Varied Legal Interpretations in Applying New Condominium Association Law to Collect Rent from Tenants of Delinquent Owners

The new Florida condominium association law that went into effect in July has dramatically improved the ability of condominium associations and homeowners associations in South Florida and throughout the state to collect delinquent fees and assessments from unit owners. While the law has been an important step in the right direction, it has spurred many questions and contradictory interpretations by lawyers who focus on community associations about some of its specific provisions and language. The varying interpretations about the law’s provisions to allow associations to collect the rent directly from the tenants of delinquent unit owners have been the most troublesome for many associations, and this overview should help to clarify some of the confusion.

The new law stipulates that associations have the right to collect the “future monetary obligations” from tenants who are renting from owners who are delinquent in paying any obligations to the association. Some lawyers have interpreted this to mean that the associations can only collect the rental fees as they apply to that corresponding month or quarter’s association fees for the delinquent unit owner, not to the owner’s past-due fees and assessments. Other lawyers, including those at our firm, have interpreted it to mean that the associations can collect the rental fees for the sums that the delinquent owners are already in arrears, in addition to the current month and quarter’s fees and assessments.

We have taken this interpretation because the amendment to the existing statute under the new law was clearly intended to provide associations with the ability to satisfy the delinquent fees for leased units. We believe the wording of this provision referring to future obligations is a reference to the future monthly rental fees that tenants are to pay under the terms of their lease, not the future obligations of the unit owner to the association that are yet to be paid.

Condominium associations and homeowners associations in South Florida and throughout the state should understand that the new law provides them with significant new powers to collect fees from delinquent unit owners as well as foreclosing lenders. It is vital that they work closely with experienced attorneys in condominium association and homeowners association matters who are able to help them to use all of the legal remedies that the law allows to keep their finances in the black.