COPA is Here – Now What?


The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) was approved unanimously earlier this year.  COPA legislation became effective on June 3, 2019, however, the COPA program rules were not published until September 3, 2019 by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD).  The COPA program applies to the sale of all San Francisco multi-family rental housing developments with three (3) or more units, and all vacant lots that could be constructed with three (3) or more residential units by right.  COPA essentially changes the way in which multi-family rental projects (and certain vacant lots) can be sold by providing certain nonprofit organizations a right of first offer and in some instances a right of first refusal.

Before a multi-family residential building (or vacant lot) with three (3) or more units can be offered for sale, the owner is required to notify certain nonprofit organizations that are on a “Qualified Nonprofit” list maintained by the City.  The Qualified Nonprofit list at this time contains six (6) nonprofits.  The initial “Notice of Sale” must be made via email, and should be sent to all Qualified Nonprofits at the same time.  The Notice of Sale must include statements indicating: (a) seller’s intent to sell the building, (b) the number of residential rental units, (c) the address for each rental unit, and (d) the rental rate for each unit.  Qualified Nonprofits then have five (5) days to notify the owner if they are interested in making an offer.  If a Qualified Nonprofit expresses interest in buying the building, the owner must provide further disclosures to the interested nonprofit, including the name and contact info for each tenant, which triggers an additional 25-day period during which the Qualified Nonprofit may submit an actual offer.  If none of the Qualified Nonprofits expresses an interest in making an offer within the initial 5-day period, the owner may proceed in offering the building for sale and may solicit officers for purchase.

If a Qualified Nonprofit expresses interest during the initial 5-day period, and thereafter during the 25-day period makes an offer, an owner is not required to accept an offer, however, any Qualified Nonprofit that made an offer that was rejected maintains a Right of First Refusal.  Under the Right of First Refusal, the owner is required to provide notice to the Qualified Nonprofit(s) that includes the same terms and conditions that were received from the 3rd party purchase offer.

Similarly, in the event the owner fails to provide the initial 5-day Notice of Sale before offering the building for sale, the Qualified Nonprofits are entitled to receive notification of their Right of First Refusal, followed by a 30-day offer submittal period.

If a building is purchased by a Qualified Nonprofit, the existing tenants are entitled to displacement protection and the building would be restricted as rent-restricted affordable housing in perpetuity, at 80% AMI level.  A sale to a Qualified Nonprofit is also subject to a partial transfer-tax exemption.

Under COPA, all multi-family building (and vacant lot) sellers are required to provide a signed declaration to the City, under penalty of perjury, within 15 days after the sale, affirming that the seller complied with the COPA requirements.  Seller’s failure to comply with COPA could result in damages in an amount sufficient to remedy the harm to the Qualified Nonprofits and e.g. in penalties in the amount of 10% of the sales price for the first willful or knowing violation, 20% for the second willful or knowing violation, and 30% for any subsequent willful or knowing violation.


Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Tuija Catalano.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.