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High Tech—and Affordable—Ways to Protect Your Home

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

Water leak detector

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

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

Ting

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

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

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

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

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

Smoke alarm

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

Video doorbell camera

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

Peace of mind

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

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Fall Is the Perfect Time to “Harden” Your Home

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

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

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

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

Water

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

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

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

Wind

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

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

What else can you do?

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

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

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

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

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Considering Solar Panels? Call Your Homeowners Insurance Agent First!

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

Ask first: Does my insurance cover solar panels?

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

Solar panels and your homeowners insurance

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

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

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

Avoid any unpleasant surprises

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

Our Agents are here to help

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

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Insurance 101: Understanding the Insurance Claims Process

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

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

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

What you need to file a claim

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

Auto Insurance

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

Homeowners Insurance

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

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

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

How and when will you receive your claim payout?

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

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

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

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

Will a claim affect your insurance rates?

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

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

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

Personalized attention at L & M Insurance Group

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

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Why Is My Homeowners Insurance Cancelling or Non-renewing?

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

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

Cancellation vs. nonrenewal

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

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

Why your homeowners insurance might be cancelled or non-renewed

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

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

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

How L & M Insurance Group can help

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

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

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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 Your Credit Affects Your Insurance Premiums

As you’re shopping for home or auto insurance, you might come across the concept of the credit-based insurance score, or simply the insurance score. Hmm, that’s odd. What does credit have to do with insurance risk, and how does it affect the cost of your insurance? Does having good or bad credit affect your insurance policy premiums?

Your Credit Score may affect the Price of your Insurance

Your credit score may be affecting how much you pay for insurance. Most homeowners and auto insurance companies in Florida use credit-based insurance scores as part of the process of setting their insurance rates.

Read on for the answers to five commonly asked questions about credit scores and insurance.

1. What’s the difference between credit score and insurance score?

Credit-based insurance scores (or insurance scores) are ratings based on your consumer credit information. They use much of the same information to provide a rating as credit scores do—payment history, outstanding debt, pursuit of new credit, credit mix—but they are used to predict insurance losses. As with credit scores, the higher your insurance score the better, because, according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), “Insurance claims tend to decline as credit scores improve.”

2. Why do insurance companies use credit information to rate premiums?

Insurance scores were developed in the 1990s to help insurance companies more accurately underwrite and price insurance policies. Though they are not the only measure used to rate a policy (see below), the industry has determined that “…people who have low insurance scores, as a group, account for a high proportion of the dollars paid out in claims.” (Source: iii.org.) Experts speculate that the connection is behavioral—those who manage their money and credit well tend to manage other areas of their lives, such as maintaining their homes and vehicles, in a responsible way, which reduces risk.

Also according to iii.org, when insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores, many people (more than 50%) see lower insurance rates overall because insurance companies are able to price coverage that reflects risks more accurately.

3. Does it hurt my credit rating when an insurance company asks for my credit info? No. When an insurance company requests information about your credit, it’s not considered a “hard credit pull.” Hard credit inquiries result when you apply for a loan, mortgage, or credit card.

4. What other information is used to determine home and auto insurance premiums?

In addition to insurance scores, for auto coverage, insurance companies will use some combination of your geographical area, model of vehicle, accident history, age of drivers, driving records, insurance claims, and sometimes how many miles you drive in a year. For homeowners insurance, they will consider things like the home’s age and construction, cost to rebuild the structure in case of a total loss, location, proximity to water for firefighting, and flood risk.

5. How can I improve my credit/insurance score?

This is a great question since people with higher insurance scores usually pay somewhat less for their insurance. First, check your credit score yearly. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report each year from the national credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Read over your report and correct any errors that might be bringing your score down.

The best thing you can do to improve your credit score is to make your payments on time, including bills, taxes, and any fines or fees you need to pay. It also helps to pay off your credit card balances or keep them as low as possible. If you need to apply for a new credit card or loan, try to wait six months or so between applications—applying for too much credit at one time can temporarily lower your credit score.

Remember, if you do improve your credit score, make sure you compare insurance rates at renewal time. Don’t just assume your insurance premium will decrease.

Shop your insurance with an independent agency

Whether you have good credit or bad credit, L & M Insurance Group can help you find auto and home insurance coverage at the most affordable price. Because we are an independent agency, we write with many different insurance carriers and have more options to choose from than a captive agency. Let our agents shop for your best insurance deal—call us at 813-672-4100, or click here to contact us online.

