State Senator Drafting Tenant Takeover Bill

Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who represents Central Brooklyn, is drafting new legislation that would give tenants the first opportunity to buy their building should it come up for sale. The bill, which is expected to be introduced soon, is being modeled after right-of-first-refusal legislation in a handful of states and in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., for example, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) gives tenants the option to buy their building before a third party, to assign that right to a developer of their choosing, or to concede their rights for a fee. The law gives tenants in buildings with more than five units, after receipt of a TOPA notice, 45 days to form a tenant organization with the legal capacity to hold property. They then have 120 days to enter into a contract, and another 120 days to take title. If a lender needs more time, the landlord must extend the deadline in accordance with the lender’s estimate of how long it needs. Since its enactment in Washington, D.C., the legislation has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits, some brought by landlords and others by tenants.