Condominium Purchaser Only Liable for Unpaid Assessments of Immediate Prior Owner
Addressing the same case for the second time, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently held in Aventura Management, LLC v. Spiaggia Ocean Condominium Association, Inc., Case No. 3D13-1437 (March 5, 2014), that a purchaser of a condominium unit is jointly and severally liable for unpaid condominium association assessments only with the prior owner of the unit.
In Aventura Management, the original owner of the unit was delinquent on both his condominium association assessments and mortgage payments. As a result, the Association filed a foreclosure action and ultimately forced the public sale of the unit. At auction, the Association was the sole bidder and took title to the unit subject to the Bank’s first mortgage.
The Association proceeded to rent the unit to a tenant and “the proceeds from the rent payments were used to pay off the assessment fees as they became due.” The Bank later obtained its own final judgment of foreclosure and the unit was again sold at public auction. When the new owner took title to the property, the Association attempted to collect the original owner’s unpaid assessments from the new owner.
The Association argued that the new owner was liable for the original owner’s unpaid assessments pursuant to Section 718.116(1)(a), Florida Statutes, which provides:
A unit owner, regardless of how his or her title has been acquired, including by purchase at foreclosure sale or by deed in lieu of foreclosure, is liable for all assessments which come due while he or she is the unit owner. Additionally, a unit owner is jointly and severally liable with the previous owner for all unpaid assessments the came due up to the time of transfer of title.
The trial court originally held that the new owner was jointly and severally liable with the original owner, but not with the Association, for the original owner’s unpaid assessments. After an initial appeal, the trial court apparently misinterpreted the appellate court’s order and ordered that all three parties (the original owner, the Association, and the new owner) were jointly and severally liable.
On appeal for the second time, the Third District Court of Appeal held that under Section 718.116(1)(a), a condominium unit owner is only liable for the unpaid assessments of the immediate prior owner. Because the Association had title to the unit in between the original owner and the new owner, the new owner is not liable for unpaid assessments of the original owner. This decision could have significant implications on condominium associations, financial institutions, and condominium unit owners based upon their particular circumstances.
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