post

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.

post

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

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

What’s driving up car insurance prices?

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

Homeowners insurance and inflation

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

How can you reduce insurance premiums?

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

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

Talk to an independent agent

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

post

Make These Insurance Resolutions for the New Year

At the start of a new year, many people resolve to get their finances in order. L & M Insurance Group would like to remind you that appropriate insurance coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from financial disaster. Insurance can protect your most valuable assets, like your home and your vehicle, protect you from lawsuits, and even care for your family after you’re gone.

Here are a few things you can resolve to do now to make sure you have the financial protection you need—for the lowest possible insurance premiums.

Review your life changes. Was 2021 was an eventful year for you? Did you experience any major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child? Did you renovate your house, buy a new vehicle, turn 55, or start a business? Become an empty nester? Even if you already notified your insurance agent about these changes, now is a good time to do a more thorough review of your insurance coverage to make sure you’re properly protected.

Review your coverage. Once you’ve reviewed your personal situation, you’ll want to see how it lines up with your insurance coverage. Insurance is meant to protect your financial assets in case of accident, crime, or disaster, including providing liability protection in case someone sues you. Some common areas of concern we see frequently include:

For auto insurance, do you carry bodily injury in high enough limits? (Insurance experts recommend 100,000/300,000 for most situations, even though Florida state requirements are much lower.) Do you carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage? (In Florida, we have many un- or under-insured drivers on the roads, so we recommend carrying UM coverage.)

For home insurance, does your policy provide replacement cost coverage? Your home should be insured for enough to rebuild, repair, or replace it and your personal possessions with comparable quality—not just for how much you owe on your mortgage or the home’s market value.

And speaking of personal possessions, did you buy or receive any expensive items in 2021—such as jewelry, art, or home electronics? High value items may need special coverage, over and above what is covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Consider your life insurance needs. Do you have life insurance? Do you need it? If you do have life insurance, be sure that your policy is up to date with the correct beneficiary, and any other details that may have changed. Life insurance is surprisingly affordable, especially for younger people who are most in need of it to help safeguard their families’ futures. If you don’t have life insurance but would like to explore your options, please call 813-672-4100, or click here for an online quote.

Keep your driving record clean. Still one of the most basic things you can do to keep your auto insurance rates down!

Maintain or improve your credit record. Many insurance companies look at your credit when calculating insurance premiums. Boosting your credit record can result in cheaper insurance rates and more policy options to choose from. (Even if your credit is not great, L & M Insurance Group can still help. Give us a call at 813-672-4100.)

Work with an independent agency. Independent agencies, like L & M Insurance Group, represent multiple insurance carriers instead of just one. This means we have more flexibility to shop for the best policy and insurance company for your individual situation. We can also write just about any type of insurance you need, including personal and commercial auto, home, life, renters, and business insurance. And OUR number one new year’s resolution is to help YOU find the best insurance deal! Give us a call at 813-672-4100, or contact us online for all your insurance needs.

post

Insurance for Real Estate Investors

What Kind of Insurance do you need as a Real Estate Investor and other Insurance Help to protect your real estate investment

As a real estate investor, you have specialized needs when it comes to insuring investment properties. You may have multiple properties, some of which may be vacant. And those properties may be titled in the name of an individual, an LLC, a corporation, or a land trust. Insurance for real estate investors is different than insurance for home owners. You may have questions about which type of policy to buy, and what it covers.

L & M Insurance Group has extensive experience helping real estate investors with their unique insurance needs. On March 3, L & M’s president, Mark Holley, along with colleague Larry Johnson, made a presentation to the general meeting of the Suncoast Real Estate Investors Association (SREIA) covering several points of interest to real estate investors. Here is some key information from the presentation:

DP3 vs. DP1 policies

The DP3 and DP1 policies are two types of tenant-occupied policies that real estate investors should consider. Typically, the DP1 form only covers named perils that are listed on the policy, including fire, smoke, wind, hail, lightning, explosion, and so on. DP3 policies cover all perils except those that are specifically excluded in the policy documents. Basically, the DP3 form is for property owners who want a tenant-occupied policy with all the bells and whistles. If you need to save money, or are interested in assuming more risk yourself, choose the DP1 form. Be sure to talk to your agent about what is included and what isn’t, so you can get the policy you need.

Builder’s risk vs. vacant dwelling

Builder’s risk provides insurance coverage for either residential or commercial buildings under construction or renovation. Vacant dwelling covers a dwelling that is unoccupied.

