Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Legal Aid Asks D.C. Council to Protect Condo Owners Facing Foreclosure

Last week, Legal Aid testified in support of the Condominium Owner Bill of Rights Amendment Act of 2015—a bill that would implement important protections for condominium owners, including a requirement that condo associations participate in mediation before initiating foreclosure.

Under the current law, there are very few protections for condominium owners facing foreclosure. An association can foreclose by issuing a foreclosure notice setting a sale date as soon as 31 days out. The fast-tracked nature of the process means that there is usually not enough time for the owner to come up with the amount required to stop the sale, particularly when the owner has recently experienced a financial hardship.

Legal Aid’s testimony focused on the important benefits that mediation would provide—namely, both the time and a forum for exploring alternatives to foreclosure, such as repayment plans. By facilitating agreements where possible, mediation would not only help families keep their homes, but also prevent low-income residents from being displaced from an increasingly unaffordable city.

The bill, which is sponsored by Councilmember Anita Bonds, would also implement several other key protections for the District’s condo owners, including more effective notice procedures and a requirement that condo associations wait until the unit owner has been in default for 90 days before initiating the foreclosure process. This cushion would give those unit owners who suffer a temporary financial hardship time to cure their delinquency without the risk of losing their home because of one or two missed payments.

A number of public witnesses, including one of Legal Aid’s former clients, also testified in support of the bill. Mr. Douglas Coleman shared his personal story of the hardship that caused him to fall behind on his payments and how Legal Aid helped him avoid losing his home to foreclosure by facilitating settlement discussions with his condo association.

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