There were several significant happenings this month in the world of D.C. Real Estate. Right off the bat on March 1, the Court of Appeals came down with a ruling that impacts the priority of condominium liens. (details below) Not to be outdone by the Courts, the Council amended TOPA to exempt single family accommodations and is considering a rollback of the much-decried bankruptcy exception. Additionally, there are a number of upcoming programs and events to help you stay on top of the changes.
Recently one of my clients asked if co-owners can simultaneously serve on a condo board in DC? My first thought was, “of course they can’t, that’s ridiculous.” As it turns out, there is no DC law, or case, prohibiting condo board service by co-owners of the same unit. So unless the Bylaws address the situation, it is totally permissible.
In the midst of the oversight season, the Council pressed forward with its legislative agenda. On March 6, 2018, they passed a somewhat controversial TOPA Amendment, exempting owner-occupied single family homes.
If you have ever lived through a home improvement project you know it is a flat out, unmitigated pain-in-the-ass. There is constant dust, noise, and vibration. Not to mention strangers invading your property, and losing the use of facilities and utilities, sometimes for days. At the end of it, you have a nice new kitchen, bathroom or refinished basement to show for it. However, neighbor construction projects are far more frustrating. You have to put up with all of the noise and inconvenience and get none of the payoff. In fact, sometimes, your property could end up in worse shape because of someone else’s improvements. Frustrating.
One of the things the District has gotten right is establishing, maintaining and expanding one of the most protective Human Rights laws in the nation. I am very proud to live in a place where wrongful discrimination, of any kind, is simply not tolerated. Did you know that the DC Human Rights Act also protects the criminal record of rental housing applicants?
I’ve handled dozens of condominium and cooperative projects for owners and developers and by far the biggest complaint is the amount of time that the process takes from beginning to end. As experienced DC real estate developers and agents can tell you, timing is extremely important to the success of any sales project.
In 2008, the Council passed the District Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA). As the name suggests, DOPA gives the District the right to purchase residential buildings, in certain circumstances, where the owner seeks to sell to a third party. The 2008 Act left many open questions for the Agency to resolve by promulgating regulations. On December 22 2017, only nine (9) years later, DHCD has finally answered the bell, and published proposed regulations.
The local media, government officials (usually when seeking re-election), housing advocates and the legal services community throw around the amorphous term “slumlord” to describe a landlord that treats tenants badly by failing or refusing to make needed repairs to a rental unit. The point at which a landlord crosses over into ‘slumlord’ territory was anybody’s guess, until now. On November 7 the D.C. Council has proposed an official definition of “slumlord.” (in a sense). The “Slumlord Deterrence Amendment Act of 2017” imposes harsh sanctions on people that own an interest in a rental property which amasses more than five (5) Class 1 violations in a year. Specifically, the slumlord in question may be denied a Basic Business License (including renewal) or Building Permit, of any kind, for a year after all of the Class 1 Violations are cured. Alright, I admit, it’s not a statutory definition in the sense that it says “A Slumlord shall be defined as….” However, it is an implicit definition, and a bright line between the slumlord and the non-slumlord, at least in the eyes of the City Council.
On November 7, 2017, Council members Bonds and Nadeau introduced legislation to limit the rent that a landlord may charge for a unit after termination of a Federal or District subsidy. The Rental Housing Affordability Re-establishment Act of 2017 essentially provides, that upon termination of a tenant subsidy, a landlord may only charge a tenant the rent charged for that unit prior to the subsidy, plus, an increase of “general applicability” for each year that the subsidy based exemption was in place.
It is now legal for restaurant owners to allow patrons to bring pets into the outdoor seating areas provided certain conditions are met. Personally, I had no idea that allowing dogs in outdoor seating areas of restaurants was illegal. I have seen this, for years, all over the city, and frankly, thought nothing of it. I have never come across or even heard of an establishment receiving a violation for allowing dogs in outdoor areas. Apparently, during the summer months, the Department of Heath, cracked down on such conduct, issuing a slew of enforcement notices to restaurants with outdoor seating.