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Tips for a Safer Thanksgiving

As you prepare to gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, L & M Insurance Group wants to thank you for your business, and wish you a happy holiday. We also want to remind you of a few Thanksgiving safety precautions to take to ensure that you also have a safe holiday. Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly perilous day.

While your car and homeowners/renters insurance should protect you financially if you face one of these Thanksgiving mishaps, we hope you will never have to spend any of your holiday time making a claim. Here’s a look at the more common accidents that happen on Thanksgiving, and some tips for avoiding them.

Car accidents

Millions of motorists hit the roads during the four-day Thanksgiving break. Unfortunately, many of them will be distracted or driving while under the influence of alcohol. The National Safety Council estimates that 417 people will die in traffic accidents during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, and 47,500 injuries will occur. If you’re driving to a Thanksgiving celebration, take extra care. Buckle those seat belts, put away your phone. If alcohol figures into your Thanksgiving celebrations, make sure you designate a driver, or use a ride service. If you’re the host, don’t be shy about arranging a ride home for a guest who’s had too much to drink. 

Fires

On Thanksgiving Day, cooking fires are three times more common, do more property damage, and claim more lives than on any other day of the year. Unattended cooking is usually the culprit, so keep a close eye on the stove and oven when they’re in use. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to use it. Check the batteries in smoke detectors and make sure they’re functioning before the festivities start.

Candles left burning are another source of home fires. Be sure to blow them all out before leaving the house or going to sleep. And never leave children unattended in a room with a lit candle.

Falls

To prevent a slip or trip and fall, keep all high traffic areas clear. Watch out for kids playing, toys, purses, or bags where people will be walking. Check handrails for sturdiness, and warn guests of any slippery spots on your driveway or walkways.

Pet problems

Holiday parties can be stressful to pets, and cause even friendly ones to bite or scratch. If you have pets, for both their safety and that of your guests, provide a safe and quiet place for them to retreat while you have company. A dog bite or cat scratch can quickly spoil a party. (Click here for more information on dog bite liability.)

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at L & M Insurance Group. We thank you for allowing us to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to call (813-672-4100) or email us if you have questions about your insurance needs. We’re here to help.

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Extra Protection With American Integrity

During October, we’ve introduced you to one of our trusted partners, American Integrity. Not only does American Integrity offer programs for small boat owners and owners of high value homes, they also write coverage for more modest homes, condos, manufactured homes, renters insurance, and more, including:

Coverage for rental properties. If you own rental property, American Integrity writes DP-1 and DP-3 policies.

Umbrella policies.

Cyber attack coverage. In conjunction with a homeowners or renters policy.

Golf cart coverage.

Home Systems Protection. This policy covers repairs or replacement when certain home systems, such as your central air conditioning or conventionally installed water heater, break down and cause physical damage. Most standard homeowners policies don’t cover this kind of damage. Home Systems Protection is included in their Silver, Gold, and Diamond Reserve endorsements for your homeowners or condo insurance, or can be purchased as stand-alone coverage under certain programs.

Identity theft insurance. This coverage includes identity restoration case management as well as reimbursement for the expenses you face when restoring your identity. This coverage is also included in American Integrity’s Silver, Gold, and Diamond endorsement bundles, or as stand-alone coverage for a $25 fee in conjunction with a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Don’t forget the discounts!

American Integrity also offers many different types of discounts, including discounts for newly-built homes (within the past five years), alarm systems, secured communities, recent updates to your roof and/or other major systems like electrical or plumbing—even a discount if the policyholder is 55 or older. Be sure to consult with your L & M Insurance Group agent to see if you’re receiving all the discounts you’re entitled to.

If you have any questions about American Integrity, or any of our other carriers, please call L & M Insurance Group at 813-672-4100 (or click here to email us). As your local independent insurance agency, we want to help you find the insurance coverage that will give you financial peace of mind. 

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Watch Out for Scary Homeowners Insurance Surprises

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers many perils, such as damage or loss caused by theft, fire, or storms. It also protects you if you could be held legally responsible if someone is hurt or killed on your property.  But it doesn’t cover everything. Don’t be caught off-guard by these scary homeowners insurance surprises.

  • No coverage for flood. If your home is damaged by floodwaters, you won’t be covered unless you have a separate flood policy. (If you need a quote for flood insurance, call us at 813-672-4100. We work with several quality private flood insurance carriers.)
  • No coverage for septic or sewer backup. A standard homeowners insurance policy protects against the overflow of water from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning if it originates on your property. But if the backup damage comes from outside your property, such as if heavy rains cause a sewer backup, you might not be covered.  This coverage may often be added by endorsement.

