CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We receive countless calls into our Troubleshooters hotline with many complaints from you about unscrupulous contractors you have hired.
You've paid them a lot of money for work that either doesn't get done well, or doesn't get done at all.
Well, the city of Corpus Christi's Development Services Department is doing something about that with a new program called STAR, which stands for Safety. Training. Accountability. Registration.
It's being created to help you, the citizens of Corpus Christi, protect yourselves when it comes to finding qualified registered contractors.
This STAR plan wont be sent to city council for approval until spring of 2022. In the meantime, Development Services wants to get the word out about how it will work.
Let's begin in May 2021, when the Troubleshooters asked Development Services to inspect work done at a residence by a local contractor. A full remodel and room addition, and the family had already paid the contractor $60,000, but permits hadn't been pulled.
After inspecting what 'was' done, Development Services Director, Al Raymond's reaction was one of, well, disgust, telling the homeowner "there's no insulation up there. Wiring was just run all open. Anyway, it's just...it's just sad."
Raymond has been director of Corpus Christi's Development Services for about a year, and together with Assistant Director Michael Dice, they've decided enough is enough when it comes to unscrupulous contractors taking advantage of you, the customer. That's why they've come up with the STAR program.
"This now gives the consumer, the citizen of Corpus Christi," Dice told us, "a tool that they’ll be able to better choose qualified contractor for whatever job they may need."
Only contractors, and that means every trade and general contractor, who are registered with the STAR program, will be able to pull permits for jobs. The online search tool will identify the type of work registered contractors are generally required to permit, such as roofing, pools, additions, remodels, new homes, trades, etc.
Raymond put it this way, "you can’t just show up and say ‘I wanna pull a permit ‘cause I’m doing work at 2324 Hackberry. Well, you gotta get registered Mr. Contractor. You gotta have insurance. You gotta do a background check, just at the minimum."
STAR is not designed to recommend a contractor, rather, to provide homeowners additional ways to find qualified ones.
Raymond says there are similar programs in place in larger cities like San Antonio and Houston.
It has three categories.
In bronze, the contractor needs to provide the minimum registration requirements. As of January 1st, 2022, all contractors will begin in the bronze category.
There would be additional requirements a contractor must meet for Silver status, including no existing infractions or complaints, and attendance at at least two training events annually.
To achieve Gold Star status, the contractor would have to be registered for at least five years, have membership to a local professional organization, and official certification related to the contractors' specialty.
Contractors would also be responsible for maintaining their current category.
Raymond and Dice estimate there are already more than a thousand registered contractors in Corpus Christi.
Licensing is done by the state.
And while Development Services can't put a contractor out of work, Dice says the STAR program gives them a little more teeth they haven't had.
"We’ve been able to revoke the registration of a licensed contractor. We’ve done that twice since we’ve been here. What that simply means is that contractor can’t pull permits for the duration of that suspension."
Again, this STAR program is just a proposal at this point by Development Services. There will be public meetings over the next few months for your input. Contractors will also have input, as well as city council before it takes effect.
It's also worth mentioning that as of Monday, if permits aren't pulled in a timely manner, there's a $450 penalty, plus the actual permit fee is doubled.