Miami Condo Boards Ripping Off Consumers

Almost everyone in SoFlo has read the Miami Herald’s article about condominium boards thumbing their noses at the law by charging exorbitant fees. Just because people don’t know it’s illegal does not make it alright. Instead of charging the $100 fee per applicant – with married couples and parents with children being counted as one applicant – condominium boards have been charging hundreds of dollars more. This doesn’t help Miami-Dade’s reputation that it’s the hotspot not only for nightlife and high end condos, but also for condo fraud.

There’s always a mindset that goes with the idea that it’s okay to do something shady as long as you don’t get caught. The relative trust that people have in the process of buying or leasing a condominium in a hot market can end up lining the pockets of corrupt condo boards and/or management companies.

It can’t be emphasized enough:

  • If you have been charged more than $100 per person in application fees, you have been charged in violation of Florida law.
  • If you are a married couple without children, you are one applicant. If you are a single parent, you and your child are one applicant.
  • If you are a married same-sex couple, you are still one applicant.
  • If you are an unmarried couple cohabiting, or a pair of roommates sharing the condo, you are considered separate applicants and can be charged $100 each.

Moreover, if your application is rejected, kiss that money order or certified check goodbye. You don’t get a refund, and you will often find that the management company does not take personal checks. There’s also no way to know if they have even run the background and credit check. In addition, applicants are being charged “processing fees” and having other charges crop up such as “registration fees,” “administrative fees,” “move in/out fees,” and even fees to use the elevator or extra parking for the moving van. Foreign buyers can be hit with even more fees, and are much less likely to know that the law applies to them, too.

Mad yet? You should be.

Scams like this are small on the individual scale, but massive taken as a whole. Think about some of these buildings, with 200 to 300 units rented out at a given time. It can cost hundreds of dollars just to move in, leaving aside rent and deposits. It puts housing out of reach for working people and takes money out of their pockets to enrich condo boards that are sometimes corrupt, engaging in fraud, and not incidentally flush with cash. It’s up to unit owners to take a hard look at what their boards and management companies get up to, but also incumbent on renters and buyers to know the law – and raise a fuss when someone tries to pick their pocket.