From the Forum – TOPA 101 for Neighbors?

Photo by PoPville flickr user brunofish

TOPA 101 for Neighbors?

“I’m looking for some insights and advice on DC’s TOPA – not from a tenant or homeowner/landlord perspective, from a neighbor perspective.

The row house adjoining ours has a tenant who’s almost 2 years into the TOPA process. In the meantime, the house has fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair. It’s a public safety hazard on a number of fronts – it’s teeming with all manner of vermin, has poison ivy growing everywhere, reeks of urine and animal feces, is a tinderbox waiting to go up in flames (if it doesn’t collapse first), has garbage strewn about, several areas of standing water breeding mosquitos, attracts addicts and the like.

The owner has desperately been trying to sell the place but the tenant’s got everything tied up in court. I can’t say for certain but from what I’ve learned of the situation, the tenant has no real intentions of owning the home except for any chance he has at a piece of the sale when it flips. It has all the markings of someone abusing the law but what I care most about is the state of the home itself. Does the tenant have responsibilities to maintain and care for the property or is that all on the owner? If he’s trying to use TOPA does he have to prove that he’s capable of caring for the property? If there’s a real public health problem do we as neighbors have any recourse? I feel rather helpless while this cesspool of a home continues to throw up a symbolic middle finger to the rest of the block and keep me worried that I’ll have to grab my 17 mo old in the middle of the night and flee because it’s caught fire.”

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