One thing to remember is that the liability coverage included on a builder’s risk policy doesn’t cover exposure to claims related to renovation, so the people you hire should carry general liability and list you on their policy as an additional insured.

4 point inspections and wind mitigation reports

If you own a home or rental property older than 30-40 years, a homeowners company may require a 4 point inspection before they’ll sell you a policy. A 4 point inspection looks at the four main systems of the property: the roof, the plumbing system, the HVAC system, and the electrical system. These inspections generally cost between $75-$100, and are good for three years. If the inspection reveals something unacceptable to the underwriting rules of the insurance company, they may decline to cover you. You may then choose to fix the problem(s), or try another insurance company. Your independent L & M Insurance Group agent can help you determine which company will be most likely to cover your property.

Even if the insurance company will write the policy, certain things will cause premiums to be higher, including aluminum wiring, an old or patched roof, and plumbing or heating/cooling systems that have not been kept updated.

Wind mitigation reports tell us about your roof, and what credits can be applied to your policy. The inspector will examine and report on your roof’s covering, roof deck and roof wall attachment, roof geometry (hip, flat, or other), secondary water resistance, and opening protection.

In addition to certain physical features that cause your premiums to be higher, certain situations may also increase the cost of your insurance. These include lapses in coverage, short-term rentals, and property being held in a land trust or a land trust with multiple entities.

Our partnership with you

L & M Insurance Group’s goal is to write your real estate investment insurance policy for the best price with a company that will pay your claim if you have one. That’s one of the reasons we need full and accurate information about your properties when we’re quoting your policy. You can help us by answering our questions truthfully and fully. We have markets that will write almost any kind of situation, but we need to know certain details in order to place your policy with a company that is right for you.

Have questions? Please give us a call at 813-672-4100, and let L & M Insurance Group help you protect your real estate investments. 

Are you sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 coronavirus? We can serve your insurance needs without seeing you in person! Please call us at 813-672-4100 or email us by clicking here if you need an insurance quote, have to make a claim, or have any questions about your insurance needs. We also have a live chat feature on our website.

Our office is temporarily closed to the public in order for us to follow social distancing guidelines and protect the health of our employees and customers. If you need to make a cash payment, please call our office at 813-672-4100 for instructions.

post

Insurance and Your College Student

Congratulations—your child is going off to college! While you’re packing up your student’s belongings and offering last minute advice, take a few minutes to think about how this new adventure affects your own and your college student’s insurance needs.

Car Insurance for your College Student

Car Insurance for College StudentsIs your child taking a car to school? If you’re supporting your student financially, he or she should be covered under your existing family car insurance policy. You will want to notify your L & M Insurance Group agent (give us a call at 813-672-4100), especially if the school is outside of Florida.

If your child is not taking a vehicle to school, you should still tell your agent—you may be eligible for a premium discount, especially if your child’s college is 100 miles or more from home. Also remember that you may be eligible for Good Student discount if your child maintains a certain grade point average, usually a B average or above, whether or not he or she takes a vehicle to school.

Protecting Personal Property of College Students

Another concern for parents of college students is protecting their child’s personal property. About half of all campus crimes involve burglary. While college students need items such as laptop computers, tablets, smart phones, and so on, if at all possible they should leave home any non-essential and expensive items such as electronics, or luxury watches and jewelry.

If your child lives in an on-campus dorm, his or her personal belongings are covered under your homeowners insurance policy, up to certain limits (check your insurance policy or ask your agent, and remember that your deductible still applies).

However, if your student lives off campus, he or she is not covered by your policy, and should buy a renters insurance policy. These policies are affordable, and also offer liability protection as well coverage for personal property.

Make a detailed inventory of what your student takes to school, and update it every year. Include copies of receipts and photos. This will help you get a claim paid faster in the event of a theft.

Remind your student to take common sense precautions, including locking dorm rooms and keeping personal items like backpacks, purses, and laptops with them instead of unattended in the library, cafeteria, or common areas.

If you don’t already have one, you might consider adding a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. This could come in handy if your student is sued for posting something negative on social media!

If you have any questions about what is or is not covered, please give your L & M Insurance Group agent a call.

What about Health Insurance?

Depending on your health insurance policy, your college student may be covered under your policy. If he or she is going away to school, make sure there are in-network doctors and hospitals available in the new area. You’ll pay more for out-of-network medical services, or there may be no out-of-network coverage except for emergencies.

If there are no in-network providers in your college student’s area, most colleges offer student health plans that may be just what you need.

