Woman has problems with contractors, city thinks house conversions are not in keeping with the times

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A homeowner and a contractor are fighting over a job. Permits have not been drawn and a lot of money has already been paid.

The troubleshooters asked the City of Corpus Christi Department of Development Services to take a look at the work being done without a permit to see if it conformed to the code. It turns out that the house has been red-flagged, meaning no more work can be done until permits are collected and inspections are completed.

“I hired Juan Gardunos Remodeling to remodel the house inside and out and turn the garage into a master bedroom,” Fadua Ferdin told Luke Fry, deputy building official for the development department.

Fry was there at our request to assess the job.

Ferdin says she has lived in this house on Cosner with her mother for more than 20 years and thought it was time to renovate it.
So in July 2021, she hired contractor Juan Gardunos, who told her he could do what she wanted to do for just over $36,000 by August.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you can take this job?'” Ferdin recalled. “The house is a very old house and as you can see it needs a lot of work. He says, ‘It’s my kind of job, Fee. That’s how I earn my living. I can make it work.’”

But the work isn’t done yet, and as a result Ferdin and her mother are forced to live elsewhere until they can return to the place they have long called home.

“It will be a while before you can all move back in here,” the troubleshooters told Ferdin.

“It was a fight, it was a fight,” she replied, fighting back tears.

As Fry walked through the interior and exterior of the home, he pointed out work that was not in accordance with regulations.

“The general rule, if you start removing walls, you have to get an engineer involved because that’s structural,” he said.

According to Fry, a job like this requires not only a structural or building permit, but also electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits. Ferdin says she remembers talking to Gardunos about permits.

“Hey, can you give me the permits? Evidence of the permits you went and got,” Ferdin recalled after asking Gardunos.

“‘You don’t need them. You don’t need them because it’s cosmetic work. It’s all inside,” she said, was his reply.

Ferdin’s vision of the conversion included the garage, now with rotted wood, being converted into a master bedroom.

“When you remodel a space like this, it’s not conditioned,” Fry pointed out. “It requires a plan review. Permits. Inspection.”

Speaking of permits, Gardunos told troubleshooters by phone Tuesday morning that he would be obtaining permits and that a big reason the job isn’t done is because he had COVID-19. He also mentioned that Ferdin’s mother interfered at work and that he did a lot of work around the house that wasn’t part of the contract. He said he will also contact his attorney.

After speaking to the US, he sent Ferdin a text which read in part:

“I never quit this job, I told you what was going on. You send me this picture and I wanted to get approval…it’s ok I don’t care, I’m not scared because I didn’t do anything wrong…but I got my lawyers to back me up…”

After Luke Fry’s visit to the home, he requested that it be marked red. Now no more work can be done until an engineer is hired to draft a plan and the appropriate permits are obtained. In the meantime, Fry says development services will put Fee in touch with people who can help her.

“It’s unfortunate that this has happened to you,” Fry told Ferdin, “but now we want to help you get across the finish line with permits and proper inspections, and get you back to your home that has been remodeled to… it code and one thing is for sure.”

Ferdin and Gardunos met with Fry and Director of Development Services Al Raymond early Tuesday morning. At that meeting, Gardunos was told that he must have an engineer come up with plans for the job. These plans must be approved before permits can be issued.

This is an example of how the new STAR program can help the development department. It is designed for contractors registering with the city. That way, if residents want to hire them, they can first check if they’re registered.

We’ll continue to follow this story and let you know what happens next.

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