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“When thunder roars, go indoors!”—Lightning Safety for You and Your Family

Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, we’re already experiencing increased thunderstorm activity in Riverview, Brandon, and nearby areas. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries in the past 50 years. While the odds of being struck by lightning are only 1 in 500,000, you’re at increased risk if you often work or play outdoors—and with summer activities soon to be in full swing, that’s most of us!

Since June is Lightning Safety Month, here are a few lightning safety reminders from your neighbors at L & M Insurance Group.

Check the forecast

If you plan to spend a lot of time outside—going out on a boat, going dirt biking, hiking, or canoeing, for example, be sure to check the weather forecast. If thunderstorms are predicted, adjust your plans. And even if the forecast is favorable, be sure to keep an eye on the weather once you’re outside. Know where you can go for safety if a storm blows up. Your best options are an enclosed shelter not made of concrete (the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring can conduct lightning), or a metal-topped vehicle.

“If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you,” according to the National Weather Service. Another rule of thumb: if you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you get to 30, go inside. Don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap. Lightning can strike before or after rainfall, and as far away from rain as 10 miles.

If you’re outside

During storms with lightning, if you’re outside, you’re at risk. Doing the following may make you slightly safer:

Avoid open areas, isolated trees, towers, metal fences, or bodies of water—though these things don’t attract electricity, they do conduct it. If you can’t get inside a metal-topped vehicle or fully enclosed building, get as low to the ground as you can, with as little of your body as possible touching the ground.  Look for a low spot such as a ditch or depression.

What if you’re inside?

You should still be cautious even if you’re inside when lightning is present—one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur inside. During thunderstorms, avoid using water (no showers, baths, hand washing, or doing dishes), electronics, or a corded telephone. These things all conduct electricity and you could be injured if lightning strikes nearby while you’re touching them. It’s safe to use a portable or cell phone. Also stay off porches, balconies, lanais, and out of open garages.

Also remember your pets during storms—a doghouse or screened porch is not a safe place for your pet. Bring him or her indoors until the storm passes.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR if you have training. Strike victims often need immediate first aid and touching them will not give you a shock. Only 10 percent of lightning strike victims die, but many of the rest live with serious aftereffects such as severe pain, neurological disabilities, or depression.

If lightning hits your home, most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage and damage to personal property caused by lightning. If your car is hit by lightning, if you carry comprehensive insurance, it should be covered, less your deductible. Be sure to report the lightning strike to your insurance company or to your L & M Insurance Group agent as soon as possible.

Please feel free to call us at 813-672-4100 or contact us online if you have any questions about your insurance needs and coverage. And stay safe this summer!

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Is Your Homeowners Insurance Hurricane Ready?

Hurricane season starts again June 1. Are you ready? Is your homeowners insurance? In addition to basic preparations such as creating a disaster kit and reviewing evacuation plans, you should also review your homeowners insurance coverage so you won’t have any surprises if a hurricane damages or destroys your home. Here are a few things to familiarize yourself with before hurricane season begins.

Hurricane deductibles

Hurricanes have their own separate deductibles, different from the deductible you’d pay out of pocket for another named peril. Instead of a flat dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000, a hurricane deductible is a percentage of your Dwelling A coverage (the part of your homeowners policy that covers you if your home has to be rebuilt or repaired). Most of the policies we see have a 2% deductible, but it can rise as high as 5 or 10% in Florida. That means that if you have a 2% deductible and your home is insured for $350,000, your hurricane deductible will be $7,000. (We do have a few companies that offer a flat hurricane deductible of $1,000-$2,000, which may be a better choice for some clients.)

Once the storm passes, and the hurricane warning or watch has been lifted, you’ll still be on the hook for your hurricane deductible for 72 hours. That means if a tree falls on your roof a day after the storm passes through, your hurricane deductible will still apply.

What if you have damage from more than one hurricane in the same year? According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, “In Florida, you only have to pay one hurricane deductible within the calendar year, provided you are insured with the same insurance company or group of companies for the second or subsequent hurricanes during the same calendar year.”

Other questions to ask

  • If your home is destroyed, do you have enough coverage to rebuild? 
  • Do you have flood insurance? Flood damage is costly, and even if the flood is caused by a hurricane, it won’t be covered by your homeowners policy. To have flood coverage, you need a flood policy. A “flood” can be anything from storm surge, to pooling water after prolonged rainfall, to rising water from a river, creek, or lake.
  • What about sewer backup? Damage from sewer backup is not covered by either homeowners insurance or a flood policy. You’ll need separate sewer backup coverage.

Before hurricane season begins, review your homeowners insurance declarations page, decide if you need any additional coverage, and make sure you’ll have access to funds to cover your hurricane deductible. Please call your L & M Insurance Group agent at 813-672-4100 for a no-obligation homeowners insurance quote, or if you have any questions about your insurance coverage. You may also click here to contact us online.

