Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist asked Gov. Harry Hughes yesterday to veto legislation that would eliminate a Maryland requirement that tenants be given 180 days notice before their apartments can be converted to condominiums.
Gilchrist wrote Hughes that the bill, if signed into law, would have an "adverse effect" on the county government's efforts "to protect and assist tenants whose apartments are being converted to condominiums."
He said the measure also would nullify a county law that requires a 120-day notice of intent to convert to condominiums.
The executive's letter to Hughes followed weeks of acrimonious dispute among County Council members Gilchrist's administration and lobbyists on both sides of the question as a new wave of condominium conversions began in the county.
Last week, Council member Elizabeth Scull introduced conversions - one would give county tenants first option to buy their apartment complexes and turn them into cooperatives and the other would impose a three-month moratorium on conversions.
Gilchrist informed the council in a memo yesterday that he would not support either bill because he favors a voluntary program now being prepared by the county government's housing office.
The council is scheduled to decide today how to proceed with Scull's proposals in view of a county attorney's opinion that her proposal for a three-month moratorium violates state law.
During April, tenantt in more than 1,500 units in the county received notices that their apartments will be converted to condos in six months.
The law passed without opposition by the Maryland General Assembly would permit the formation of a condominium immediately, while requiring notification of apartment tenants that they must vacate in 180 days.
"It's a disaster," said Barbara Schiller, corresponding secretary of the Montgomery County Tenants Association. "It would allow the owner in one day to sell the apartments right out from under the tenant."
Joan Hatfield, a lobbyist for the Montgomery Board of Realtors, said the change in the 180-day requirements could save condominium purchasers money because it would allow conversion to proceed immeadiately instead of six months later then interest rates and costs could be higher.
"The 180-day period is not the time when co-ops are formed," Hatfield said. "By the time the owner gives notice to convert, he has signed a contract and made his decision. Co-ops are formed long before that."