FAQs

What does the home buying/selling process look like under Moms 4 Housing TOPA? 

  1. Current landlord decides to sell their property
  2. Landlord gives notice of intent to sell to the City of Oakland and to their tenant(s) 
  3. If tenant(s) are interested in buying, they will submit a statement of interest to the landlord/seller. They will then move through the following phases, each of which is limited to a certain number of days.
    1. Time to Submit Offer / Contract Period / Time to Secure Financing
    2. Owner Free to Accept or Reject Offer
    3. Time to Finalize Contract
    4. Time to Close
    5. Right of First Refusal (if initial offer is rejected)
  4. The tenant(s) can decide at any time to assign their right to a qualified organization, who goes through a similar process.
  5. If the tenant(s) decide they are not interested in buying, they will waive their right and the landlord/seller will place the property on the market

Tenant Q&A

I’m a renter, and my landlord decided to sell my building! What are my options?

TOPA gives you the option to make the first offer on the property and to negotiate directly with the owner to purchase the home. This means that you can use your TOPA right to purchase the home yourself. However, this is not your only option. 

What if I cannot or do not want to purchase my home after my landlord decides to sell? 

If you’re not ready to or interested in making an offer yourself, you can partner with a qualified organization to buy the property and keep it affordable, while you continue living there. There is a list of qualified housing organizations that may be willing and ready to offer to buy the home.  If you assign your TOPA rights to one of them, they will enter negotiations with the seller/your landlord. These organizations include non-profit developers, land trusts and cooperatives, and they are all committed to keeping your current tenancy, stabilizing your home for future low-income families, and engaging you throughout the process.

What if I live in a multi-unit property with other tenants?

If you live in a building with three or more units, you and your fellow tenants must form a tenant association and offer to buy the property together. If not all tenants want to buy the property, interested tenants can go through this process together and disinterested tenants can maintain their tenancy as it is. 

What if I do nothing after getting a notice that my landlord decided to sell my building? 

If you’re not interested in buying or partnering with a qualified organization and still want to stay in your home, you can! You will still have tenant protections. Even if a new landlord buys the building, you are allowed to stay in your home, as long as your new landlord is not looking to move into the home.

What if I have never even thought about purchasing a home, where do I start? 

Tenants aren’t always ready to make the leap to ownership right away, so this policy gives tenants additional rights to consider all of their options and pull together an offer if they decide to do so. 

What are those additional rights that TOPA offers, and what do they mean for me?

TOPA gives you two important rights

  1.  The “right of first offer” which will allow you to try to buy the home without having to compete with billionaire speculators and corporations who have cash on hand to buy properties quickly. This means that if your landlord decides to sell your home, tenants are provided with enough time to make an offer to purchase their home. 
  2. The “right of first refusal” gives tenants the right to match a third party’s offer. This right will only apply if your initial offer wasn’t accepted. 

These rights are important because they give long-time Oakland renters priority to stay in their homes permanently, rather than allowing cash-ready speculators to make a quick purchase and evict the tenants. TOPA also includes more rights that are designed to stabilize communities by giving renters an opportunity to choose when to stay and go and to have the housing security that comes with ownership.

I need help securing financing and may need financial assistance to purchase my home. Can I still buy my home with TOPA?  

YES! TOPA allows you time to put together typical financing (like a mortgage). The city and various non-profits offer different funding opportunities and first-time home buyer programs that support you in buying your own home. Community organizations are ready to help you assess the resources available to you and come up with a plan that best matches your circumstances.

How do I make sure that, as a tenant, the seller/landlord is considering my fair and reasonable offer? 

After you’ve made a fair and reasonable offer based on the information the landlord has given you, you and the seller/landlord enter into “good faith negotiations.” The decision to accept or reject your offer is still up to the landlord.

What if my landlord disregards this policy and puts the home for sale before notifying me?

Any owner found in violation of these TOPA regulations could be fined up to $1,000 per day per unit. 

What if my landlord got an offer from a third party without even listing the property on the market? 

Oakland homeowners get unsolicited offers to purchase their homes regularly. If your landlord receives an unsolicited offer, your landlord must give you an opportunity to make an offer before accepting the third party offer. 

If I am able to purchase a property without the help of a non-profit (like OakCLT or EBALDC) or cooperative (like EBPREC), what ensures that it will remain a permanently affordable property?

