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Florida Court Of Appeal Sends Condominium Association To Arbitration Pursuant To The Condominium Declaration

In LEN-CG S., LLC v. Champions Club Condo. Ass’n, Inc., No. 5D21-1294, 2022 WL 980910 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Apr. 1, 2022), Florida’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court’s decision to deny a developer’s and contractor’s motion to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeal held the arbitration provision in the condominium declaration binds the condominium association, which brought claims against the contractor and developer on its own behalf and as the class representative of the unit owners. 

Champions Club Condominium Association, Inc. (“the Association”) sued LEN-CG South, LLC (“the Developer”) and Lennar Homes, LLC (“the Contractor”) in connection with various construction defects around the condominium complex. The defects included problems with the windows, roofs, and air conditioning systems, resulting in water intrusion and flooding. The Association asserted claims for negligence, violations of Florida Building Code, breach of implied warranties, and violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

The Contractor and Developer moved to compel arbitration. They argued the Association’s claims were covered under one of the arbitration provisions existing in four documents: (1) the condominium declaration; (2) the purchase and sale agreements for the unit owners; (3) the unit’s limited warranties; or (4) the unit’s special warranty deeds. The trial court denied the motion to compel because the unit owner’s contracts, warranties, and deeds did not bind the Association. The trial court also held the condominium declaration did not contain plain language requiring the Association to arbitrate.

The Contractor and Developer appealed, asserting Section 36 of the condominium declaration required the Association to arbitrate any construction claim relating to any unit or common area. The Contractor and Developer argued the phrase “as shall Association” binds the Association to the arbitration requirements in Section 36. The Association argued the phrase only binds the Association to the notice and opportunity to cure requirements of Section 36 or, alternatively, only applies to units owned by the Association. 

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Association’s interpretations. The Court reviewed the arbitration provision in the condominium declaration de novo. The Court noted the phrase “as shall Association” within Section 36 clearly and unambiguously means the Association is bound to arbitrate any claims related to construction matters. The Court rejected the Association’s argument, stating it ignored the placement of the phrase in Section 36. The Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case with directions to grant the motion to compel.