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Buying a Home? Don’t Skip the Home Inspection

When you’re buying a home, there are many decisions and expenses to take into consideration. While it may be tempting to waive the home inspection contingency to make your offer more attractive to the seller or to save money, most of the time that’s not a good idea. A home inspection is a protection for you as the buyer. If you waive a home inspection, you’ve lost the right to ask for repairs or walk away from the sale if the home has major problems. An investment of a few hundred dollars now may equal a savings of thousands of dollars later.

In addition, if you’re buying a home for the first time, a home inspection can help you understand what it takes to maintain a home, and what types of home improvement projects you should plan for in the future.

What does a home inspection include?

A standard home inspection covers the major components and systems of a home, including “the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components,” according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A home inspection is different from an appraisal, which determines the home’s market value.

Home inspectors must be licensed in Florida, and are generally required to be certified by state-run agencies. If possible, get a recommendation from someone you trust, or check with an organization like the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, or HomeAdvisor. Look for certification from one of the home inspection professional associations, such as ASHI. Your real estate agent may recommend someone, but be cautious—while many agents have your best interest in mind, some won’t recommend a home inspector if they think he or she is “too picky” and will cost them sales.

Attend the inspection if you can. You’ll be able to hear first hand about any issues the inspector finds, point out areas of concern, and ask questions about the home’s condition and how to maintain it.

After the inspection

Once the inspection is completed, the inspector will prepare a written report. Do remember that a home inspection will almost always find problems with a home. That doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. If the problems are serious enough, perhaps you can negotiate with the seller for repairs, or to knock some off the price so that you can make the repairs yourself. It’s unlikely that the seller will pay to have everything fixed, but knowing ahead of time what to expect will also help you budget for repairs and renovations you’ll want to do in the future.

While a home inspection is not a guarantee that nothing major will ever go wrong with your new home, it can be a helpful negotiating tool, as well as a source of knowledge for the future.

L & M Insurance Group is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency based in the Brandon/Riverview  area. We would love to help you with your homeowners insurance—or any of your insurance needs. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 for a free quote, or contact us online. For more information about homeowners insurance.

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Show Your Home Some Love With These Maintenance Tasks

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air! Once you’ve taken care of your significant other, why not show your home some love? Maintaining your home can save you money, hassles—and maybe even a homeowners insurance claim!

You don’t have to do a major remodel to improve your home. Here are a few areas where a little loving attention will do the most good.

First, see your home with fresh eyes. Walk through your entire home, noting areas of wear, safety issues, and so on. Don’t forget your attic, deck, patio, porch, or lanai. Take pen and paper, and jot down any areas that need attention.

For instance, are there signs of leaks, such as discoloration on walls, floors, or ceilings? What about around toilets, tubs, and sinks? Is a faucet dripping or a toilet running?

Even minor leaks can do major damaged, and unlike a sudden accident, such as a burst pipe, gradual damage caused by neglected maintenance is not covered under homeowners insurance policies.

Check Fire Safety Items

Check and replace fire safety items. Change batteries in smoke detectors, and every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors themselves.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Click here for instructions on how to properly inspect your fire extinguisher. (And remember, only use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire. In many cases, it’s more important for everyone to get out of the house and let the fire department handle a fire.)

Drains and Pipes

Keep drains and pipes clear. If water drains slowly from sinks or tubs, try using vinegar and baking soda, or commercial drain cleaner, to get things moving again. Don’t put things down the kitchen sink unless it’s equipped with a garbage disposal. In the bathroom, use traps in drains to keep hair from clogging the plumbing, and don’t use flushable wipes as these also cause plumbing backups.

Air Conditioning

Maintain your HVAC system. Replace air filters on an appropriate schedule, and have the unit cleaned and serviced according to manufacturer’s directions. These tasks improve air quality and help your unit operate more efficiently, as well as lessen the chance of a breakdown when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Check Large Appliances

Inspect and clean large appliances. This includes cleaning the dishwasher, which can become clogged with food particles or soap residue, resulting in dirtier dishes or even a breakdown. If your dishwasher has a filter, take it out and clean it. Run some white vinegar through a wash cycle, or use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.

Check dishwasher and washing machine hoses and replace if they’re cracked or worn.

Clean refrigerator coils.

Empty the dryer lint trap after every load, and periodically clean dryer exhaust vents in order to prevent fire.

Review Home Insurance Coverage

Review and update your insurance coverage if necessary. Are you receiving all available discounts? Have you made home improvements that have added value to your home? Did you replace your roof? Notify your L & M Insurance Group agent of any changes to your personal situation, such as marriage or divorce.

L & M Insurance Group is Here to help

Please call us at 813-672-4100 if you have a question about how a home improvement project might affect your homeowners insurance, or if you need a quote. Happy Valentine’s Day to you—and your home!

