Prospective condominium buyers and owners in the District of Columbia enjoy the protection of one of the nation's strongest condominium laws.
The two most significant features of the law are:
A requirements that a majority of the heads of households in a low and moderate-priced apartment building agree to the conversion of their building to condominiums or the conversion cannot take place. (This requirement does not apply if the cacancy rate for low and moderate apartment buildings citywide exceeds 3 per cent.)
The requirement that owners subsidize the new rent for low-and moderate-income tenants forced to move becuase of a conversion and pay their moving expenses. The subsidy lasts for two years.
The subsidy and moving expenses are available to all low-and moderateincome tenants whether they live in a low-or moderate-priced building or a high-priced building. The moving expenses are paid at the rate of $125 per room excluding bathrooms, closets, kitchens and pantries.
An owner determines whether he has a high rent or low rent building by first taking the monthly total rent paid by all the tenants.
Then he takes the number of efficiencies in the building he wants to convert and multiplies that number by $162.50; the number of one-bedrooms by $267; $375 for three bedrooms or more. If this total is lower than his gross rent then he can covert the building without seeking the tenants' permission.
If this number is higher than the gross rent then the building is classified as a low-and moderate-income building.
The city government must approve all conversions.
Also under the law, all new or converted condominium units must be registered by the city before they can be sold or binding sales contracts taken on them. The cost of registration is $36 per unit.
Ten days after the registration, tenants in a building that will be converted must be given 120 days to vacate the building. This notice must be accompanied by a statement of the tenants' rights and forms on which to apply for the rent subsidy and moving expenses. For the first 60 of the 120 days the tenant has the exclusive right to buy his apartment.
Other highlights of the law include:
The right of a prospective condominium buyer to get back any deposit with interest if he decides within 15 days after signing a binding sales agreement or receiving the public offering statement, which ever is later, that he does not want to buy. This right to cancel within 15 days must be written in both English and Spanish.
A public offering statement which must include the names of all the investors in the development company holding at least a 10 per cent interest, the number of units to be sold and the number to be rented, if any, and an engineering report on the condition of the plumbing, electrical and air-condition systems, the roof, furance and appliances in the building, and their estimated life and cost of replacement.
The requirement that the owners' association, which governs the condominium, keep detailed financial records that are open at all times to all owners. The records must be audited by an independent auditor each year.