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5 Best Practices for Tenants Looking to Enact TOPA Rights

By Edward Pauls

How often do you hear tenant stories about building owners selling their property, forcing the families living there to unexpectedly vacate? It's an all too frequent reality for renters, especially those who reside within multifamily affordable housing buildings. But renters may have recourse, especially in Washington, D.C. where tenants' rights are protected under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). 

Recently, the Urban Institute published a series of case studies, one of which included one of the National Housing Trust's properties, Monseñor Romero Apartments. The Monseñor Romero case study outlines the tenants' successful enactment of TOPA rights after the property owner's decision to sell the building following a devastating fire.


Rallying numerous tenants to purchase an entire apartment building is not an easy feat, but these five takeaways from the Monseñor Romero experience will help anyone looking to enact their TOPA rights:

1. Establish a Tenant Association 

Ensure that the tenant association is properly formed with signatures from more than 50 percent of tenants in the building.  If an association already exists, tenants have 30 days to respond to an offer of sale.   If no association exists, tenants have 45 days to form an association and respond to the offer of sale.

2. Hire an Experienced Lawyer

An attorney with deep experience in TOPA transactions is an absolute necessity.  The process is very complex and not entirely logical, so tenants need someone with experience to help guide them through it.

3. Research Building Managers Thoroughly

Picking the right partner to own and operate the building is key.  Don't be swayed by promises of large payments or rich amenities, which may be illusory or dependent on large rent increases.  Focus on a developer who has a strong track record of delivering quality work and has good relationships with tenants.

4. Identify Reasonable Wants and Needs

Be clear and up front with the attorney and partners about priorities and get them to commit to those items in the development agreement. But be realistic about necessary compromises.

5. Maintain a Flow of Constant Information

Keep members of the association informed and involved as the process moves forward.  Good communication is key for such a complex and long undertaking.

For more information about Notice and Purchase Opportunity Laws, click here or visit