The Montgomery County Council voted yesterday to consider legislation designed to stem the tide of condominium conversions by speculators after a four-month moratorium on conversions expires Nov. 9.
The council has been attempting for months to find a way to slow conversions, which are seen as significantly decreasing the rental housing supply for low income and elderly residents. The moratorium was enacted to give county officials time to draft legislation.
The emergency legislation proposed by County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist would require the property owner, instead of the developer, to file the formal request to convert a building from rental apartments to condominiums.
Under current law, a developer can give notice of conversion after contracting to buy a building, then decide against the purchase. This can create special hardships for tenants who have been give a six-month notice to move only to find that their apartments aren't going to be converted to condominiums after all, Gilchrist said.
One effect of the proposed legislation would be to give tenants more time to decide whether to buy the buildings they occupy. The county's so-called first-right-of-refusal law already gives tenants 120 days to make that decision. If the proposed law passes, this period would effectively be extended to a year.
If the law is passed, a court challenge is considered likely. The moratorium on conversions and the first-right-considered likely. The moratorium on conversions and the first-right-of-refusal laws are already being challenged by the Chamber of Commerce and real estate groups, which claim they are unconstitutional. A ruling is expected within two weeks.