DC Council Passes TOPA Exemption Law

The DC Council passed a bill on Tuesday that will exempt renters of homes in DC from the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

TOPA has long empowered DC renters with the first right to purchase their residence when the property owner decides to sell. However, the reality of how the bill works for non-multifamily properties rarely conforms to the narrative of tenants buying the homes where they reside. The TOPA Single-family Home Exemption Amendment Act of 2018 eliminates the right of first refusal for renters who live in single-family homes.

Prior to passage, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau proposed an amendment that would limit TOPA exemptions to owner-occupied homes, shorten a tenant’s time period for announcing an intent to purchase, and eliminate the assignment of TOPA rights to a third party, as to avoid situations like this one that UrbanTurf covered in 2016.

“I believe that this bill weakens tenant’s rights in a way that we will never recover from,” Nadeau said. The amendment ultimately failed.

Under the bill, all “single-family accommodations” will be exempt from the tenant’s right of first refusal. This includes:

  • Single-family dwellings
  • Single-family dwellings with accessory dwelling units (two-unit single-family accommodations)
  • Condominiums, co-ops, or other dwelling units that are under the purview of a homeowners’ association.

Tenants of properties with 2-4 units will retain their TOPA rights.

The bill also grandfathers in tenants who are elderly or who have disabilities. Upon receiving a TOPA notice, eligible tenants will have:

  • 20 days to provide a statement of interest to the city and the property owner.
  • 25 days to negotiate a contract.
  • 45 days to settle, with the option of a 30-day extension if a lending institution submits a written statement that financing will take 75 days.

In the above case, the bill will remove a provision that restarts the TOPA timeframe if 180 days lapse from the date of offer and no sale has been made. Also, grandfathered-in tenants are no longer able to assign their rights to a third party, but are permitted to remain in their unit at their current rental rate for an additional 12 months after a sale is finalized.

The bill will now be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature.

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