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Insurance 101: Understanding Your Deductibles

The high cost of home and auto insurance in Florida has us all thinking about ways to save money on policy premiums. While many factors are beyond your control, one that may help save money is your policy deductible. Generally, a higher deductible means lower premiums. A lower deductible means your premiums will be higher. You’ll have to decide which makes better financial sense for your situation.

Let’s talk about what a deductible is, and how it works with your home and auto insurance.

What is a deductible?

A deductible is the amount of money you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance takes over when you have a claim. When you have an insured loss, the deductible is subtracted (or “deducted”) from the amount of money your insurance company will pay to settle your claim. If you have a loss that doesn’t reach the amount of your deductible, you won’t be able to make a claim.

In home and auto insurance, there are two types of deductibles:

  1. A flat dollar amount. A $500 deductible on the comp/collision coverage of your auto policy is an example of this type of deductible.
  2. A percentage-based amount. This type of deductible is usually found on a homeowners policy. The percentage is calculated based on the home’s insured value. For example, you have a two percent deductible, and your home is insured for $500,000. If your home is destroyed, your deductible would be $10,000.

In hurricane-prone states such as Florida, a special hurricane deductible also applies only to damage and claims from storms categorized as hurricanes by the National Weather Service. Homeowners insurance companies decide on what will “trigger” the hurricane deductible—usually when the National Weather Service officially names a storm or declares a hurricane watch or warning. A hurricane deductible is usually between one and five percent of your home’s insured value.

With auto and homeowners insurance, your deductible applies each time you make a claim. An exception might be your hurricane deductible, which may only apply once per hurricane season. Check your insurance policy for details.

Insurance is intended to help you financially in the event of a loss that is too big for you to handle by yourself. It’s important to note that making frequent claims on your homeowners or car insurance will not only result in higher premiums—it may also get your policy cancelled or non-renewed.

What to consider before raising your deductible

While it’s tempting to raise your deductible to save money on your insurance, remember that you’ll be paying more out of pocket if you have a claim. Will you be able to make necessary repairs with a higher deductible? If you do raise your deductible, consider setting aside money to cover it if you have a loss.

Do you need home or auto insurance?

Helping you with your insurance needs, including helping you decide what deductible is right for you, is just what L & M Insurance Group is here for. L & M Insurance Group is a locally owned, independent insurance agency serving Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, and surrounding communities. If you need a home or auto insurance policy, call (813) 672-4100 to speak to an agent, or contact us online.

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Water Damage: What Your Homeowners Insurance Will—and WON’T—Cover

When you buy a homeowners insurance policy, you’re purchasing protection for your family’s safe haven as well as your most valuable asset. A homeowners policy is intended to help you recover from a sudden and accidental loss, likely an expensive one, such as fire, lightning, hail, etc. However, we find that coverage for one peril, water, is sometimes misunderstood.

Water damage is the second most common reason a homeowner will make an insurance claim, and it is often covered. However, that depends on what caused the damage in the first place. The key is in the concept of the damage being “sudden and accidental.” For example, if a pipe bursts or an appliance overflows, flooding your home and damaging it—those things are both sudden and accidental. However, gradual damage, like that which occurs over time from a leaking faucet, would likely not be covered. Homeowners insurance will not cover water damage due to negligence or lack of maintenance. It’s not intended to serve as a vehicle for maintaining your home.

In addition, your homeowners insurance will NOT cover water damage due to:

  • Intentional acts.
  • Sewer or drain backup (unless you’ve purchased that coverage).
  • Leaks from a swimming pool or other structure.
  • Ground water seepage.

What about flood damage?

A major concern in Florida is flood damage. Flooding is not covered under a standard homeowners policy. This includes flooding from a hurricane, rising water from overflowing rivers, storm surge, or water from heavy rains. If you need flood coverage, L & M Insurance Group can help you get the coverage you need.

Tips to prevent water damage

The best way to prevent water damage is to keep your home in good repair. Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent water damage (see “Fall Maintenance for Your Florida Home” for more suggestions):

  • Inspect dishwasher, water heater, and washing machine hoses and replace if necessary.
  • Turn off water supply to washing machine and refrigerator when going out of town.
  • Monitor your water bill for unexpected increases.
  • Install a leak detector/leak sensor, a device which detects and notifies you about leaks.

L & M Insurance Group—your source for homeowners insurance

If you have questions about what is or is not covered under your Florida homeowners insurance policy, don’t hesitate to call your insurance agent. And if you need a quote for homeowners insurance, please consider giving L & M Insurance Group a call. We understand the importance of finding the right homeowners insurance coverage for your needs. We are an independent insurance agency partnered with many great homeowners insurance companies, and we’d love to help you find the most cost-effective coverage for your individual situation. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 or click here to contact us online.