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Can You Still Exercise TOPA When Given a Notice to Vacate?

by Nena Perry-Brown

Back in March, UrbanTurf re-published an article about the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which gives building tenants in DC the right of first refusal when their landlord intends to sell the building in which they reside.

A reader found herself in a TOPA situation recently when her landlord gave the tenants of the three-unit building 60-day notices to vacate and also stated an intention to sell the property. However, the landlord did not formally furnish record of the listing price or any existing offers for the property, leaving the onus on the tenants to pursue a purchase. The landlord also pressured the residents to vacate prior to the 60-day expiration of the lease, according to the reader.

So what recourse do the tenants have? Landlord and tenant attorney Emilie Fairbanks told UrbanTurf that the tenants first need to decide if they want to try and purchase the building. If they don’t, they should think through trying to stop the sale as that could result in keeping a landlord who can’t afford to keep up the property, which is not a great outcome for the tenants.

That said, tenants do have the legal power to intervene and prevent the property from being sold. Moreover, a landlord cannot terminate a lease with a tenant unless it is “for cause”, which means that the tenants can refuse to vacate without being given a legitimate cause for the termination.

Tenants can decide to just move out, and in TOPA cases that UrbanTurf has covered in the past, they are often paid to do so by the landlord. In an article from 2012, we covered the TOPA process for the Garden Towers complex next to Meridian Hill park where many residents received $20,000 payments to vacate.

See other articles related to: topa, tenant-friendly, tenant rights, tenant, landlord

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/can_you_still_exercise_topa_when_given_ntv/11253

3 Comments

  1. David Bediz said at 10:41 pm on Thursday May 19, 2016:
    Landlords and tenants should both know that a landlord cannot just give notice for tenants to leave just because the lease is expiring. In DC tenants can only be given notice to vacate if they breach the lease or the landlord plans to occupy the entire property themselves (and they must do so after the tenants leave or risk legal action). Dealing with tenants fairly, yet effectively, is a difficult task for landlords. They should consult a professional agent who is experienced with such procedures before even announcing verbally to tenants their intention to sell. The DC landscape is intended to provide fairness to tenants, but in effect it has actually given them a number of protections that are often used instead as weapons. As such, professional counsel is very important.
  1. Howard R. said at 5:29 pm on Sunday May 22, 2016:
    TOPA only kicks in at five or more units. At three units the building is exempt from TOPA. If the term of the lease is over on or before the date of the notice to vacate, subject to any extension clauses in the lease, the landlord is free to issue the notice. If the lease expiration is after the notice date the tenant would still have all the rights afforded in the lease. DC's Office of Tenant Advocate (OTA) is a resource here.
  1. Tracy Renken said at 2:48 pm on Monday May 23, 2016:
    Actually, TOPA kicks in for even one unit. There are just different timelines and regulations in place for one unit vs 2-4 units and 5 or more units.

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