What the TOPA? 3 Options DC Home Owners Should Know

An old affordable housing law called TOPA is preventing some DC homeowners from selling their home. TOPA, otherwise known as Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, was established in the early 1980’s to ensure renters could not be displaced from their home and had first rights to purchase the home, should the owner decide to sell. 

But now- some clever renters have been able to hold properties hostage by selling their rights to the highest paying bidder, to put major cash in their pocket – yes the renter’s pocket! Some DC homeowners had to pay their tenants, upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, to release their TOPA rights so the home could be sold – practically extortion. Local real estate attorneyJohn E. Reidis a TOPA expert and suggested 3 options DC homeowners should know about renting their property.

  1. You must comply with TOPA law. Meaning you must give your tenant, in writing via certified mail, an opportunity to purchase the property if you decide to sell it. A copy of this notice must be sent to the Mayor of DC as well. In essence, if you have a renter in your property and you want to sell it – you might be in a TOPA crisis because the renter gets first dibs on the property and or they can sell their rights to someone else, holding up the potential sell on your property; a TOPA nightmare.
  2. Wait for the tenant to move out. Another option is to wait for the tenant to vacate the property at their leisure. Then, consider listing it 30 days post their departure, depending on the type of dwelling and the circumstances in which they vacated. To comply with this option, they must leave on their own accord – and don’t even think about selling it until they have officially moved out, post 30 days!
  3. Don’t rent your property in DC. Just don’t do it; live in the property, flip the property, but don’t EVER, EVER rent in DC. And should you feel the desire to become a landlord, perhaps Maryland or Virginia is a better option because they don’t have a TOPA law.

In short, if you have a renter in your property and you’d like to sell it, the best advice would be to seek out a DC real estate attorney immediately to help guide you further on TOPA and its legal ramifications. Similarly, if you are considering purchasing a home that is tenant occupied, TOPA still applies and the tenant must be given the option to purchase as well, should you decide to sell it.

"It's important to ensure strict compliance with TOPA and sellers and listing agents should take it very seriously. There may be additional steps to take or even exemptions that could apply depending on the facts. If all parties are aware of the steps required and their respective rights prior to listing the property for sale, it can help set expectations for the transaction," said Reid.

In the meantime, we’ll be following DC Council’s efforts on correcting loopholes within this law to help protect DC homeowners and keep you posted on any changes.

Close It! House of the Week: Charming rowhouse in Shaw with unique spiral staircase

Close It! House of the Week: Charming rowhouse in Shaw with unique spiral staircase

This week we’re making our way to the booming Shaw neighborhood that has seen tons of new stores and restaurants open in the past couple years to see about a charming rowhouse with a unique spiral staircase. It’s listed for $650,000.

An ideal alternative to condo living, this 2BR / 1BA is 969 square feet and features several updates including stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors throughout and a sun room that leads to an adorable back yard that will come in handy as cook out season gets underway.

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $147,995.07. Monthly payments will then be around $1,916.70. For a complete picture of cash-to-close, including the seller’s net proceeds from this home-sale scenario, check out the Close It! Web version or download the free Close It! iOS app.

Send EMDs Electronically and Securely Now!

It's official - realtors and home buyers can NOW send earnest money deposits electronically and securely to Federal Title & Escrow Company with ZOCCAM!

This is a leading banking application for smart phones that deposits and transfers escrow money instantly, any time, day or night- from your pocket!

Simply take a picture of the front and back of your earnest money deposit check, select Federal Title & Escrow Company's escrow account, confirm the information to be accurate, then select send. The agent and home buyer will be immediately notified that the escrow money deposit was received.     

This is a game changer for agents and home buyers because it saves time, money, and is hassle free with just a simple click of an app on your smart phone. Oh and it's FREE, SAFE, and SECURE!

ZOCCAM doesn’t contain or hold any financial account information, and all content is encrypted and sent using state-of-the-art security techniques that ensure every client’s non-public personal information is protected. 

View this short ZOCCAM demonstration, download the app, and begin to use today! 

