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F.A.Q

Q: If I received a Notice of Offer of Sale from my landlord, does that mean that the building is already sold and do I have to move out?

A: Receiving a letter does not mean that you have to find another place to live! It only means that the landlord intends to sell the building and that you and your neighbors, as a matter of law, can attempt to buy it and own it for yourselves. 


Q: Is buying my only option?

A: No. There are four options that tenants have under Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA): 
1) The tenants can choose to exercise their right to purchase and develop the property into a Cooperative or a Condominium.
2) Tenants can make a contract with the prospective purchaser (the 3rd party) that will benefit both parties. 
3) Tenants can assign their rights to a new landlord under a contract that will benefit both parties.
4) Tenants can elect to not exercise their rights and either remain as a rental with a new landlord or move out of the property.

Options one, two and three should be done with the assistance of a lawyer!


Q: This building is big.  How am I going to buy this property alone?

A: You are not expected to buy the property alone. The Tenant Purchase Process is designed to encourage persons currently living in the building to stay and purchase the property as a part of a tenant association. This tenant association will act as a team going through the process, purchasing the property and then developing it into a condominium or cooperative (refer to condo vs. coop for more information about both options).


Q: My building is not in good shape, do I really want to buy something that is in poor condition?

A: Although tenant associations usually buy their property “as-is”, substantial rehab and renovations are always part of a properly executed Tenant Purchase project.


Q: What happens if I don’t have very good credit or any credit at all? Can I still participate?

A: YES.  In many cases your individual credit is not a factor at all.  But if you know that your credit has blemishes and your individual credit turns out ot be a factor there are ways for you to improve your credit score. The first step is going to see a credit counselor. There are many organizations throughout the city that can help you. If you think this may be your situation, follow up quickly. (Click here to link to affordable housing resources links)


Q: What if my name is not on the lease or I don’t have a current lease?

A: It is very common for tenants in the District not to have current leases; most people after the first year do not renew their leases. As long as tenants keep making payments the lease is perpetually renewed on a month to month basis. As far as the tenant purchase process is concerned, ant resident whose name is on the lease OR whose name is on the payment instrument (i.e. checks or money order) can participate in the process.


Q: Who is qualified to be a member?

A: To be a member a person must live in the unit and have a signed lease or be the resident whose name is on the rent instrument. Rent instruments include checks or money orders. There are special rules for new residents and employees of the owner. Please contact ULS Homeworks for further information.


Q: Does my immigration status affect my eligibility?

A: No. In most cases a person’s immigration status is not a concern. Whether you are an international student, a visiting professional, or whatever your situation may be, feel free to contact us for further information.


Q: I have been living in my building for over ten years, do I have more rights?

A: No.  Resdients do not get preferential treatment because of how long they've lived in the building.  After living in the property for 90 or more days all residents have the same rights to participate.


Q: Do I get preferential treatment because I am a senior citizen?

A: Sometimes.  Senior citizens (62 y/o or older) who are low-to-moderate income have the option to opt out of their building's conversion to a condominium or a cooperative.  Those seniors can choose to remain in the building as renters for as long as they want.  It is their choice. 


Q: What happens if my neighbors want to buy and I don’t?

A: If you are not interested in buying you should still consider helping out your neighbors by being a part of the tenant association. By participating in the process you are also helping yourself by allowing the tenant association and yourself to have more time in your building, whatever the outcome is at the end. In addition, people who stay on board can have a say in the decision making process in the future.


Q: I heard tenants have received payout from a tenant purchase deal in the past, should I expect to get one?

A: There have been some cases where tenants have been paid to sign over their right to purchase, but this is not always the case. You should not expect to get a payout. If there is a situation where a payout does occur, it is always better to be a part of the tenant association and well represented by your lawyer.


Q: Do we really need a lawyer? If so, how are we expected to pay for it?

A: Yes you really do need a lawyer, especially if you are in a building of five or more units. Lawyers have different payment plans and are very flexible. Call ULS Homeworks if you have any questions about legal fees.


Q: I have a friend who is a lawyer, can she act as our legal representation?


A: In most cases the lawyers you may know are not very familiar with the information and intricacies of the Tenant Purchase Process in D.C. We always advise tenant associations to seek legal services from lawyers who have previously worked with Tenant Purchase issues.


Q: Let’s just say that my building is being sold for one million dollars and there are 100 units, does that mean that I would only have to pay $10,000 for my unit?

A: No. What you pay for your unit is not just the total sale price divided by the number of units. The final purchase price will reflect the price of the property and other additional cost, including the cost of rehabilitation and financing fees. This is something that is hard to estimate at first glance and must be discussed with the members, the lawyer and the developer. REMEMBER: Don’t be afraid of the numbers; though the amount may seem large, there are options and ways to figure out. Always ask where the information given to you in coming from.


Q: I am interested in purchasing my unit and the vacant unit next door to me, is that possible?


A: This is possible but very unlikely. Development outcomes vary from project to project. Members should talk to their boards.


Q: My board says we need to pay dues, is this really necessary?

A: YES! Paying dues is an essential part of the Tenant Purchase process for at least two reasons. 1) The tenant association will initially be responsible for some of its own costs, such as paying for its incorporation and registration. 2)Potential lenders like to see that the tenants are paying dues becuase they see it as an indicator that they are serious about this process.