This Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted to exempt single-family homes from the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). The TOPA law dates back nearly 40 years, and it allows renters to be able to have the first right to purchase the residence they live in if the property owner plans on selling the site.
Now, within three days of either listing the property or receiving an offer to purchase, homeowners will be required to give notice to their tenant of any plans to sell, according to UrbanTurf.
In a statement, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau said, “The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act is a powerful tool—it grants tenants the right of first refusal when their landlord seeks to sell the property. But in recent years, the process for single family homes has been manipulated by developers and lawyers who may preemptively purchase a tenant’s right of first refusal and block the homeowner’s otherwise ready-to-go home sale.”
“I believe we can find a balance between the rights of homeowners and tenants, and the current bill does not find that balance,” added Nadeau. “To be clear, we cannot allow third parties to take advantage of our laws. Nor can we allow homeowners to be manipulated by bad actors. But we must use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer to address an issue of such great importance.”
Councilmember Elissa Silverman also saw the bill as one-sided. Silverman and Nadeau were the only Councilmembers who voted against the bill. Only one councilmember recused himself.
In an interview with WAMU, Beth Harrison of the Legal Aid Society of D.C. said, “We do believe that single-family homes are an important source of affordable housing in the District, particularly for families looking for larger-bedroom units. We fear that by rolling back tenant rights and the right to purchase that more of these units will go to other purposes than affordable housing.”
In support of the amendment, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told WAMU that he believed exempting single-family homes would actually encourage homeowners to rent out rooms or basements, which could increase housing stock in the city.
“It’s about affordable housing in making more units available, and units that are going to be of moderate cost,” said Mendelson.
The bill will advance to a final reading and vote before being signed off as law.
• DC Council Advances Single-Family Home Exemption to TOPA [UrbanTurf]