Miami Renter Battles Condo Association Over Fees

Article Courtesy of LAW 360
By Carolina Bolado

Published March 19, 2018


Miami -- A putative class of renters battling a Miami condominium association over purportedly illegal application and move-in fees argued Friday over whether a reference in the association’s bylaws to compliance with the Florida Condominium Act is enough to show the association knew it was violating the law.

In a hearing in Miami, Jordan Shaw of Zebersky Payne LLP argued that the fact that the association bylaws for Quantum on the Bay Condominium, a set of two residential towers just north of Miami’s downtown, include a provision saying they are specifically sanctioned by the Florida Condominium Act should be enough to demonstrate that the association was familiar with the requirements of that law.

The state law sets a maximum of $100 for fees related to any sale or lease of a unit, but lead plaintiff August Edmund Lasseter says he was charged more than $600 in nonrefundable fees when he rented an apartment in the complex.

“How are you going to incorporate a specific statute into your bylaws and then say ‘I have no idea about it?’” Shaw said.

But Nicholas Travis of Vernis & Bowling, who represents the Quantum on the Bay association, told the court that’s not enough to show actual knowledge by the association, which is required for Lasseter’s claim under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act.

“There’s no allegation of actual knowledge in that complaint,” Travis said. “Just an allegation of constructive knowledge, and that’s not enough.”

Judge Mavel Ruiz tended to agree, noting that the association could very well have pulled boilerplate bylaws from a website and used those as a template for their own rules without noting the provision about the Florida Condominium Act. She dismissed the FCCPA claim without prejudice from the bench and said she would consider whether Lasseter had adequately pled his claim under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, which both parties agreed does not require actual knowledge like the FCCPA.

Travis argued that claim should fail as well, because the association was never deceptive about the fees. They were presented up front to the potential renter and were never hidden.

“There’s no deception,” he said. “Whether or not it violates the statute, that doesn’t bring it into FDUTPA. They simply have not brought a proper vehicle before the court for these claims.”

Lasseter filed suit in November 2016, claiming he had to pay a $100 screening fee, a $175 administrative review process fee, a $125 registration and orientation fee, and a $225 move in/out fee when he rented an apartment at Quantum on the Bay in September 2015.

In court on Friday, his attorney said that the practice is widespread throughout Florida. A recent Miami Herald investigation found that almost half of condo listings in Miami-Dade County featured application fees greater than $100.

Lasseter is represented by Jordan A. Shaw of Zebersky Payne LLP and the Law Office of Aaron Resnick.

The condominium association is represented by Nicholas W. Travis and Evelyn M. Greenstone of Vernis & Bowling.

The case is Lasseter et al. v. Quantum on the Bay Condominium No. One Association, case number 2016-029878-CA, in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.