FORT PIERCE – Plaintiffs in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act suit over a $400 discrepancy in homeowner’s association dues will have to amend their complaint, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida found. 

U.S District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg on March 16 granted in part and denied in part motions to dismiss the suit against Shendell & Associates without prejudice, leaving the door open for property owner Eduardo Ferro and Mayra Roberto to file an amended complaint. 

The ruling came after Ferro and Roberto filed a lawsuit accusing Shendell & Associates of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The suit alleges that the law firm sent Roberto a letter that was “an improper attempt to collect upon a debt” because they claim misstated the amount of Ferro owed in homeowner’s association dues by about $400. Shendell & Associates then filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the court should take notice of “a warranty deed, declarations and bylaws of a homeowner’s association and a complaint filed in state court.” 

In response, the court took judicial notice of the public records attached to the motion and found “many of the plaintiffs’ central allegations false. The plaintiffs alleged that the claim of lien said Roberto and Ferro failed to make payments; “however, it is clear that the Lien was only addressed to Mr. Ferro, the owner of the property,” the court said. The plaintiffs also alleged Shendell & Associates sent Roberto “another letter attempting to collect,” but the attachments to the complaint show the prior letters were only addressed to Ferro. 

The law firm argued that the Roberto “lacks standing to pursue an FDCPA claim” because she doesn’t own the property and has no obligation to pay the debt. But the court found the plaintiffs “should be afforded the opportunity to amend their Complaint.” The firm also argued the case must be dismissed because Roberto isn’t the property owner and the alleged improper debt collection is confined to a letter dressed only to Roberto. 

The court noted that Shendell & Associates and the plaintiffs – in their response – don’t cite any cases in support of their arguments and declined to rule on the issue “until the parties have provided better briefing on the topic.”

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