What’s the status on B21-0417, aka The First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015?

Legislation that would offer tax relief for District residents buying DC real estate is currently under committee review and awaiting scheduling for a mark-up, a spokeswoman for the Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue said.

Known as the First-time Homebuyer Tax Benefit Amendment Act of 2015 (B21-0417), the bill would create a new transfer tax rate of 0.725% for homebuyers who have never purchased a house, condo or share in a cooperative unit in the District. It would go into effect Sept. 30, 2016.

During mark-up, which is a vote in the Committee to send the bill before the whole Council, the Committee will have an opportunity to amend the bill (or not) and will also have a chance to review a financial impact statement to analyze costs and revenues of the proposed legislation.

If the bill passes mark-up, it will go to Mayor Muriel Bowser for a signature before going to Congress for review and passive approval. If it fails mark-up, the bill will get kicked to the Committee of the Whole and added to the agenda for the next legislative meeting.

Impact on low- to moderate-income residents a concern

The Council held a public hearing about the bill on February 10 of this year, which is when Settlement Observer picked up on the story. Then on February 24 a representative from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute testified before the Committee about concerns regarding a lack of income restrictions and the impact the tax cut would have on the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund.

“Rather than provide a new tax benefit for all first-time homebuyers, DCFPI recommends that policymakers review the city’s current deed tax assistance to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and make adjustments if they appear warranted,” said DCFPI Housing Policy Associate Claire Zippel in her testimony.

The bill was introduced last October by councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), David Grosso (I-At Large) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large).

Grosso acknowledged concerns regarding the economic impact of lowering the transfer tax rate across the board and, in particular, how such a deduction would affect the Trust Fund.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that the [Trust Fund] receives annual commitments so that it is not dependent on yearly fluctuations in recordation tax revenues,” Grosso said in a statement.

Mayor Bowser’s budget proposal last year included $100 million for the Trust Fund in fiscal year 2016, according to the website of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development. The Trust Fund is administered by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development with support from the Coalition.

The Trust Fund “enables non-profit housing providers, mission-driven for-profit developers and renters wishing to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase rights to improve and develop affordable housing in all eight wards,” according to the Coalition’s website.

Since its inception in 2002, The Trust Fund has produced or preserved more than 8,000 affordable homes with upward of 2,000 more in the pipeline, according to the Coalition’s website. In addition the Trust Fund has created an estimated 10,000 short-term and permanent jobs and has helped more than 18,000 DC residents.

The District's homebuying taxes significantly higher than Maryland or Virginia, about 50% higher on average

Current DC transfer and recordation taxes are on average 50% higher than neighboring Maryland and Virginia, Grosso said in a statement, which was the impetus for introducing a bill that would lower the tax burden for homebuyers purchasing for the first time in the District.

Transfer tax rates for District properties vary depending on the purchase price, from 1.1% for purchases $399,999 and below to 1.45% for purchases of $400,000 or more. The tax payment is traditionally paid by both the buyer and seller.

The DC tax abatement program offers relief for some, but homebuyers must satisfy income, purchase price and other restrictions and provide documentation to qualify.

Tax abatement waives the recordation tax obligation for low- to moderate-income first-time homebuyers while also crediting the seller’s portion of the tax to the homebuyer, resulting in a 2.2% swing in favor of the homebuyer. In addition, a qualifying homebuyer is exempt from paying property taxes for the first five years of ownership, but again some restrictions apply.

“If policymakers are concerned that the current deed tax assistance programs are inadequate, the District should look to modify existing programs while keeping a focus on low- and moderate-income families, rather than adopt another tax break that has no income targeting,” Zippel, the housing policy associate, said in her testimony.

We will continue to monitor the story, and readers can also follow along on the Council's website.

Did you know? Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act in Takoma Park, Maryland

If you have been involved in real estate in the DC metro area you have likely come across the DC Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. But did you know that Takoma Park, Maryland also has a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act ("TOPA")?

The intent of TOPA is to promote the conversion of rentals to owner-occupied housing. Not complying with TOPA does leave the possibility that a court of competent jurisdiction may declare the transfer of the property void.  

As with DC, there are exceptions to the tenant opportunity to purchase. Some transfers that are exempt include transfers to a family member, transfers under a court order, transfers to the State or a local government and transfers of a minority title interest.  For a complete list of exempt transfers, please visit Section 6.32.020 of the City of Takoma Park Municipal Code.   

As the title company, Federal Title will require proof that the seller delivered a written offer of sale at the same price and terms as the third party contract of sale to each tenant, any registered  tenant association, and the City of Takoma Park by first class mail or personal delivery and, except for single family homes, that the offer was posted in a common area.  

For single family homes, the tenant has seven days from the date of receipt of the written offer of sale to provide a written statement of interest, and the City of Takoma Park has 14 days. For properties with two to six units, a group of tenants acting jointly have 14 days, then seven additional days for any individual tenant, then seven more days for the City.  

For properties with seven or more units, a registered tenant association representing at least one-third of the occupied rental units in the rental facility and the City of Takoma Park each have 45 days. (Please note that properties involving four or more units in Takoma Park will also need to comply with Montgomery County’s Right of First Refusal laws).

Similar to DC’s TOPA laws, a tenant does have the right to waive the rights but only if supported by consideration. Also, the closing must take place within 6 months of the offer of sale being mailed or personally delivered. Federal Title will additionally require that both the purchaser and the seller sign a TOPA affidavit. 

This is just a summary of the City of Takoma Park TOPA laws, but the full text can be found at Chapter 6.32 Tenant Opportunity to Purchase.

DC - Tenant’s Opportunity to Purchase Act a.k.a. TOPA

As a settlement attorney in the District of Columbia, the last thing you want to hear for the first time at the settlement table is there are/were tenants in the property being sold.

The Tenant’s Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is very pro-tenant and is often daunting for agents to tackle as part of a listing or as part of a purchase. Fortunately, there is guidance out there and the shock of the last-minute TOPA issue has become less likely as agents and their clients have become more educated on the process. 

The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) has been proactive in getting forms out on its platform to assist agents, such as the Tenancy Addendum for Washington, DC and a TOPA Affidavit that is accepted by most title insurance underwriters.  

The DC Department of Housing and Community Development now provides the Tenant Notice forms online. These forms are very specific as to who is to be given notice, when notice is to be given and how notice is to be given. The forms also specify the timeframes in which all parties – property owners and tenants – are to act. 

It is important to note that giving notice to each of the tenants is not enough in the District of Columbia; you must also give notice to the Mayor c/o District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development – Rental Conversion and Sale Division.  

Following directions on these forms is imperative for a successful tenant occupied property sale.

GCAAR Tenancy Addendum no solution to insoluble problem

There is great consternation among Realtors®, title attorneys, buyers and sellers of residential rental property in D.C. and for good reason.

The creation of Tenancy Addendum Form to be used with Form 1313 (enough to cause tristadecaphobics agita) is more curse than blessing. As a litigator of real property disputes in D.C. and Maryland for close to 30 years, use of this form will be a boon to business. Now for the skinny.

Click beyond the jump to continue reading.

A primer for the sale of DC residential rental property

Selling tenant occupied residential property in the District of Columbia can be a challenging experience filled with potential pitfalls. For the novice and veteran Realtor®, due care must be taken at every step of the process.

When approaching a client for a listing, always inquire as to whether the property is registered with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), Rental Accommodations and Conversion Division (RACD). All D.C. residential landlords are required to be registered with DCRA and failure to register can result in complaints issued by the Agency or the tenants.

Click beyond the jump to continue reading.

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