Other Insurance Concerns

If your income is paying for your child’s college education, do you have enough life insurance coverage in place to complete it if something were to happen to you? In general, you’ll want enough to cover expenses until your youngest child finishes school.

What about an umbrella policy? Umbrella policies cover all household members even when they’re away at school. This provides additional liability protection for both your college student and you as their parent.

When you wave goodbye to your budding young adult, rest easy knowing your insurance safety net will continue to protect you all. Please give us a call at 813-672-4100 if you have any questions about your insurance needs, limits, or what your policy covers. You may also contact us online by clicking here.

We’re here to help!

Insuring Your Toys—Peace of Mind When It’s Time to Play

Insurance for Toys, Insuring Boats Personal Watercraft RV's and more

One of the best things about the Tampa Bay area is the climate—when other people are getting ready for winter, we’re still able to play outside! And many of us have the “toys” to do just that—toys like boats, RVs, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and personal watercraft. But remember, accidents do happen, and while they’re fun, these grown-up toys can also be dangerous and expose you to the risk of a lawsuit.

 

That’s where L & M Insurance Group can help. Before you hit the water or the trail, make sure you have enough insurance coverage for your toys if something goes wrong. Most of these vehicles aren’t covered by a basic auto or homeowners policy, so you’ll need to buy specialized insurance for them. This insurance doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s certainly cheaper than a lawsuit!

 

When insuring your toys, you’ll want to be sure you’re covered adequately for:

  • Bodily injury—pays for injuries you cause to others if you’re responsible for an accident.
  • Property damage—pays for property you damage if you’re responsible for an accident.
  • Collision—pays for damage to your toy if you hit something.
  • Comprehensive—pays if your toy is stolen or if it’s damaged by something other than a collision, such as fire, extreme weather, or vandalism.

 

We also recommend you carry an umbrella policy (excess liability coverage over and above your other insurance) to further protect your assets in case you are sued. Please ask your L & M Insurance Group agent if you have any questions about your umbrella coverage, or if you need a quote for an umbrella policy.

 

Remember, if you can drive it, register, and tag it, you probably need insurance coverage for it!

 

Insurance coverage is meant to protect you from financial hardship due to accident and/or lawsuits. Talk to your L & M Insurance Group agent about what coverage you need to protect your assets and safeguard your lifestyle. Please call us at 813-672-4200 if you have any questions, or you’d like a free, no-obligation quote for insurance on a boat, RV, personal watercraft, or ATV. You can also contact us online by clicking here.

Why You May Need a Vacant Dwelling or Builder’s Risk Policy

Insurance Policies to Protect your Vacant Dwelling in Brandon, Tampa, Riverview and Surrounding Florida

Vacant Dwelling Builder's Risk Policy Brandon, Tampa FloridaEmpty buildings or buildings under construction or renovation present some unique concerns. An empty home or other building can be a magnet for vandalism, and if someone isn’t living there, a small leak could easily become a big flood. Empty buildings are just as likely to be affected by fire, wind, or lightning. Standard homeowner’s or commercial insurance policies may not cover you if the insured building is vacant. Certain remodeling projects, and residential and commercial construction jobs require specialized insurance policies. At L & M Insurance Group, we have the experience and knowledge to help you with your unique needs.

Here are two types of policies that might apply to your situation:

A vacant dwelling policy covers your home if it is left vacant for a certain length of time, usually at least 60 days.

A Builder’s Risk policy covers a building under construction. It can cover just the building itself, or also the materials at the job site for use in construction of the building. Coverage limits should be for the completed value of the structure, less the value of the land. The policy can be written for as short a term as one month all the way up to 6 months or a year. The policy can also be extended if construction is not finished in time, or be cancelled if the building is finished before the end of the policy term.

Let’s look at some scenarios in which you should have a vacant dwelling or builder’s risk policy:

Vacant dwelling

  • You’ve bought a home, but for some reason you can’t move in yet—you haven’t sold your old home, or, conversely, you’ve moved to your new home and need an insurance policy to cover your previous home until it sells.
  • You own a commercial building or rental property that currently has no tenant.

Builder’s risk

  • You bought a home as investment, intending to have renovations done before selling it, and it will remain vacant until you sell.
  • You’re building a home from the ground up.
  • You bought a bank-owned home you’re renovating before you move in.

Unlike many agencies, at L & M Insurance Group, we have a lot of experience working with property investors and others with complex real estate insurance needs. We understand and are familiar with the situations that require these types of policies. Please contact us so we can tailor the right policy for your unique builder’s risk or vacant dwelling needs in Tampa, Brandon, Riverview and all of Florida.