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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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When hail rains, roofer gains
Insurance claims for dozens of roofs in the Trinity area are all linked to one storm.
By JODIE TILLMAN
Published June 17, 2007
TRINITY - On the morning of May 4, 2005, quarter-size hail fell from the sky.
The ice pellets covered a parking lot at State Road 54 and Little Road, punched holes in pool cages and shattered on driveways.
Fewer than 15 minutes long, the storm that hit southwest Pasco might have been mostly forgotten - except long after it ended, Edward Sharpe saw an opportunity.
Have you noticed nearly 90 new roofs in Trinity in the past seven months?
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In the summer of 2006, a year after the hailstorm, Sharpe opened Sharpe Professional Roofing.
He knew about the 2005 storm: He had bought a home in Wyndtree and knew that the previous owners needed to replace their roof because of damage from the hail.
Sharpe knew what hail can do. Hailstones dislodge granules on asphalt shingles. These granules are what block sun rays and help protect the shingles from wind and water damage, roofers say.
Shortly after Sharpe started his business, he sent out mailers to homeowners on four streets in the Wyndtree and Trinity Oaks communities. He let them know their roofs might have hail damage and that their insurance policies would likely cover such work.
"It's one of those things where people aren't aware of the damage, " he said.
Sharpe did free initial inspections. The residents called their insurance companies, which would send their own adjustors out to certify that there was indeed damage.
Most of the estimates fell in the $7, 000 to $16, 000 range, he said. Few of his customers had problems getting their claims approved.
"The insurance companies are owning up to the damage, " he said. "Insurance companies are not doling out checks because they're in a good mood. If you don't have damage, I can't make it up."
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In an average year, hail causes more than $1.6-billion worth of damage to residential roofs in the United States, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.
In Texas, where hailstorms are common, officials estimate that up to 40 percent of all homeowners' insurance claims result from hail damage, according to State Farm Insurance. Texas insurance authorities require premium discounts for consumers who install new impact-resistant roofs.
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So what about the delay between the storm and the insurance claims? Some homeowners' insurance policies allow people one year from "date noticed, " said Mike Barry, spokesman for Insurance Information Institute in Washington.
State Farm, for instance, does not typically include a statute of limitations in its policies, said Michal Connolly, a spokeswoman for State Farm in Winter Haven. But Florida statutes, she noted, give people five years for filing suits on claims.
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In the case of many of the Trinity residents, the day they noticed damage was the day Ed Sharpe climbed on their roofs.
Matt Faivre, who lives on Jutland Drive in Trinity Oaks, said he knew of no problems with his roof. But about three months ago, Sharpe showed him more than 10 depressions that were so soft, Faivre said, "you could push your finger on it."
Faivre said his insurance provider, Universal, sent out an adjustor, who agreed with Sharpe's assessment. "It was a legitimate claim, " said Faivre, who described Sharpe's work as "excellent."
Jeff Fortson, who lives next door to Faivre, said his roof cost about $16, 000 to replace because it has solar panels and a satellite dish. Nationwide, his insurance provider, sent out an adjustor and put the check in the mail shortly thereafter.
"It was a piece of cake, " he said.
Sharpe has pulled about 90 roofing permits since late last year. He inspected even more roofs but didn't get the business, he said.
In some cases, he got people to call their insurance companies and then never heard from them again. They were shopping around.
One of the other companies that people called was Terk's Roofing, which has pulled about 15 permits in Trinity Oaks and Wyndtree just this year.
On Trafalgar Drive, for instance, this year Sharpe has replaced 10 roofs, Terk's has done six, BNW Roofing did one and Daryl Schram roofing has done another, according to county permitting records.
Rod Terkeurst, Terk's company president, said he picked up some houses from people calling him. In other cases, neighbors would see the company's truck and ask what was going on.
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Terkeurst puts his finger on the age-old phenomenon that was an engine behind all these new roofs, all at once: We peek out our windows, look out at the neighbors' place and ask what the Joneses are up to now.
Sharpe has a word for it: "neighboritis."
Take Jutland Drive, where Sharpe did seven roofs. First there was Gary Hesterberg, who heard about Sharpe from a friend on a different street. Then Faivre wondered what Hesterberg was doing to his home. Then others on the street, including Fortson, got interested.
How might the insurance companies view so many claims in one area?
Guy Marvin, president of Florida Insurance Council, said he didn't think Trinity homeowners would notice much, if any, difference in their insurance premiums because of all the roof claims.
For one thing, he said, there isn't just one company involved. And, he said, "if the companies are paying, the likelihood is that there is damage."
Sharpe said he knew of no customer who has been dropped by his insurance provider because of making a roof claim. People are too fearful of insurance companies, he says, and don't try often enough to get what's due them.
He should know. Before he opened his business, before he worked with his brother's Tampa construction company, he had another job:
Jodie Tillman covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached at 727 869-6247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.