Third District Court of Appeal ()
A seemingly exasperated Third District Court of Appeal reversed a decision Wednesday, setting a testy tone as it remanded a homeowner association fee dispute to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick for a second time.
“The facts of this case are becoming all too familiar,” Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg wrote. “The trial court misinterpreted the majority opinion” the first time around.
The lawsuit, Spiaggia Ocean Condominium Association Inc. v. Aventura Management LLC, stemmed from unpaid association fees after the sale of a foreclosed Surfside condo unit.
Florida law states buyers are liable for any unpaid association fees that the previous owner neglected to pay. In this case, the property that went into foreclosure reverted to association ownership, was rented temporarily and was later bought by Aventura Management.
Spiaggia sued Aventura for the fees that weren’t paid by the owner, who lost the property to foreclosure.
Rothenberg noted, “The housing market’s dip and subsequent rebound have spurred a bevy of factually similar litigation.”
Aventura’s lawyers argued a strict reading of state law meant the buyer should be liable only for payments not made by the owner immediately before it—the association itself. The appeal court agreed with that assessment and remanded the case with instructions favoring Aventura Management.
Rothenberg wrote for the unanimous panel that the previous 2-1 decision was “somewhat ambiguous” and “could have been clearer.”
In the new appeal “on precisely the same issue decided one year ago,” she wrote, “The trial court therefore erred in holding Aventura Management jointly and severally liable with the prior two owners,” Spiaggia and the owner who went into foreclosure.
Aventura “cannot be held liable for the unpaid assessments of the original owner,” the panel concluded.
Judges Kevin Emas and Ivan F. Fernandez concurred.