Fla. Appeals Court Reverses Itself, Now Counts Condo Fees as Debts Under State Law

A state Appeals Court in Florida has changed its mind and decided to walk away from a longstanding precedent that condo association fees do not qualify as debts under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act by reversing a lower court’s ruling that had dismissed a case brought against defendants for publishing a list of “deadbeats” who had not paid their dues.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Williams v. Salt Springs Resort Association and Bosshardt Property Management LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff was allegedly behind on paying her condo association fees and her name was included in a list of more than 100 other owners who had also not paid. The list also included how much each individual owed. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the publication of the list violated the FCCPA’s provision prohibiting the publication of “deadbeat lists” to enforce a consumer debt. The defendants argued, under a 1997 precedent in Bryan v. Clayton that condo fees do not meet the definition of consumer debt under the FCCPA. A trial court judge agreed and dismissed the case.

But after more than two decades, the Appeals Court recognized that the times have changed and other courts, including those at the federal level, have since ruled that condo association fees do meet the definition of “debt” under other statutes. “Our considered decision to recede from Bryan is informed by over twenty years of other courts’ detailed analysis of the FCCPA and the FDCPA’s plain language,” the Appeals Court wrote. “For example, the Sixth and Tenth Circuits followed Newman‘s reasoning in concluding a condominium owner’s payment obligations arise in connection with the condominium purchase transaction, pursuant to condominium bylaws and state law, and are therefore ‘debt’ under” the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”

The Appeals Court reversed the dismissal and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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