MIAMI — Three 3rd District Court of Appeal judges have affirmed a lower court's decision to deny class certification in a consolidated case involving two condominium associations.

Judges Vance Salter, Kevin Emas and Ivan Fernandez affirmed the lower court’s decision in a March 21 opinion that Pedro J. Garcia and others be able to appraise each condominium separately rather than collectively in a 2015 tax year review that assessed some units in a manner that resulted in as much as 40 percent reduction in value.

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With the boards of directors' approval, the Central Carillon Beach Condominium Association and 2201 Collins Avenue Condominium filed a single joint petition with the Miami-Dade County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) “challenging the Appraiser’s proposed assessments for all of the units within the applicable condominium building,” according to background information in the opinion authored by Salter.

However, Garcia rejected the associations' argument due to individual unit owners not filing separate responsive pleadings. In the case analysis, Salter begins his review asking, “If a joint petition can be pursued before the VAB, why shouldn’t a joint defense be allowed in the Appraiser’s appeal from the VAB’s determinations?”

The answer is found in Florida Statutes Section 194.181.

According to the statute, the individual taxpayer is the defendant in an action a county property appraiser appeals in a VAB decision, but the associations claimed differently, citing “specific rights of collective representation given to them in the condominium law.”

The 3rd Circuit judges disagreed. 

Salter pointed out that Section 718.111 addresses protesting ad valorem taxes, though “the Associations protested the ad valorem taxes administratively on behalf of all units, but the lawsuits brought by the Appraiser against the unit owners are not ‘protests’—they are judicial review proceedings in which the unit owners are defendants.”

Salter said none of the cases cited by the associations that allowed class certification were strong enough to counter the cases he brought forth that showed “a separate statute specifying that each individual unit owner must be a party defendant.”

Based on Trintec Const. Inc. v. Countryside Village Condo. Ass’n Inc., Four Jay’s Const. Inc. v. Marina at Bluffs Condo. Ass’n Inc. and Kesl Inc. v. Racquet Club of Deer Creek II Condo. Inc., “Our holding in these cases regarding property tax appeals brought by a county property tax appraiser against condominium unit owners does not dilute or qualify the continued amenability of other types of lawsuits to the common representation of unit owners by their association as permitted by section 718.111(3) and Rule 1.221 (of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure).”

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