Real estate Q&A: Lawsuit can spark higher condo dues

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – June 19, 2014 – Question: Our condominium association recently sued a homeowner and lost. The judge ordered the association to pay the homeowner’s legal fees, which will be costly because the case dragged. I’m concerned that the association will raise our condo fees to cover this. Please tell me I don’t have anything to worry about. – Jerry

Answer: Sorry, but higher fees are a distinct possibility.

A condo or homeowner’s association essentially is a partnership of all the individual owners. They elect a board of directors to manage the community affairs. It’s not much different than how citizens elect public officials.

Your monthly maintenance dues are used for the care of the common areas, such as the pool, parking lots, roads and landscaping. Your dues also pay professional managers and attorneys to oversee the operation.

The board of directors has to carefully consider its actions, because when your association spends or loses money, it really is every homeowner who is responsible for that loss. So just as when the government raises taxes to cover large expenses, your association will have to either raise your monthly dues or have a special assessment to cover the shortfall.

Sometimes the association can borrow the money to spread out the payments over a longer period and ease the pain. Or you can cut back on other services, such as mowing the lawns less often. But the money has to come from somewhere.

Even if your association had won the case, it still may have had to cover its own legal fees. Litigation can be very expensive and should be attempted only after all other attempts to resolve the dispute have failed.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
Copyright © 2014 Sun Sentinel, Gary M. Singer. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Reprinted with permission. Florida Realtors®. All rights reserved.

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