Williams vs. Salt Springs Resort Ass'n
This unanimous decision recedes from a 1997 ruling from the same Court, Bryan v. Clayton. It also reverses a lower court's decision to dismiss Williams’ complaint and sends the case back to trial court. The ruling reads:
"Williams has alleged that the Association’s bylaws require her to pay annual assessments, and Appellees have alleged she is delinquent in her payment obligations. Florida law [says] Williams’s obligation to pay her assessments arose from the purchase of her unit."
This case was reviewed by all of the 5th District judges, making it possible to recede from Bryan. Bryan determined that an association fee is not considered "debt".
The court reviewed the wording of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. It is clear that publicly posting debts is not allowed. Also, this instance qualifies for the definition of debt in the Act.
When deciding Bryan in 1997, the Court looked to a federal case as a guide. The ruling they looked at was later overturned. Since then, federal courts have unanimously agreed that association fees can be “debt”.
The ruling says not all condo fees can be considered "consumer debt". In this case, the Court determined that the fees were an obligation that began when the condo was purchased. Because of this, it can be considered "consumer debt".
Salt Springs Resort requires residents to pay association fees. They claimed that 100+ condo owners owed them money. They publicly posted the names and the amounts owed. Williams was included on this list. She filed a class action complaint for the "public posting of 'deadbeat lists' to enforce or collect a 'consumer debt.'"
Williams defines the unpaid fees as “consumer debt”, but Bryan v. Clayton determined that this type of fee is not considered "debt". Because of this, the trial judge dismissed the case.