Florida Record

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Case of rejected St. Pete condo sale returns to trial court

By Karen Kidd | Jul 3, 2017

General court 02

TAMPA — The sale of a St. Petersburg condo, which failed because the condominium association rejected the buyer shortly after the seller decided her listed price had been too low, will return the trial court.

Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a Pinellas County Circuit Court decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the seller, Laurene Sorensen, who lives in Idaho. The appeal court said in its opinion handed down June 16 that material questions of fact remain and found in favor of the would-be buyer, Vincent Head of Tampa.

"Because material questions of fact exist concerning whether Sorensen acted in good faith in attempting to procure the Association's approval of the contract, the trial court erred by entering final summary judgment in favor of Sorensen, and we must therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings," the appeals court opinion said.

Florida Second District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Craig C. Villanti

Chief Judge Craig C. Villanti wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel in the unanimous decision.

The case arose from Sorensen's sale of her late father's St. Petersburg condo in Bayfront Tower, listing it for $405,000, according to background information in the appeal court's opinion. Head made a full-price offer, which Sorensen accepted, and the two signed the contract for purchase and sale May 31, 2015. The contract included a rider that said the condominium association had to approve the buyer. Head filed his application with the association, with a closing set for July 13.

Before that could happen, Sorensen received a call from another condo owner in the same condominium, saying her price was too low, according to court records. Sorensen contacted her agent to cancel the contract with Head, and she signed a proposed Release and Cancellation of Contract on June 8. Head declined to sign. 

"Shortly thereafter, Sorensen contacted the Association and advised them that she did not want to go through with the sale," the opinion said. "She told the Association that there were 'legal issues' that might prevent the closing - although she did not identify what the alleged 'legal issues' were - and she also suggested that the Association should closely investigate Head's ability to pay all of the costs associated with the condominium. When the Association subsequently expressed its intent to reject the contract on the basis of the low sales price, Sorensen stated that she had no objection to this. The Association then sent written notification to Sorensen that it was rejecting the contract."

Sorensen advised Head that she would not attend the scheduled July 13 closing based on the association's rejection of the contract, the ruling states. Head filed suit against Sorensen on multiple counts, including breach of contract.

Sorensen filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the contract had been properly terminated. The trial court granted Sorensen's motion.

In his appeal, Head claimed the trial court was wrong because questions existed in the case about whether Sorensen complied with her obligations under the contract and that the trial court's decision was "legally improper."

The appeals court agreed with Head's contention about the legal propriety of the trial court's decision.

"Sorensen did nothing to attempt in good faith to 'sell the sale' to the Association," the appeal court's decision said. "She did not offer to provide the Association with the market analysis prepared by her agent that supported the sales price. She did not offer to show the board members the interior of the unit so they could see its condition. She did not discuss her intent to sell the condominium quickly so that she would have cash to support the trust's other expenses. Instead, she affirmatively advised the Association that she did not want to go through with the sale, and she even suggested that Head was not financially sound enough to maintain the condominium."

That, inferred that Sorensen "actively assisted in procuring the rejection from the Association," the appeals court wrote.

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Florida Second District Court of Appeal