DC Legislation Proposed to Exclude Single-Family Homes from TOPA

The District of Columbia Council has gone through its first round of considering legislation proposed to exclude single-family homes from TOPA.  Bill 22-315 was first introduced last year and focused on excluding accessory units (like basement apartments).    After a lengthy hearing on that iteration, the proposal was expanded to exclude single-family homes, including those with accessory units.

The name of the Bill was changed to the “TOPA Single-Family Home Exemption Amendment Act of 2018” from its earlier name of  “TOPA Accessory Dwelling Unit Amendment Act of 2017”.

The Committee Report (click here) from the Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, chaired by Councilmember Anita Bonds, goes into detail about the circumstances that give rise to the need for the legislation and the positions of the various stakeholders.

The current version under consider, Bill 22-315, was passed at first reading on March 6, 2018.  The enrolled version of the Bill was not yet available on the District’s website at the time of authorship of this article and will be supplemented when available.  Voting against the Bill were councilmembers Nadeau and Silverman.  There was an amendment introduced the same day by councilmember Cheh (click here).

The Bill currently excludes single family accommodations from TOPA.  There are certain protected classes:  elderly, disabled, and pursuant to the Nadeau amendment, to “long term tenants”.  The current version appears to sunset those protections if a written lease were not in place on December 31, 2017 or if the property was not occupied by January 15, 2018.

The definition of accessory units is fairly expansive, meaning that a single-family accommodation with a basement apartment or a carriage house would be exempt from TOPA, subject to the carve-out of the protected classes.

The Bill, as voted upon, needs some technical corrections.  The DC Land Title Association (for which the author serves as lobbyist), has submitted suggestions designed to 1) ensure clarity so that title insurance underwriting can be achieved without many of the current obstacles, 2) clearing up the concept of “delivery” so that it can , likewise, be ascertained with certainty.  A basic goal would be the ability to determine if a person is not in a protected class if a transfer occurs without full and exhaustive compliance with TOPA.  The DCLTA’s suggestions would accomplish that goal and we hope to see the suggestions incorporated before the second reading of the Bill by the Council.