FLORIDA COURTS DISAGREE ON LIABILITY | Key Points
- The First DCA rendered an opinion this month wherein it refused to limit the liability of a condominium owner for assessments and expenses to only those incurred by the prior owner. Coastal Creek Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Fla Tr. Services LLC, 1D18-1457, 2019 WL 3114229, at *1 (Fla. 1st DCA July 16, 2019). FLA Trust took title to a Coastal Creek condominium unit from Home HQ which previously purchased the property at a mortgage foreclosure sale. The Association sued FLA Trust for unpaid “assessments and related expenses” asserting FLA Trust was jointly and severally liable with Home HQ and the original unit owner (mortgagor) for unpaid assessments and related expenses. FLA Trust answered the Association’s foreclosure complaint and filed a counterclaim seeking declaratory relief as to what assessments it owed. Both parties moved for summary judgment.
- On summary judgment, the disputed issue was whether § 718.116(1)(a) limited FLA Trust’s liability solely to “assessments that came due during Homes HQ’s ownership” or also assessments that came due during the original mortgagor’s ownership. The pertinent portion of §718.116 reads as follows: “A unit owner…is liable for all assessments which come due while he or she is the unit owner. Additionally, a unit owner is jointly and severally liable with the previous owner for all unpaid assessments that came due up to the time of transfer of title…” § 718.116, Fla. Stat.
- The First DCA concluded the amendments to the statute and its unambiguous language made it clear the legislature intended the present owner would be “…liable with the previous owner for unpaid assessments that came due during the ownership of both the previous owner (unless it was the association) and the original owner.” In so ruling, the First DCA reversed judgment for FLA Trust, entered judgment in favor of the Association and certified conflict with the Third DCA to the extent that Court held § 718.116(1)(a) limited a current owner’s liability “to unpaid assessments that came due during the ownership of the immediate prior owner, and not the original owner.”