The End to the Capitol Hill TOPA Debacle

  • October 4th 2016

by Nena Perry-Brown

The End to the Capitol Hill TOPA Debacle: Figure 1
The block on Capitol Hill with the home that Clara initially wanted to purchase.

A month ago, UrbanTurf reported on an extreme example of DC’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), one of DC’s most debated weapons in its arsenal of tenant-friendly housing laws. TOPA allows tenants the right of first refusal, meaning that if their landlord intends to sell the property where the tenant resides, the tenant has the right to either purchase the property first or otherwise assign or sell their right to another person or entity.

When a Capitol Hill house with a tenant in the basement unit went up for sale, Clara was excited to purchase. She went under contract on the home and completed a home inspection when the tenant, Sarah, halted the proceedings with her refusal to sign away her TOPA rights — or sell them to Clara — to allow the sale to move forward. Instead, Sarah opted to engage other buyers, in essence auctioning off her rights to the highest bidder. The listing agent continued to show the property to potential buyers while the sale was still in flux, despite there being no stipulation in the sale contract authorizing continued showings.

The article generated a lot of interest from UrbanTurf readers, and there were strong feelings about whether Sarah was either misusing or acting in accordance with the intent of the law, which was enacted to protect tenants from potentially advantageous landlords and buyers.

UrbanTurf recently learned that Sarah sold her TOPA rights to another party, and the listing agent for the home asked Clara to sign a release from her contract; Clara complied so as to not prolong the legal battle. However, when Clara found another house she was interested in, she and her agent Jacqueline Battistini opted to be more proactive when they put in an offer.

“We [found] her another house, in Capitol Hill, and with another tenant,” Battistini writes. “In this case we stipulated in the contract that we would not perform the home inspection until proof of delivery of TOPA and the signed waiver were approved by our Title agency.” Clara could close on the new house in October.

See other articles related to: capitol hill, right of first refusal, tenant rights, topa

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_happy_ending_for_all_in_the_topa_debacle/11752.

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