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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Does Your Homeowner’s Insurance Come Up Short?

Do you Have Enough Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage?

Your homeowner’s insurance policy is a key piece of your financial safety net. Not only does it cover what is probably your most valuable asset, your home itself, it also covers what’s inside your home—or does it?

 

Here are ways your homeowners insurance might come up short:

 

You don’t have enough homeowner’s insurance coverage.

If your home is completely destroyed, will your insurance pay to have it rebuilt with similar quality and craftsmanship? What about coverage for your personal belongings? In the event of a claim, would you receive replacement cost or actual cash value?

 

Also, remember every time you make any significant upgrades to your home, you should notify your L & M Insurance Group agent. Certain upgrades, such as a new roof, could net you a discount. Even if no discounts result, you’ll still want your insurance company to know the true value of your home in case you have a claim.

 

You run a business from your home

Homeowners insurance policies offer no liability coverage and limited coverage for business equipment. Home office policies are reasonably priced and offer both liability and contents coverage.

 

You don’t have flood insurance

Standard homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage, and Florida is essentially one big flood plain. L & M Insurance Group represents several private companies that write flood insurance at a more competitive rate than those of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These policies also have higher available limits than the NFIP’s standard coverage. Also, private flood companies offer replacement cost coverage on your contents. The NFIP will pay only the actual cash value. (Click here for a flood insurance quote.)

 

Your policy doesn’t have water/sewer backup coverage

A standard homeowners policy usually covers damage from overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning as long as it originates on your property. However, if the backup damage comes from outside of your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer back up into your home, you may not be covered. This is a scenario all too common in our rainy, hurricane-prone state.

 

You have a special collection of wine, art, jewelry, or other valuable assets

Your personal property is covered up to a percentage (usually 50-70 percent) of your dwelling limit. There are also limit caps on certain categories like firearms, jewelry, silverware, furs, coins, etc. If you have high value items or special collections, you may need a personal floater. You may also need separate floaters for each category of asset—such as jewelry and artwork. Floaters usually have no deductibles, and you may need to have your collection appraised.

 

Why Choose L & M Insurance Group for your Homeowner’s Insurance

L & M Insurance Group is an independent insurance agency located in the Riverview/Brandon area. We have multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, and the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Give us a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online.

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If Lightning Strikes, Are You Covered?

Does your insurance cover lightning damage?

Even if you’re new to the Bradenton/Sarasota area, you’re probably already familiar with our frequent thunderstorms. After all, the Sunshine State could just as well be called the Lightning State—Florida experiences an average of 3,500 cloud to ground lightning flashes every day—1.2 million per year! The good news is that most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage to your home caused by lightning as well as damage to personal property, such as sensitive electronics affected by a power surge. (Please note: power surges caused by utility work or other non-lightning related causes may not be covered. If you have questions about this, please consult your L & M Insurance Group agent.)

 

In addition, your policy will probably also cover additional living expenses if your home is so badly damaged that you can’t live in it while it’s being repaired or rebuilt.

 

If lightning strikes your home or property

If lightning strikes, check your home and personal property for damage, and make a list of anything affected. Do remember that your deductible will apply, and the amount you’ll receive for your claim will depend on whether you carry actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. “Replacement cost” covers the amount you would need to replace the item with a new, similar item, and “actual cash value” will cover the cost of replacing the item minus depreciation for that item. We almost always recommend replacement cost coverage.

 

Report the lightning strike to your insurance company, or to your L & M Insurance Group agent as soon as possible. Your home inventory will be helpful in filing a claim if expensive electronics or other personal property is damaged.

 


What if lightning hits your car? If you carry comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, you should also be covered if lightning damages your car. Your deductible will apply.


Protection from lightning

Surge protectors may help, but often aren’t enough to protect your sensitive electronics from a direct lightning strike. You may want to unplug them before you leave the house, or before the storm hits if there is lightning in the forecast. During the storm, you risk being struck if you try to unplug your electronics, so don’t do it!

 

For whole house protection, consider installing a lightning protection system. These systems help conduct the lightning’s electricity safely to the ground, and should be installed by a certified professional, according to the Lightning Protection Institute.

 

Please consult with your L & M Insurance Group agent if you have any questions about what your homeowners insurance policy covers, and whether or not it is adequate to protect your assets. If you’re in the market for a homeowners policy, please call (813) 672-4100, or email us for a free, no obligation quote.

 

*Photo by Svitlana Koshelieva on Unsplash

 

9 Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

Who doesn’t love to hear the words, “pool party”?

 

Swimming and playing in a backyard pool is one of the best ways to have fun and stay cool during our hot Florida summers. However, homeowners need to be aware that swimming pools can be dangerous for children, especially young children who don’t know how to swim. Drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 years old. Here are some pool safety tips to help you swim safe all summer.

