The D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday allowed the District of Columbia to keep temporarily in effect the city's ban on condominium conversions. The ban was ruled illegal last week by a Superior Court judge.
The appeals court acted after Superior Court Judge George H. Revercomb held a brief hearing yesterday on his ruling and then decided that "the Court of Appeals is the proper forum" for the case.
Revercomb ruled last Friday that the D.C. City Council had exceeded its home rule authority by twice using emergency legislation to create a moratorium on condominium conversions. He delayed the effect of his ruling on Friday until his hearing yesterday.
Attorneys for the city and the Washington Home Ownership Council, an industry group that challenged the conversion ban last August, are expected to argue next week whether the temporary stay should remain in effect while Revercomb's ruling is appealed.
D.C. Corporation Counsel Judith Rogers has said the superior court ruling potentially could affect the council's use of emergency legislation in areas other than housing.
In a 16-page decision, Revercomb held that the city went beyond its congressional authority by repeatedly using its emergency power to control the city's condominium market by imposing 90-day bans. The emergency laws are not subject to congressional approval as are other city laws.
"The court concludes," Revercomb wrote, "that the successive enactment of substantially the same substantive provision of law through the emergency power . . . is unlawful."
At the time the moratorium went into effect five months ago, owners of 6,600 apartments had applied for permission to convert, but had not yet been approved. The owners of another 10,000 apartments already had certificates of eligibility but had not yet filed registration documents -- a step that usually means conversion is underway or imminent.
During the moratorium, which is scheduled to end sometime next month, the owners of 14 complexes applied for exemptions. Twelve of those complexes, containing 798 apartments, were approved, and a decision on one building of five apartments is pending, according to a spokesman for the condominium regulation office.