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“TOPA Negotiating Rights in the District”

by Prince Of Petworth June 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm 23 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user DCbmyers

“Could someone explain to me how I can use my TOPA rights to negotiate lease terms with a landlord? Long story short, I rent from a condo owner, and am not being offered a chance to renew my lease because the owner wants to sell. I received an “offer” to buy–but it does not seem to comply with TOPA requirements. I am hoping the owner will let me out of the lease early when I find a new place, but that is seeming unlikely. Any words of advice? Thank you”

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  • anonymous

    more than likely you’re owner will let you move out/break your lease early. It’s easier for them to sell the place and especially if you waived TOPA rights. I knew I would be selling and told my renters 5 months in advance and told them if they found a place between now and then that they can go ahead an move.

    • Anon

      You’d be surprised- I wanted to break my lease a few weeks early in a very similar situation and my landlord said no. Some landlords prefer to continue to collect rent as long as possible, knowing they will be indefinitely without the extra income while on the hook for the mortgage.

      • textdoc

        If the situations were comparable and your landlord was planning to sell, that sounds penny-wise but pound-foolish.

  • textdoc

    “I am hoping the owner will let me out of the lease early when I find a new place, but that is seeming unlikely.” That would really be the best course of action for the owner. Is he/she actually refusing this solution? Or have you not yet found a new place and your lease ending date is coming up?

    • mellodcd

      Agreed… I’m not suggesting this, but you can cause a major headache for the owner if you refuse to sign away your right to buy the place. Basically, it can delay the sell of the house sometimes for months even if you don’t have the money to actually buy the place. If the owner/agent has any experience in selling a house they should know this.

      We just ran into this with our new place. Luckily, we were able to just rollover the tenants lease.

      • Anon

        Yep. I had a friend who strung out her landlord for months “considering her purchase options.” She knew she could and she wasn’t in a rush to get out, so she refused to sign her rights away to buy. I’m sure her landlord hated her by the time she finally left. Landlords can get royally screwed over by this (though as I renter I appreciate it).

        • C_petworth

          wow thats a pretty shitty thing to do

  • stacksp

    Chances are they will let you out of the lease once you find a new place given that they are selling or have sold the place.

  • shmoo

    DC law lets you break your lease. Look into that. Ive done this many times in DC. It is a very tenant friendly jurisdiction.

  • carol

    So my understanding is that the landlord must send you a written offer to buy and give you 30 days to respond. The only exception is if your landlord is selling (more like transferring ) his or her property to a family member. I am not sure why you think your offer did not comply with the law so I wont go into more detail their. If you are uninterested in buying the condo I do not think it voids your current lease.

    Your landlord is within his rights not to renew your lease if he intends to use the apartment for personal use, renovations, or if the apartment is not going to be used for a rental property anymore (so as long as he does not rent to others ). He cannot evict you just because he wants to sell but he can if he needs to do any repairs before putting the apartment on the market. I think he needs to give you 90 days notice however. Therefore if your lease was set to expire in 30 days and he chooses not to renew it I think you still roll to month to month to get the full 90 days to evacuate the apartment. Therefore if your landlord sells and the new buyer intends to move in , they have to give you 90 days (3 months) to find a new spot.

    I am not a lawyer but I was on the other side of this issue a few years, trying to sell with a tenant. Have you simply asked your landlord if you could vacate early? I did all the legal research (as I am sure my tenant did) but in the end since we were both friendly with each other we worked out fair terms both both of us which included my tenant leaving her lease 2 months early.

    • anon

      THIS is what is right. I don’t get why you are concerned. You must be nearing the end of your lease if you aren’t getting a new one, no? You don’t need a new lease in DC – at the end of your lease, it automatically turns into a month to month lease, and you can leave then any time on a month’s notice. You landlord, however, cannot ask you to move on 30 days notice. If you want to leave before your current lease is up, why? Just wait, take your time looking, you have lots of time. You can never be asked to leave because the owner (or new owner) or family member of theirs is moving in without them giving you 90 days notice.

