The Key Colony Homeowners’ Association is suing the EmeraldBay building – and by extension, hundreds of its own members – for what it says is a breach of a 30-year financial practice used to manage millions of dollars in owner fees each year.
The dispute, at its core, is whether the four constituent buildings at Key Colony are legally required to act as collection agents for the master association.
A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge has set an August 24 hearing date in the long-running dispute, which became a formal suit when the HOA filed a complaint March 3. The Homeowners’ group did not specify an amount, but earlier documents indicated a January invoice for $145,000 was not paid.
David McDanal, the HOA president, declined comment on the suit, but said it had been approved by the board of directors in a closed-door meeting. The HOA’s attorney, Benjamin Solomon, also declined to comment. Neither could provide a dollar amount of what is outstanding.
In court papers, EmeraldBay denied the allegations, arguing there is no binding obligation for it to collect fees and nor is it stopping the HOA from collecting fees on its own.
Under the longstanding arrangement, the four buildings pay a lump sum to HOA to cover the full amount of owner fees for all 1,179 units in the complex, Key Biscayne’s largest condominium.
In turn, each building — Botanica, EmeraldBay, Tidemark, and OceanSound– then collects the HOA fees as an added charge.
The practice avoids a situation where unit owners get two separate invoices — one from the master HOA, which runs the beaches, tennis courts, and other amenities — and one from their own particular building.
But it also has meant that when a unit owner doesn’t pay his or her fees, the individual buildings have to “front” the money to HOA until the collections process runs its course. And that is the crux of the argument.
“Defendant has paid in excess of a billion dollars in common assessments to plaintiff, including certain amounts which remain uncollected” wrote EmeraldBay attorney Craig Minko. “Accordingly, any and all amounts allegedly due to the plaintiff have been satisfied.”
A call to Louisa Conway, the EmeraldBay president, was not returned.
In addition to a claim for a “breach of implied contract,” the lawsuit asks the court to issue what is known as a declaratory judgment, a legal procedure that is used to clarify the legal situation surrounding a dispute.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.