Lawyers Investigate Class Action Lawsuit Over Condo Application FeesJan 26, 2017
Florida Condo Boards Allegedly Charge Illegally High Application Fees
The class action attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of Florida residents who were charged illegally high fees for submitting a condominium application. Florida law prohibits fees of over $100, but reports indicate that many condo boards charge applicants over $100 nonetheless. The firm is offering free legal consultations to anyone with questions about filing a condo fee class action lawsuit. Our experienced lawyers are happy to answer questions from both Florida residents and other United States residents who have questions about condo application fee lawsuits.
Under the Florida Condominium Act, condo associations cannot charge more than $100 per applicant for "transfer fees". Married couples and children should also be treated as one applicant, meaning a husband and wife or mother and child should only be charged $100 as well. The statute states: "No charge shall be made by the association or anybody thereof in connection with the sale, mortgage, lease, sublease, or other transfer of a unit unless the association is required to approve such transfer and a fee for such approval is provided for in the declaration, articles, or bylaws. Any such fee may be preset, but in no event may such fee exceed $100 per applicant other than husband/wife or parent/dependent child, which are considered one applicant."
According to a Miami Herald article published in June 2016, however, many condo boards in Florida do not comply with this rule; almost half of condos in Miami-Dade charge over $100 per applicant. At various condos in Florida, applicants are charged anywhere from $125 to $260 or more. Some condos even charge a "processing fee", costing renters another $350. These high fees are grounds for class action lawsuits, legal experts say.
Miami Herald interviewed a realtor based in Miami Beach, who noted the large number of applications, and thus application fees, being processed. "These buildings are processing applications all day every day," he said. "And you don't get your money back if you're not approved." The realtor contacted Miami Herald after noticing the $100 cap in a real-estate industry trade magazine.
"I have a lot of clients where $100, $150 is a lot of money," the realtor said. "A lot of these people are renters. It's not fair. I had a girl who couldn't afford more than $1,400 per month [in rent] and her application fee was $250."
A Miami Herald investigation found that 46 percent of condos listed for rent or sale in Miami-Dade charged more than $100 in application fees. The analysis was conducted using a Realtors database called Multiple Listing Service. Since these listings are entered by realtors and not condo associations, there may be some discrepancies. The realtor who raised the issue to Miami Herald believes the actual number is higher. Illegal application fees were reportedly most common in areas that had the greatest number of condos. According to Miami Herald, these included the following cities: Miami (48 percent), Miami Beach (40 percent), Sunny Isles Beach (50 percent) and Aventura (44 percent).
Miami Herald reports that illegal fees were much less common in Broward: Fort Lauderdale (12 percent), Hallandale Beach (29 percent), Hollywood (24 percent) and Pompano Beach (23 percent).
Additionally, Miami Herald reports that higher fees are also charged when the applicant is foreign due to a background check. One condo in Kendall, Sunset Palms West, charges international buyers a $150 fee. Fees are reportedly even higher at 801 Meridian on the Beach, where fees are $350 for foreign buyers. Fees also get charged for applicants who have pets.
One condo in Miami charges applicants a $100 application fee, $300 to move in and $250 to register their pet. These fees are non-refundable, Miami Herald reports.
For the most part, applicants are unaware that they are being overcharged for application fees. According to the Florida Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes, only 13 complaints were submitted last year over high fees. In response, five "letters providing education" were sent to condo associations.
Florida Condo Association Faces Class Action Lawsuit over Application Fees
According to Miami Herald, litigation against Florida condo boards has begun. In November 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. The plaintiff is a tenant who alleges he was charged $625 in non-refundable condo fees. He signed a lease for a condo at Quantum on the Bay. The fees consisted of $100 for a background check, $175 in "administrative review" fees, $125 registration fee and $225 to move-in.
The tenant told Miami Herald he was suspicious of the fees at the time, but felt he had little choice. The condo association essentially sends the message that tenants either pay the fee or do not get the apartment, he said. The suit alleges that the high fees violate Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The complaint wants Quantum to reimburse the plaintiff and others in the plaintiff class, as well as an order stopping the board from charging illegally high fees.
A class action lawsuit is when one complaint is filed on behalf of numerous plaintiffs, known collectively as a "class". All eligible members are represented by the class, whether they realize it or not, and the class is treated as one plaintiff. A class action is distinct from a mass tort, in which many similar lawsuits are grouped together in one court but plaintiffs are treated separately. A multidistrict litigation is an example of a mass tort.
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing clients in various lawsuits and offers free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a condo fee class action lawsuit.
Filing a Class Action Lawsuit over Condominium Application Fee
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a class action lawsuit over illegally high condominium fees in Florida or elsewhere in the United States, contact Parker Waichman today. Our experienced product liability attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).