***Please note, when a license number is requested in the below instructions, please use 88888888 in the meantime, while the app is being modified. *** 

  • View the step-by-step instructions for agents here
  • View the step-by-step instructions for home buyers here

Close It! House of the Week: Condo in converted school house rare find in heart of city

Close It! House of the Week: Condo in converted school house rare find in heart of city

This week we’re exploring a converted school house in the heart of Logan Circle where an amazing 2BR / 2BA condo with 14-foot ceilings and custom closets is waiting for the right homebuyer. It’s listed for $815,000.

The unit was renovated in 2015 and features heart of pine hardwood flooring, new kitchen appliances and large windows with custom window treatments. Many of D.C.’s tastiest restaurants, located along the 14th Street Corridor, are essentially at the doorstep of this prime location.

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $184,936.32. Monthly payments will then be around $4,852.40, which includes the HOA fee. For a complete picture of cash-to-close, including the seller’s net proceeds from this home-sale scenario, check out the Close It! Web version or download the free Close It! iOS app.

Wire fraudsters relentless in phishing attempts for down payments, seller proceeds

Wire fraudsters relentless in phishing attempts for down payments, seller proceeds

A very serious cyber threat continues to loom over the homebuying process, and hyper-vigilance is presently the only way homebuyers and sellers, as well as real estate professionals, can protect themselves.

The threat is wire fraudsters, who remain relentless in their efforts steal homebuyers’ down payment funds and sellers’ net proceeds and are becoming increasingly deft at defrauding title companies and consumers alike. We’ve encountered multiple scams in which criminals attempted to phish away down payments and net proceeds funds belonging to unsuspecting to consumers.

How do these wire fraud scheme work?

As far as we can tell, the fraudsters are gaining entry to the email accounts of unsuspecting real estate agents probably through some kind of malware attack.

Once the criminals have access to the agent’s account, they scan the inbox looking for information they can use to make their email scams sound more legit, in particular property addresses, closing dates and the title company that will handle the closing.

Next the scammers create a phony email account that looks almost identical to the agent’s legit email account that was hacked – perhaps an extra hyphen or dash is the only difference. With the acquired bait and the phony email account in place, the trap is set.

The would-be victim receives an innocuous email. She recognizes the sender’s name because she has been working with that agent the past few weeks or even months leading up to the closing. If she is not paying close attention, she may not notice the sender’s email address is only slightly different from previous exchanges.

That’s when the defrauding occurs. The victim executes the wire transfer request and the money is gone. Fraudsters are becoming so clever they even time the delivery of their fraudulent emails to coincide with the actual dates and times of closing.

Homebuyers’ down payment funds at risk

In this scenario, the real estate agent’s email account has been compromised and the fraudsters have learned the agent is working with homebuyers and in the final stages of helping them purchase the new property.

With intel in hand, the fraudsters will reach out to the homebuyers from the phony agent email address a day or so prior to closing. The fraudster’s email directs them to wire their down payment funds to the title company’s escrow account in preparation of their big day. In this scam, the “title company’s” bank account belongs to the fraudsters.

We recommend homebuyers verify over the phone the authenticity of any wire transfer instructions just to be on the safe side, because once funds are transferred to the wrong account and cleared out by the cyber-criminals, they are virtually impossible to recover.

Sellers’ proceeds from home sale at risk

This version of the scam targets title companies more directly than consumers, but it’s worth noting because it can lead to a delay in the delivery of proceeds to the seller who may be planning to use them on the purchase of another property.

Just last month our title company spotted two of these wire fraud attempts. We received emails purporting to be from the real estate agent representing the property seller and referencing a property that was scheduled to close at our office. It was a different agent for each case, which suggests the scam may be becoming more widespread.

In the phony email the agent asked for our help wiring funds to the seller’s bank account. In this case, obviously, the scam is that the “seller’s” bank account belongs to fraudsters. What’s not always so obvious, though, are the clues to alert the would-be victim of the fraud that is taking place.

Just as we advise homebuyers, we verify over the phone the authenticity of any wire transfer instructions just to be on the safe side because, again, once funds are transferred to the wrong account and cleared out by the cyber criminals, those funds are virtually impossible to recover.

Many title companies purchase cyber fraud insurance as added protection against increasingly sophisticated wire fraud attempts, including ours. But understanding how the scheme works help avoid the hassle of filing a cyber fraud insurance claim.

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Our blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. Rate tables and figures that appear on our blog are deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For current rates & policies, refer to our Quick Quote and Consumer Guide. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on our blog.