This case involved a dispute between a condominium owner (Owner) and the president of his homeowners association (HOA President) over the issue of whether condominium assessments qualify as consumer debts under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA).
Owner, who was involved in a dispute with his homeowners association over unpaid past due assessments, contended the HOA President violated the FCCPA by: (i) locking him out of a storage unit; (ii) making public derogatory statements about Owner; (iii) and disclosing information about Owners reputation to a vendor. Owner also contended that he was not given notice of a board meeting where his common area privileges were considered and suspended.
Based on these claims Owner filed suit against HOA President seeking a declaration that HOA President violated the FCCPA, an injunction against future violations, statutory damages, and other monetary damages. HOA President sought dismissal of the action contending that the FCCPA definition of debt specifically excluded maintenance assessments owed to a homeowners association. The trial court agreed with HOA President and dismissed Owners action, and Owner filed an appeal.
On review, the appellate court found that a prerequisite to recovery under the FCCPA was a showing that the money sought to be collected qualifies as a consumer debt. In finding that the maintenance assessments were a consumer debt, the appellate court stated that the assessments are grounded in a consensual home-purchase transaction and that, when a home buyer contractually agrees to pay homeowners or maintenance assessments as a prerequisite to purchase, that home buyer takes on debts for those assessments under the FCCPA. By entering into the contract or governing documents, homeowners agree that a failure to comply with assessment requirements could result in a fine that would be deemed an individual assessment. Thus, the obligation to pay an assessment for a claimed breach of the contract arose out of an underlying consumer transaction. Accordingly, the appellate court concluded that condominium assessments are consumer debts under the FCCPA for which a consumer could seek civil remedies for violations, and therefor reversed the trial courts judgment.
Florida Appellate Court decision (October 23, 2019).
See case decision: Kelly v Duggan>