 

  1. Create a barrier around your pool to prevent children from entering it without supervision. Your pool should be fenced or otherwise blocked off on all four sides. Fences should be at least four feet tall with no openings or protrusions that would enable a child to climb over or under them. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches out of reach of small children. Alarm the doors and windows that face the pool, especially if your house itself provides the fourth side of the barrier. For added protection, install a surface wave or underwater alarm that will alert you when someone goes in the pool.

If you have an above-ground pool, be aware that children leaning against soft sides can fall in. Surround it with a fence just as you would an in-ground pool. Remove the ladder or steps when the pool isn’t in use, and install a safety cover.

 

  1. When it’s time to swim, a responsible adult should always supervise children in and around the pool. Stay within arm’s reach of young children. Children should never be left unattended, even if they know how to swim.

 

  1. Keep rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and fiberglass shepherd’s hook, on hand. Also have a portable phone nearby when the pool is in use.

 

  1. Establish pool rules such as “walk don’t run,” “no diving,” and “never swim alone.” Make sure everyone in the family and all visiting children know and understand the rules, and be sure to enforce them.

 

  1. Sign children up for age-appropriate water safety and swimming lessons. Keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t “drown proof” a child.

 

  1. Get your CPR certificate. Knowing how to perform CPR could save a life!

 

  1. Avoid the drain. Suction from pool drains can catch bathing suits, hair, or jewelry and trap swimmers underwater. Make sure all drain covers are present and in good repair, and remind swimmers to stay clear of drains.

 

  1. Maintain the pool water. Pool water can be the source of earaches, rashes, and other more serious afflictions if it’s not maintained properly. Test water on a regular basis, and adjust the chemicals as needed.

 

  1. Make sure your homeowner’s policy carries adequate liability coverage in case of accident. Call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 or contact us online if you have any questions about your limits, or for a free, no-obligation quote.

Happy swimming!

For more information on pool safety for children, please visit poolsafely.gov.

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Hurricane Season Is Almost Here–Will You Be Ready?

After 2017’s Hurricane Irma impacted nearly the entire state of Florida, most of us in the Riverview and Brandon area are taking hurricane preparations seriously this year. Hurricane experts have already indicated that the 2018 season should have slightly above-average activity and probability that a major hurricane will make landfall along the continental United States.

 

Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows you way:

 

  1. Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazards.
  2.  Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  3. Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain.
  4. Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  5. Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it.

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, L & M Insurance Group is here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, please visit:

 

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If My Garage Burns Down and My Classic Car Is Destroyed, Am I Covered?

What you need to know about Classic Car Insurance in Brandon, Florida

You might think that if your classic car is damaged or destroyed by fire while locked in your garage that your homeowners insurance would cover the loss.

 

Think again. Your homeowners insurance will not cover your classic car, because it doesn’t provide coverage for motor vehicles. The good news? It’s simple to make sure your classic car is covered in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event by purchasing a classic car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage.

 

Classic car coverage—your best option

You could simply add your classic car to your conventional car insurance, but it likely will not cover the true value of your classic car. Unlike the car you drive every day, classic cars don’t depreciate over time—often they go up in value. Conventional car insurance covers your car up to actual cash value, but classic car insurance covers your vehicle up to a guaranteed amount agreed upon by you and your classic car insurance company. This amount is determined by appraisal, documentation, and/or consultation with a collectible car value guide such as the Old Cars Report Price Guide or the value guide at www.buyclassiccars.com.

 

What coverage is included in a classic car insurance policy?

While there are a few differences among insurance companies, a basic classic car policy will typically include the same coverage for liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision that a conventional policy does. However, since you don’t drive your classic car every day, you’ll probably pay less for equivalent coverage. Also, classic car policies often include coverage specific to classic cars, such as specialized repair or restoration, or special towing and spare parts. If you don’t plan to drive your classic at all, you may be able to purchase a comprehensive only classic car insurance policy.

 

While there is no single definition of a “classic car,” vehicles that may qualify for classic status include cars that are at least 25 to 30 years old, certain hotrods or modified vehicles, exotic luxury vehicles, muscle cars, or classic trucks. To be eligible for a classic car policy, your classic car cannot be used as a primary vehicle, and your insurance company may restrict the number of miles you can drive it each year. You must also store your classic car in a locked, covered enclosure, such as a garage or storage unit.

 

Get Started on Your Classic Car Insurance Policy with L&M Insurance Group in Brandon, Florida

If you need a classic car policy, please give L & M Insurance Group a call at 813-672-4100 or contact us online. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about covering your classic vehicle. We’re a locally-owned, independent agency serving the Tampa Bay area, including Bloomingdale, Sun City Center, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Valrico, and nearby communities, and our agents are experts in finding you the best coverage at a competitive price.