By: Jacob A Weil, J.D. candidate at Barry University School of Law
When you purchase a unit in a Condominium Association, you as an individual agree to abide by the associations individual rules. This includes rules on the paying of balances due for maintenance, fees, and special assessments. If an owner fails to pay fees as prescribed by association rules and applicable laws the association may be allowed sanction the individual owner.
Pine Island Ridge Condominium in Davie, Florida, faced this very issue in 1979. When the association did not receive maintenance fees on William Waters unit, the association refused to allow Waters to rent his unit. Waters argued that he paid his maintenance fees to the unit’s original seller, who had agreed to forward the money to the association. This conflict lead to a suit in which the association attempted to collect the maintenance fees, and Waters filed a countersuit for loss of rental income, among other things. The trial court found in favor of Waters, and the Condominium Association appealed.
The Appeals Court subsequently reversed the decision made by the lower court. The Court found that unit owners in condominiums act through associations. As such agreements between owners and third parties can not bind the association itself. As such, while Waters was free to make an agreement with the former owner to pay the maintenance fees through him, ultimately if those fees remained unpaid Waters was liable. The association could not be forced to abide by an agreement which it was not privy to.
The Court noted in the case “Condominium unit owners comprise a little democratic sub-society. As such each purchaser justifiably relies on the terms and conditions contained in the recorded Declaration of Condominium, Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws in purchasing individual units.” What this means is simple, if you choose to become a member of a community association you agree to abide by the rules set out by that association. This includes ways the association collects money. Unless an association agrees as a third party to agreements between a buyer and a seller of a particular unit then it has no duty to abide by agreements between the two individuals.
Make sure that when you enter into an agreement that could effect your association you understand what your liability will be if the that agreement is not carried out. You could be on the hook for fees and fines if the agreement you made does not carried out. It may also be helpful to get permission from the board of your association if you enter into agreements that may impact the association.
At Royale Management Services we are here to help condominium associations run as smoothly as possible. By collecting payment from unit owners, and sending out notices to those who are delinquent, we can help board members and unit owners to know what is owed before it becomes an issue for the court. https://royalemanagement.com/
* Pine Island Ridge Condo. "f" Asso v. Waters, 374 So. 2d 1033 (Fla. 4th DCA 1979)
** This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Nothing in this article should be relied upon in making any legal decisions. Make sure you consult licensed legal council before taking any action as every situation is unique and the law may apply to your situation differently depending on the circumstances.