DC funeral homes put on notice after attorney general investigation

February 26, 2024 | DC attorney general: My colleagues and I were horrified (WTOP's Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — D.C. is cracking down on funeral homes, and about a quarter of them in the city have been notified that they face legal action if identified issues aren’t improved.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is proposing that a citizen commission develop a Districtwide funeral bill of rights, as well as a requirement that businesses post their costs online. (Thinkstock)
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (center) announces the crackdown on the city’s funeral homes at a news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (WTOP/Kristi King)

“At least nine of the 38 funeral homes operating in the District of Columbia are not operating in a manner compliant with D.C. law,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said Tuesday at a news conference.

One of the offenses committed by a funeral home is inflating prices by, for example, charging more than the District’s fee for a death certificate. Other offenses include not listing prices for services, not fully refunding unused portions of insurance money, telling people they can’t cancel pre-planned funeral contracts and that caskets can’t be bought elsewhere.

“That’s not lawful; that’s not right,” Racine said.

Last month, Racine’s office filed a lawsuit against Austin Royster Funeral Home in Northwest D.C. for operating without proper licenses and charging families thousands of dollars for services it did not provide.

“When we saw evidence that was clear violation of D.C. law that impacted D.C. residents, we had no choice but to act,” Racine said.

A court order has closed the business at least until the lawsuit either is settled or goes to trial.

“Our objective is to return money to families who were taken advantage of,” Racine added. He said efforts to reunite families with the remains of deceased from Austin Royster are ongoing.

The D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General has notified the following funeral homes, and they have 30 days to confirm that they are in compliance with D.C. law:

  • Capitol Mortuary, Inc. — 1425 Maryland Ave. Northeast
  • Dunn and Sons Funeral Service — 5635 Eads St. Northeast
  • D.L. McLaughlin’s Funeral Home — 2518 Pennsylvania Ave. Southeast
  • The House of Williams — 4804 Georgia Ave. Northwest
  • Universal II Mortuary, Inc. — 411 Kennedy St. Northwest
  • Hunt Funeral Home — 908 Kennedy St. Northwest
  • Snead’s Mortuary, Inc. — 5732 Georgia Ave. Northwest
  • Hysong Funeral Home — 2222 Wisconsin Ave. Northwest

The Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home was previously listed as one of the non-compliant funeral homes, but the D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General noted it made an error.

Joyce Torchinsky told WTOP her funeral home was never out of compliance for requirements related to pricing. She noted that as a Jewish funeral home, they don’t provide viewings and visitations, in accordance with the faith.

“If you do not provide this service, you do not need to list this on your price sheet,” she said. “I was never not in compliance.”

The D.C. Attorney General’s office agreed.

“We’ve received information from them confirming that they are, and have been, in compliance with the law. Earlier [Wednesday] we sent Torchinsky [a] letter confirming their compliance and rescinding our warning letter to them,” the office said in an email.

His office has also provided online resources for consumers looking for funeral home services, including a “Funeral Home Price List.”

For concerns that a D.C. funeral home may be breaking the law or have another consumer complaint, email the attorney general’s Office of Consumer Protection at consumer.protection@dc.gov or call (202) 442-9828. Complaints can also be filed online.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home’s compliance.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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