Also be aware that certain types of damage will not be covered at all. For example:

  • If your roof has had an ongoing issue of minor leaking, and you decide to make a claim after a rainstorm causes more serious water damage to your home, you may not have coverage. To be covered, an event has to be sudden and unexpected. Damage caused by lack of proper maintenance won’t be covered.
  • Business activity is not covered under a homeowners insurance policy. If you conduct business out of your home, you’ll need to carry business insurance.
  • A gator breaking into your house. Remember the news story in July about the alligator that crashed through a Clearwater woman’s kitchen windows and damaged her kitchen? Her insurance company denied her claim, noting that damages associated with wildlife were not covered under her policy—and that’s true for most homeowners insurance policies.

One more scary surprise—you may be paying too much for your coverage!

We encourage new and existing clients to review their homeowners insurance policy, as well as all other insurance coverage at least once a year. Make sure all information is up to date, and your coverage is still appropriate for your financial protection.  It’s also a good time to check to make sure you’re still getting the most cost effective deal.

Please let L & M Insurance Group take the fright out of homeowners insurance coverage. Our agents would love to help you with your financial peace of mind—just give us a call at 813-672-4100, or email us with your questions or to request a free quote. We are a locally owned, independent agency based in the Brandon/Riverview area, and our agents have been serving the community for more than 30 years.

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Your Dream Home Is Covered With American Integrity’s High Value Home Program

Your home is your pride and joy. Not only does it shelter your family and welcome your friends, it’s likely your most valuable financial asset. That’s why it’s so important to purchase the right homeowners insurance. And for those of you who own high value homes, you need a program designed especially for the unique needs of high value homeowners.

Do you need high value home coverage?

There are several reasons why you might need high value home coverage, including:

  • The value of your home is $750,000 or greater
  • Your home has unique features or design elements, such as a “green” roof or environmentally-friendly design
  • Your home was professionally decorated by an interior designer, or contains high-priced appliances, fixtures or décor not found at a standard retailer
  • You own priceless art, rugs, jewelry, wine, or another collection worth a great deal of money
  • Your home is considered a heritage home and has unusual construction features

American Integrity, one of L & M Insurance Group’s partner companies, offers a specialized high value home insurance program to give you peace of mind. Their program has Coverage A limits of $750,000 to 10 million dollars, and no minimum premium. Their Silver, Gold, or Diamond Bundle packages offer further upgrades to coverage and limits to more precisely meet your needs.

In addition, their flood endorsement covers up to $5 million in damages, $3 million more than most other companies and there is no waiting period before coverage goes into effect. And unlike many other homeowners insurance companies, American Integrity will write high value beachfront properties (using risk modeling), and will also write X-wind coverage.

Additional benefits

American Integrity also offers additional benefits to policyholders, such as specialized claims adjustors and access to a preferred contractor network.

Suffering damage or destruction of a home could be one of your most devastating financial setbacks. Let L & M Insurance Group help you make the right choice to protect your home with a high value homeowners insurance policy through American Integrity. And if American Integrity is not the best choice for you, we represent many more quality homeowners insurance companies—please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us if you have any questions, or you would like a homeowners insurance quote.

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Got Great Credit? Let Us Save You Money on Your Auto and Home Insurance!

What does your credit score have to do with insurance rates? Plenty. Since the 1990s insurance companies have been using consumers’ credit scores to help set insurance premiums. Industry studies have indicated that using credit-based scores helps insurance companies better predict risk.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you have good credit, you’ll likely save money on your home and auto insurance.

“Just as insurance scores help insurance companies assess and price risks, so too can these scores help insurance customers—particularly if they are considered good risks,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org).

Insurance scores are different from credit scores, though they are both based on your credit report. And each insurance company makes those calculations a little differently. For an insurance score, “Emphasis is placed on those items associated with credit management patterns proven to correlate most closely with insurance risk, such as outstanding debt, length of credit history, late payments, collections and bankruptcies, and new applications for credit,” according to iii.org.

Therefore, the higher your insurance score, the lower your insurance rates.

What if your credit isn’t so good?

If your credit scores could be better, lower insurance rates are one more reason to improve them. If you want to improve your score, start by keeping a closer eye on it. Make sure there are no errors in your credit history. Make payments on time, avoid high “credit utilization” (the amount you owe divided by your credit limit), and don’t make too many applications for new credit. Remember, credit scores aren’t the only factor used in determining insurance rates. For car insurance, driving history and type of vehicle are also crucial. For homeowners insurance, your location, the size and age of your home, as well as your level of coverage will also affect your rates significantly. However, improving your credit score could make a significant difference in your insurance premiums. According to creditkarma.com, improving from one credit tier to the next can save you an average of 17 percent per year. And Consumer Reports noted that drivers who improved their credit score from the “good” level to the best paid an average of $214 less per year for their car insurance.

If you have good credit, let L & M Insurance Group help you reap the benefits with lower car and homeowners insurance rates. Call us today at 813-672-4100 for a free quote, or drop us an email. For more than 30 years, L & M Insurance Group has helped customers within Riverview, Brandon, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach and Tampa. We also work closely with many customers throughout Hillsborough County, Manatee County, Pinellas County, and Clearwater.

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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!