By utilizing these rights, the resale price of the property will be restricted to no more than the original purchase price plus the increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for All Items in the San Francisco Area, with an additional allowance for capital improvements made by the owner(s). The resale restrictions will remain in force for 99 years and will be renewable for additional terms of 99 years.

What if I’m interested in buying, but don’t want restrictions on how much I can resell for? 

TOPA offers you the right to make the first offer on your home because we know how volatile the current speculative housing market is. It’s raising the cost of housing without regard to those who have been living here. TOPA’s goal is really to give tenants the right to choose. If you don’t want this restriction, all you have to do is waive these rights. You will still be able to make an offer to the seller/landlord after your landlord places their property on the market, though you may have to compete with other buyers. 

Will tenant protections apply even if my building is purchased by a qualified organization, like an affordable housing developer? 

Yes, they will be subject to following state and local tenant protection laws. Oakland’s tenant protections laws are being amended to match new state protections and to make sure that tenants who want to remain as renters under TOPA are not unlawfully evicted or retaliated against for exercising their rights. TOPA aims to further stop displacement, so existing tenants will not be forced to move if ownership changes, whether to a non-profit developer, cooperative or land trust.

Who are the qualified organizations I can partner with?

Qualified organizations include non-profit affordable developers, land trusts, and cooperatives who have committed to providing housing to low-income people and are certified by the City as qualified partner organizations. These criteria are specifically listed in another ordinance that’s being introduced alongside TOPA.

Does TOPA apply to vacant properties?

No, there will be an accompanying policy called Community Opportunity to Purchase Act that will address opportunities for Qualified Organizations to first offer on vacant rental units. 

Landlord Q&A

I own rental property in Oakland, and I don’t want to sell any of my rental properties. Does TOPA require that I sell my rental property to anyone? 

Not at all! TOPA does not force anyone to sell before they are ready. This policy supports the stabilization of Oakland communities by facilitating transactions between landlords and existing tenants. It ensures that existing residents have the choice to stay in the unit they have been renting from you. 

So this is not a way for the government to seize my private property?

No.  The California Constitution and U.S. Constitution give you, as the owner of the property, the absolute right to determine if and when to sell your property. These same constitutional protections provide owners with the right to a fair return on their investment. In short, this  means that you cannot be forced to sell your property and cannot be forced to sell it at below market rate. 

I want to give my rental property to my heirs and keep it in my family. Will TOPA prevent me from doing this? 

No! TOPA only applies if you decide to sell your property. Transfer of property rights by a will or through intestate succession are exempt from the TOPA process. This means that heirs and beneficiaries can clear title to the rental property without having to notify the tenants, so long as all other legal requirements are met. 

How does TOPA affect me if I live in my single family home rental property? 

It doesn’t. TOPA does not apply to single family homes that are owner occupied. If you live in an owner-occupied single family home, there is no tenant to extend the TOPA right to.

Does TOPA control the price owners can sell their property for? 

No!  Under good faith negotiations, the seller retains the right to accept or reject the offer made by tenants. 

How do I, as a landlord/seller,  make sure my tenant is making a fair offer? 

After your tenant submits their statement of interest, tenants will make you an offer based on information that you provided to them at notice of sale. Prior to making an offer, the tenants may submit a request for additional information, like in any other home buying negotiation, to inform what offer they make. Afterwards, both parties enter into a good faith negotiation, as is outlined in the policy. 

Does this mean the value of my property decreases because I have to wait for my tenants to respond? 

No. Because this process happens before you list your property on the market and multiple listing service (MLS), it doesn’t affect the property’s number of days on the market. If the negotiation process with the tenant, or the qualified organization they’ve assigned their right to, doesn’t go through, you are able to list the property on the market. You will need to offer your tenant(s) the opportunity to meet your asking price or a third party offer. 

What if I need to sell my property quickly? 

The time frames for tenants and qualified organizations are reasonable. They mimic a regular home buying/selling transaction, with just a little more time for tenants to be a part of the process to consider whether they want to buy the home and to put together an offer. 

Will there be any community education component to this policy?

Yes! In partnership with the Rent Adjustment Program (RAP), as well as the City Administrator’s Office, there will be meaningful efforts to ensure there is adequate information and support available to the public.