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Would Be NC Funeral Home Operators Kept Waiting

Two NC businessmen are fuming at what appears to be an incredibly slow response by the North Carolina Board of Funeral Services. The two businessmen, one of whom is a licensed funeral director in NC, are attempting to open a funeral home in Durham. The two men have obtained all the necessary local permits and spent $65,000 on a building to make it operable as a funeral home. After the renovations, they submitted an application to the NC Board of Funeral Services seeking an inspection by a Board inspector, and waited for the Board’s response. Then they kept waiting for weeks. After tiring of waiting for a response, the businessmen contacted the Board to see why they didn’t hear back, and were told about an issue with their application. The businessmen then fixed the issue, but were stuck waiting on the Board once again. The businessmen eventually travelled to Raleigh in an attempt to meet with the Board, but were turned away. In response, the businessmen were “less than cordial” with several members of the Board staff, who now refuse to meet with the businessmen without an attorney present.  

North Carolina statues empower the NC Board of Funeral Services to regulate the practices of funeral services. The Board consists of nine members, each serving a three year term. Seven of those members are appointed by the governor, one is appointed by the Speaker of the NC House, and the final member is appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate. North Carolina law requires all funeral establishments meet certain requirements, some of which are having a preparation room with a properly sized operating table, adequate drainage, easily cleanable wall and floor coverings, and proper ventilation. State law also requires a licensed funeral director or a funeral service licensee to be a partner to the business if the funeral home operates as a partnership.  Failure to meet any of these requirements can result in fines imposed by the Board, and depending on the nature and frequency of the problem, a funeral director can have their license revoked.

One of these businessmen is a licensed funeral director. It is also apparent that they have spent a lot of money to make their business location comply with these requirements (although we don’t know if they perfectly comply from the story). The issue for these businessmen is that while the Board is "empowered to... inspect…funeral establishments”, NC Law does not require the Board to inspect a funeral home upon request. Without any such requirement, the statute appears to grant the Board full discretion as to whether it inspects a funeral home or not. As such, these businessmen, who may meet all of the requirements to operate a funeral home, have no means of forcing an inspection by the Board, and thus they must wait. While this is a less than ideal situation for the businessmen, unless they have friends in the Governor’s office or high up in the NC General Assembly, it is unwise for these businessmen to act “less than cordial” to the Board staff.

James Harrell 

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