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Biza, Corp. v. Galway Bay Mobile Homeowners Association, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 18, 2019

Biza, Corporation, d/b/a Galway Bay Mobile Home Park, Appellant,
v.
Galway Bay Mobile Homeowners Association, Inc., Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from non-final orders from the Circuit Court for Monroe County Lower Tribunal No. 17-0166-M, Mark H. Jones, Judge.

          Lutz, Bobo & Telfair, P.A., and David D. Eastman and Carol S. Grondzik (Tallahassee), for appellant.

          Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert, and Alexis Fields (Ft. Lauderdale), for appellee.

          Before FERNANDEZ, [1] SCALES, and LINDSEY, JJ.

          LINDSEY, J.

         This appeal arises out of a dispute between Appellee Galway Bay Mobile Homeowners Association (the "Association") and Appellant Biza, Corp., the owner of the Galway Bay Mobile Home Park. Biza appeals (1) the trial court's order denying its motion for summary judgment and (2) the trial court's order denying its motion to certify class. For the reasons set forth below, we dismiss the appeal with respect to the order denying Biza's motion for summary judgment for lack of jurisdiction. And we affirm the order denying Biza's motion for certification because actions brought by mobile homeowners' associations under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.222 are not subject to the class certification requirements of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.220.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The underlying dispute stems from Biza's attempt to raise the lot rent for mobile homeowners by 18%. This dispute is governed by the Florida Mobile Home Act, Chapter 723, Florida Statutes (2019). Pursuant to section 723.037, which sets forth a mandatory pre-suit dispute resolution process, a majority of the mobile homeowners designated a five-member negotiating committee to meet with and discuss the dispute with Biza. A majority of homeowners also signed a Statement of Dispute, contesting the reasonableness of the rental amount increase. After the negotiating committee failed to resolve the dispute, a majority of the homeowners signed a petition to initiate mediation through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

         While the parties worked to resolve the dispute, 50 out of the 68 mobile homeowners agreed, in writing, to form the Galway Bay Mobile Homeowners Association. These homeowners agreed to be "bound by the provisions of the articles of incorporation and bylaws of the [A]ssociation." Both the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws explicitly state that the Association was organized to represent the mobile homeowners "in all matters relating to Chapter 723 of the Florida Statutes (the 'Florida Mobile Home Act')."

         On July 13, 2017, the Association filed a three-count complaint on the homeowners' behalf, alleging unreasonable rental amount increase, failure to maintain common areas, and violation of the obligation of good faith. The complaint was brought pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.222, which allows a mobile homeowners' association to "institute, maintain, settle, or appeal actions or hearings in its name on behalf of all homeowners concerning matters of common interest . . . ."

         In its answer and affirmative defense, Biza asserted the Association lacked standing for failing to strictly comply with section 723.037(1), Florida Statutes, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

The homeowners' association shall have no standing to challenge the increase in lot rental amount . . . unless a majority of the affected homeowners agree, in writing, to such representation.

         Biza also filed a motion to certify class[2] and a motion for summary judgment based on the ...


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