The Second District Court of Appeal has published a new decision that reminds us of how risky it is to litigate with Homeowner Associations. Paul Lewow sued Surfside III Condominium Association claiming that it failed to perform its duties. The case went to trial and the Association prevailed at trial. Shortly after the court entered judgment against the homeowner, he filed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. About five months later, the Bankruptcy was dismissed.
The Association then filed a motion to recover all its attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. The trial court awarded $292,205.50 in attorney’s fees against the Homeowner and in favor of the Association. The Homeowner appealed, claiming that the Association’s motion was not filed in a timely manner. The issue on appeal was whether the Bankruptcy filing extended the time for the Association to file its motion to recover attorney’s fees.
The appellate court held that the pendency of the bankruptcy did not toll the time period for the filing of the motion, and that the Association had until 30 days after the bankruptcy was dismissed to file its motion to recover its attorney’s fees. Although filed a couple of days late, the trial court was authorized to grant an extension for good cause. Since the law was not clear whether the bankruptcy extended the time period or not, the trial court was within its powers to extend the date for filing the motion.
Now the homeowner has a judgment against him for $292,205.50. This is a lesson to anyone who wants to litigate against their homeowner association. If you lose, you could be liable for substantial attorney’s fees and costs.