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A New Organization Aims to Advocate for Small Property Owners in the DC Area

by Nena Perry-Brown

While DC has earned a reputation for being tenant-friendly, and large property owners enjoy membership in influential organizations, a new group wants to look out for the little guy.

Earlier this month, commercial broker and manager of The Urban Commercial Realty Group Dean Hunter launched the Small Multifamily Owners Association (SMOA), a trade group that will advocate on behalf of individuals and families who own buildings in the DC area with four to 50 units.

"There are over 3,000 individual small property owners in the District, but when it comes to owners, no one is at the table," Hunter explained to UrbanTurf. "You cannot treat a family or individual that owns four or 10 units the same way you would treat a corporation with hundreds or thousands of units."

While SMOA was not created in response to DC's recent COVID emergency legislation, some of the provisions in those bills are of concern to Hunter. For one, he questions whether DC has the jurisdiction to require mortgage lenders to approve deferrals, and he thinks the payment plan requirement is vague and that it is burdensome for small landlords to give relief notices to all their tenants. He also thinks that, because small landlords often know their tenants personally, it would be a more effective strategy for DC to offer small property owners temporary tax relief of about 20% so they can pass those savings on. Over the long term, he also thinks the city should reduce the property tax rate for these buildings by 25-30 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Hunter also has his eye on the rent control debate, as he thinks the system is punitive toward small landlords, whose buildings often fall under rent control. SMOA's position is that small landlords should be able to raise the rent more than 10% on vacated units, that four-unit buildings should be exempt from rent control, and that the city should invest more in affordable housing rather than establishing rent caps. 

Another law SMOA would like to see revisited is the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which empowers renters to negotiate with the owner(s) of their property before or while a sale is being pursued. While TOPA has been used to enable tenants to organize and purchase their building, it has also been leveraged so that tenants can secure buyouts, repairs, and other benefits. Hunter estimates that, along with the time spent on due process, TOPA can add a price tag of $25,000 to $30,000 per unit to a transaction, which also makes it harder for smaller landlords to compete.

SMOA would glean best practices from the area, particularly Arlington, Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, in order to advocate for more parity among the regulations across the area. The organization will also offer programming to educate landlords on things like clean energy retrofits and property management, and secure discounted services for members through partnership deals.

In the meantime, SMOA is drumming up membership and is in the process of creating an advisory board with members from each ward of the city.

See other articles related to: smoa, small property owners, small business, landlords

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a-new-organization-aims-to-advocate-for-small-property-owners-in-the-dc-are/16994

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