Takoma Park Mayor Sammie A. Abbott and City Council member Herman Williams last week distributed a letter to residents of a city apartment building, telling them that the owner's announced intention to sell the units as condominiums was "nullified."
City officials wrote the letter after contacting the state attorney general's office, whose report said that the notice in May informing residents of the Park Maple apartments of an impending condominium conversion "was not and is not a valid notice." The owners have not applied for state permission for the conversion, as required, officials said.
The letter from Abbott and Williams advised the tenants that "there is no need to look for other housing" because of the invalid notice.
Park Maple tenants appealed to city officials after receiving the notice from the Residential Resources Group, which owns the apartment building. Residents said the notice led them to believe they soon would be out of housing.
The council, in an emergency measure last month, adopted Montgomery County's condominium conversion law, which assures all tenants of a six-month notice before they have to move and guarantees that some tenants could continue renting indefinitely.
Council members and Abbott said at an earlier session they were concerned that a condominium notice like the one from Park Maple's owner possibly could be a ploy to create apartment vacancies which, under an exception in the city's rent control law, allows owners to raise rents to new tenants beyond what they could charge continuing tenants.
A spokesman for Residential Resources Group, Park Maple's owners, said that Thomas Farafy, a vice president with Residential Resources, "believed he was following state guidelines" when he had the letter sent to the tenants. The spokesman said company officials intend to attempt a condominium conversion at Park Maple. The spokesman said Farafy refused to say whether the company had applied for state authorization to convert the building to condominiums.
Meanwhile, city officials are scheduled to reconsider provisions of the landlord-tenant ordinance, which was approved by the former council. The ordinance provides three exceptions to rent control laws: It allows landlords who do not live in the city to serve on the landlord-tenant commission, eliminates rent ceilings for vacant apartments and eliminates the city council as an appellate board to the landlord-tenant commission.
Council members are sharply divided on whether to overturn those exceptions, and officials expect vociferous comment from landlords and city residents. Fifty-three percent of the city's residents rent their housing.