Press Release: TOPA Passes First Reading


March 06, 2018

Contact: Emmanuel Brantley

(202) 741-0918

DC Moves Forward with Legislation to Close TOPA Loopholes

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, during the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the “TOPA Single-Family Home Exemption Amendment Act of 2018.”

This bill exempts the owners of single-family homes from the TOPA policy requiring that tenants be given the right of first refusal to purchase the property on which they live before the homeowner decides to sell it to a third party unless the tenant is age 62 or older (and meets certain criteria) or is disabled. An amendment was also added to require that homeowners notify tenants when they intend to sell the property.

While TOPA has been successful in protecting multi-family housing stock, only an average of 3.2 single-family households per year, between October 2009 and August 2015, have used TOPA to remain in their homes and many single-family homeowners have been exploited by bad-acting tenants who have manipulated TOPA law for financial gain.

Under this legislation, hundreds of homeowners, many of whom may have never leased a property, basement, or carriage house due to uncertainty regarding TOPA laws, will likely be encouraged to lease affordable units to tenants across the city. The Single-Family Home Exemption Amendment taps into a well of unused affordable housing that has long been available and effectively increases the number of affordable Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, available.

During her opening remarks, Councilmember Bonds reminded us that TOPA, which was established more than 30 years ago to create opportunities for homeownership among low-income residents, minimize displacement, and preserve and create additional affordable housing stock, was never intended to distort the single-family market or siphon off the equity in one’s home or property to an individual “savvy [enough] to leverage a TOPA offer into a financial windfall.”

The bill passed first reading with a favorable vote of 10-2 with one abstention. It will be presented for a second reading and a final vote at the upcoming legislative meeting in April.


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