Vote Against the Tenants’ Right of First Refusal Bills

Dear MA Legislators,

I am asking you NOT to vote into law S890 and H1426, the so called TOPA bills to be included tomorrow in the Economic Bill, because they will create less housing in MA not more.

What is in those bills:

If you want to sell your building you need to notify each tenant AND the town in writing in person AND by mail. The tenants have 30 days to make you an offer. If no agreement is signed with them after the 30 days then you can search for a regular market buyer. When you find a buyer and sign an agreement you have to give within 7 days a copy of that agreement to your tenants along with proof of the deposit made by the buyer. Then the tenants have a second dip at purchasing the property and they again have another 30 days to make an offer and sign a contract. If they sign a contract you need to provide them the names and rents of all the other tenants, your income and all expenses for this building and allow them to inspect it. If your market buyer made you a cash offer with non-refundable deposit and with few contingencies to speed up the sale, your tenants only need to match the price but they don’t need to make a cash offer or waive any contingencies or inspections and their deposit is fully refundable within 90 days. Plus they have another 160 days to complete the sale and if they don’t, you are back at square one. If you find another market buyer, you start from scratch with the notifications to tenants, town, Attorney General and all the required time periods.

If tenants do not buy then you must file an affidavit of compliance with the Attorney General, and the Registry of Deeds for the county and district where the property is located within 7 days of the sale.

If you don’t comply with any of this then you are liable under the draconian 93A law that comes with double and triple damages and you pay the attorney fees of the tenants.

Tenants may assign their rights to the city or town or the housing authority or an agency of the commonwealth, nonprofit, community, development corporation, affordable housing developer, or land trust. So it’s not just the tenants who have a right of first refusal but also could all of the above agencies.

This bill does not apply to any residential property where the owner is a natural person who owns no more than 6 residential rental units in the municipality and resides in MA. What does that mean – that if you own a building that is less than 6-family it doesn’t apply or it applies to all buildings in that town if you own more than 6 units in that town even if they are in different buildings or does it mean maybe that if you own more than 6 apartments in MA then this applies to all buildings you own except the multifamily where you live?

This is a mess.

I understand your heart is in the right place but this is stupid and counterproductive and it will make the life of property owners and housing providers in MA even more difficult while at the same time not helping too many tenants. I doubt if even 5% of tenants will be able to pull it off. But these TOPA bills guarantee that while only several percent of tenants might benefit, 100% of rental property owners who try to sell will be inconvenienced with extra paperwork plus no market buyer will stick for 5-6 months to figure out if they can buy our building, people are not going to be able to sell their properties fast if they need to sell them fast, plus property owners will be liable under 93A again for the slightest deviations from this. These kind of goody-two-shoes over-regulations is exactly the reason why Democrats lose elections and I don’t want that to be the case because I am a lifelong Democrat.

If you want more housing, more housing providers in the market you need to make the life of the housing providers easier, not harder. Landlords are already regulated more than enough in MA. More regulations, moratoriums, making us wait longer to see housing court judges, increase the costs of doing business, force small property owners out of the market which means LESS housing units and the ones who can afford to stay are big corporations which have to raise entrance requirements and only approve tenants with excellent credit to mitigate the newly added costs and risks which makes housing LESS available and LESS affordable to all the rest.

Here are S890and H1426.