is thawed completely before cooking, and cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a food thermometer. Remember to refrigerate leftovers promptly after the meal. Click here for more turkey food safety cooking tips from the Centers for Disease Control.

And it’s not just the turkey you should be careful with. Raw fruits and vegetables can also make you sick if they’re not washed thoroughly before you eat them.

Car Accident

With many thousands of people going “over the river and through the woods” to their Thanksgiving destinations, chances of car accident are much greater than normal. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), Thanksgiving is the third most dangerous holiday for driving, behind Independence Day and Memorial Day. In 2015, 386 people died in car accidents during the Wednesday-to-Sunday period of the Thanksgiving holiday, and the NSC estimated more than 50,000 more drivers and passengers were injured. Sadly, many of these accidents are due to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Obviously you should never drink and drive, but we also encourage you to use extra caution to avoid other drivers who might not be so responsible. In addition, make sure everyone in the vehicle wears a seat belt, and put aside your phone or other devices so your attention is fully on your driving.

We at L & M Insurance Group wish you a happy, healthy and SAFE Thanksgiving! As always, thank you for your business. Please feel free to call us at 813-672-4100, or contact us, if you have any questions about your insurance needs.