Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (LTB34719-06) (Hon. Maurice A. Ross, Trial Judge).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Senior Judge
Before RUIZ and FISHER, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.
The instant appeal arises from the efforts of appellee.
Potomac Place Associates, LLC ("Potomac") to convert an apartment building from residential tenant housing to condominiums. Appellant Deborah Redman ("Ms. Redman") was a tenant in the building who claimed the right to continue in that capacity after conversion as a "disabled tenant" under an amendment to D.C. Code § 42-3402.08 that became effective only during the course of Potomac's eviction action against her. We agree with the trial court that the amendment did not operate to benefit Ms. Redman because she was not in lawful possession of the premises at the time the statute became effective.
Appellant Deborah Redman became a tenant in the apartment building at 800 Fourth Street in Southwest Washington, D.C., pursuant to a 2002 lease. Following negotiations between Potomac and the building's tenants association, Potomac began the process of converting the building from rental units into condominiums. Potomac and the tenants association further entered an agreement whereby the tenants would be permitted to purchase their units (after renovation), or receive a payment of $15,000 if they vacated in timely fashion.
On November 28, 2005, the tenants association held an election pursuant to D.C. Code § 42-3402.03 (2001) in which a majority of the qualified tenants elected to convert the building into condominiums. Officials from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs ("DCRA") conducted, supervised and subsequently certified the election.
D.C. Code § 42.1904.08 (2001) requires that the owner seeking to convert rental units give tenants 120-days notice of the conversion, and afford them the exclusive right to purchase their units on terms at least as favorable as offered to the general public. If the notice of conversion specifies a date by which the apartment unit shall be vacated, the notice constitutes a valid notice to vacate. Id. § 1904.08 (b)(3). Pursuant to this section, Potomac served Ms. Redman on May 23, 2006, with notice of its intent to convert the building. The notice stated that if Ms. Redman did not intend to purchase her unit, she must vacate by September 30, 2006.
Ms. Redman chose not to purchase her dwelling unit, yet she did not vacate by the September 30, 2006, deadline. On October 5, 2006, Potomac filed a complaint for possession of Ms. Redman's dwelling unit in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the Superior Court. On November 14, 2006, Ms. Redman filed an answer raising various defenses then potentially available to her. Two days later, on November 16, 2006, the amendment protecting disabled tenants became effective, and she raised this new defense in her opposition to Potomac's subsequent summary judgment motion. The trial court rejected all of Ms. Redman's arguments and granted judgment for possession in favor of Potomac. Ms. Redman was eventually evicted on December 11, 2007.
The major issue before us in this appeal is whether Ms. Redman was protected from eviction as a "disabled tenant."*fn1 For many years, since the Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act of 1980, District law has provided that an owner of a rental unit seeking to convert the unit "shall not evict or send notice to vacate to an elderly tenant" whose income falls below certain maximum limits. D.C. Law 3-86, § 208, 27 D.C. Reg. 2975 (Sept. 10, 1980); D.C. Code § 42-3402.08(a) (2001). For twenty-five years, with the exception of an adjustment in the income level, the provision remained largely unchanged. In 2006, however, the District of Columbia Council expanded the statute's coverage by making it apply to "an elderly or disabled tenant," as well as extensively modifying the provision in other respects. D.C. Law 16-179, "Low-Income Disabled Tenant Rental Conversion Protection Amendment Act of 2006," § 2 (d), 53 D.C. Reg. 6698 (Nov. 16, 2006). This amendment became effective on November 16, 2006. Id. As further amended in 2007, the section now contains some significant additional provisions relating to the determination of persons subject to the prohibition against eviction. D.C. Code § 42-3402.08 (Supp. 2007).
As the trial court noted in granting summary judgment for Potomac, several factors seriously complicate the application of D.C. Code § 42-3402.08 to Ms. Redman. First, the statute provides that "[a]n elderly or disabled tenant shall qualify under this subchapter if, on the day a tenant election is held for the purposes of conversion, the elderly or disabled tenant [meets the listed qualifications]." Id. § 42-3402.08(c)(1). The tenant election was held on November 28, 2005, roughly one year before the Council expanded the statute to cover disabled tenants. Second, the statute provides that those tenants who otherwise qualify as low-income elderly or disabled must waive their statutory protection in order to vote in the tenant election.*fn2 D.C. Code § 42-3402.03(d)(2) (Supp. 2007) ("An elderly or disabled tenant who delivers a waiver under § 42-3402.08(a)(2)(D) to the Mayor shall be qualified to vote in an election under this section."); § 42-3402.08(a)(2)(D). Ms. Redman voted in the election, but she did not waive her right to remain a tenant. Third, Ms. Redman has produced no evidence that she has received a determination by the Mayor, as required by the statute, much less that she sought such a determination at the time of the election. D.C. Code § 42-3402.08(c). The trial court highlighted these facts, and concluded that Ms. Redman had accordingly satisfied none of the preconditions necessary to invoke her protection from eviction under D.C. Code § 42-3402.08. Potomac also understandably emphasizes the importance of determining the status and number of low-income elderly and disabled persons who qualify for protection under the statute at the time of the tenant election, when financial plans are being solidified for the conversion process.
These grounds are not necessarily controlling*fn3 and we need not rely on them because we conclude that another statutory obstacle stands in Ms. Redman's way. The difficulties noted by the trial court, however, evidence the statutory complexity of the provision and its significant interrelation with the overall statutory scheme provided by the conversion statute. We view them as evidence that the Council ...