In 2003, the building was sold in what was known as a “95/5” transaction. The new owner then sought to evict the tenants. The tenants and their tenant association filed suit challenging the “95/5” sale, and also opposed the eviction actions that the owner brought against the tenants. The trial court had granted summary judgment to the owners of the building in both cases, holding that the “95/5” transaction did not trigger the tenants’ right-of-first-refusal under the D.C. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (“TOPA”), which is part of the broader D.C. Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act, and also holding that the owner had the right to evict the tenants. The Court of Appeals reversed on both issues. The Court of Appeals held that the 2003 sale of the building might have triggered the tenants’ rights under TOPA, and remanded back to the trial court to conduct a trial on that issue. With respect to the evictions, the Court of Appeals held that the evictions might have been retaliation for the tenants’ attempts to remedy the terrible conditions in the building and for challenging the 2003 sale, and remanded back to the trial court to hold a trial on the issue of retaliation.
The Court of Appeals’ decision on the TOPA issue is likely to have broad ramifications for numerous other cases that are pending in the courts challenging “95/5” transactions and other attempts by building owners to circumvent tenants’ rights under TOPA. To read the decision, click here.