This case involved a dispute between a condominium owner (Owner) and her condominium association (Association) over Associations right to publish Owners name and the amount of delinquent assessments she owed Association on a deadbeat list that was posted in the community.
Associations bylaws require residents to pay assessments and when owners are delinquent in the payment of those assessments, Association would publicly post a list, commonly known as a deadbeat list which, at the time in question contained over 100 names of condominium owners who were delinquent in the payment of assessments owed to Association. In addition to the owners names, the deadbeat list also showed the amount that was owed by the condominium owners on the list.
After Association posted a deadbeat list that included Owners name and the amount that she owed Association, Owner filed a class action lawsuit against Association in which she alleged that the posting of the deadbeat list violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) which prohibits to the public posting of deadbeat lists to enforce or collect a consumer debt. The trial court ruled that the obligations Owner owed to Association did not qualify as debt under the FCCPA, or under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and therefore concluded that the protections afforded by said acts did not apply because Owner alleged that the unpaid assessments that she owed were consumer debt. Thus, trial court dismissed Owners complaint and thereafter, Owner filed an appeal.
In reviewing the history of case precedents involving the issue of whether assessments qualified as debt under the FDCPA, the appellate court found that assessments were debt under the FCCPA because: (1) under Florida law, the purchase of a condominium is considered a residential property transaction; (2) under Florida law, the purchase transactions subjects owners to a declaration that imposes an obligation to pay assessments; and (3) an owners obligation to pay assessments is based on the associations governing documents, which are considered a contract.
Applying the facts of the case to the subject transaction, the appellate court concluded that Owner had sufficiently alleged that her obligation to pay her condominium assessments arose out of a consumer transaction to purchase property, and that her ongoing obligation to pay Associations assessments is a consumer debt under the FCCPA. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the trial courts dismissal of the action after finding that the FCCPA and the FDCPA applied, thereby subjecting Association to liability for violating the prohibition against the public posting of deadbeat lists.
Florida Appellate Court decision (June 12, 2020).
See case decision: Williams_v._Salt_Springs_Resort_Ass’n