      You can also bargain for money to give up your TOPA rights if you landlord wants you to leave sooner, or just wants to speed the sale along. Often this is done once there is buyer, as the buyer wants to seller to deliver the place empty, and won’t want to close until you are out – if the new buyer is planning to live there. If they are buying as an investor, they may be happy to have a tenant already. Nothing wrong with bargaining away your TOPA rights – after all, you have the expenses and hassle of moving due to the owner’s selling.

  • OP Anon

    I think the OP’s issue is that he/she wants to ensure they get their deposit back. OP is concerned that if they move out early the landlord will hold their deposit hostage. It’s a valid concern.
    The landlord needs to give you a standardized form provided by the DC government to relinquish your TOPA rights or, conversely, for you to inform them of your intention to buy. Tell the landlord that you’ll sign the form on the condition (1.) that they return your deposit immediately and (2.) that you’ll be allowed to move out at any time without penalty. If necessary, allow your landlord to do a walk through right now to show that the home has not been damaged. Remind the landlord that the property is more valuable if your rights are signed over.

    • Marty

      As a LL, we never had a standardized form from DC re: TOPA rights. We asked tenants to move out, they said sure, we put house on market and then sold it without any issues. Who would have cried foul here, the mortgage holder?

      • Anon Spock

        The tenants if they figured out you didn’t do it the right way or new owners to be if they decided to try and claim rights.

      • Anonymous

        You had un-savvy tenants who were not aware of their rights. Consider yourself lucky.

      • Anonymous

        You should have given the tenant a standardized offer of sale form, which is here:
        The tenant gets right of first refusal and must sign this to relinquish their TOPA rights. There is some debate as to whether previous tenants who moved out – even if it was a few months before you put the property on the market – would still need to sign this. I’m surprised that the title insurer did not require this from you.

        • JoDa

          Yeah, I’ve been through this, too, and there are two standard forms you have to provide/get signed by your tenants. The first is the form linked above or its companion “without a contract” Form A. The tenant(s) have to receive that, with no action required on their part. The second is Form B, where the tenants waive their TOPA rights, which lists any consideration you gave them for waiving their rights, and that must be signed and notarized. In my case it was a HUGE hassle because the tenants were looking to move outside of DC, so they didn’t have a lot of time to spend on filling out forms and whatnot, but I convinced them to at least sign for the certified mail for Form A and sign and notarize Form B so that I could sell without question. The title company asked for both to clear the title, so it was good that I did the leg work.

  • Anonymous

    Are you talking about the NEW owner letting you out of your lease? (I am assuming the lease transfers.)
    Because it’s hard to imagine that the current owner, who has an offer on the table and appears to just be going through the TOPA motions with you, would complain about you breaking your lease and leaving.

    • Anonymous

      You’d be surprised the lengths some landlords will go to in order to make some extra money by keeping a deposit or trying to “trick” tenants into leaving. There’s no dearth of scoundrels in DC real estate.

  • anon

    If you want to get out of the lease from the current owner: refuse to sign the TOPA until they agree to let you leave early.
    If you want to get out of the lease from the new owner: TOPA won’t help.

    • T. Boone Pickens

      This is clearly the correct answer here. You not only have the right to purchase the place but also the right to stay in there for 90 days AFTER the NEW owner informs you that he/she intends to live in the place, not rent it out. The DC Tenant Advocate can walk you through this, free of charge. If they want you out, the current landlord should pay you to waive those rights. The landlord can’t refuse to allow new lease.

  • neighbor

    A lot of speculation here. OP is going to have to explain a little more specifically what the issue is and what their question is if they want any useful help.
    Has the owner asked you to leave? Do you want to leave? When does your lease expire? When do they intend to sell the unit? Do the potential new owners want an occupied unit? What was the offer made to you ?Why do you think the offer does not meet TOPA requirements?

  • smh

    read the tenant survival guide on the office of the tenant advocate’s website. write to OTA if you have questions about it. decide what you want. write to the landlord about it. if you can’t get it, and it is reasonable under the rules laid out in the survival guide, contact OTA again.


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