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Karl A. Racine, DC’s First Elected Attorney General, Making a Difference

Most people in the District have little interaction on a regular basis with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In fact I would suggest if you asked ten people on the street who the Attorney General (AG) is eight wouldn’t know and they definitely won’t know what he does. Actually if you ask about the role of the OAG’s office you may even get different answers from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the AG’s office itself. They are still debating what some of the responsibilities of this new independently elected AG should be.

Despite this Karl Racine, the District’s first independently elected Attorney General, is beginning to make a name for his office as a protector of consumer’s interests. He is using his office to make consumers aware of their rights by holding meetings across the District such as the one he held at Benning/Dorothy L. Height Neighborhood Library on Monday evening on the topic of Illegal House Flipping, Construction Violations & Foreclosure Scams. At the meeting along with Racine were the Mayor’s DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The goal is to alert residents to issues directly impacting their lives and can impact the future of their families.

These meetings stem from a lawsuit the OAG filed earlier this year against a Virginia couple who, the suit alleges, have violated District law by selling improperly and unlawfully renovated homes. When filing the suit Racine said “This is a great example of collaboration between DCRA and OAG to protect our consumers in the District of Columbia.” At the same time he asked the D.C. Council to re-establish a Consumer Protection Fund for the District to expand our capacity to bring cases like this one as well as other consumer-protection actions for our residents.”

For consumers across the city there are a host of issues this lawsuit highlighted they have to be cognizant of when buying renovated homes or doing work on their own homes. They include all the issues the lawsuit covered including; use of sub-standard materials; making renovations and repairs of sub-standard quality; failing to obtain the proper permits for work done; performing work on homes that includes features for which the homes are not properly zoned, rendering the features worthless; using non-licensed contractors to perform work; neglecting to have the properties properly inspected at the required times; and other violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the District’s Construction Codes.

After the suit was filed Racine’s officer released a simple list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for consumers dealing with home renovations or purchasing renovated homes. They are included in a more comprehensive pamphlet on consumer rights available from the AG’s Office. In addition to consumer issues the OAG provides legal advice to ANCs and can help with the wide range of victim’s services available to the residents of the District.

The mission of the office is to use the law to serve the people of the District of Columbia and as such Racine advises the Executive Branch and other District agencies, defends the city in court, and protects the city’s residents. He has said he will prioritize consumer protection, enforce affordable housing regulations, and find alternatives that can divert young people out of the juvenile justice system. In all these areas he is making a good start.