Understanding The Term "Associational Standing"

Standing, as a legal concept, refers to the right to bring a lawsuit. To pursue a case as a party in court, a person or entity must show that it was sufficiently affected by the matter at hand. This is a general definition of the legal concept of “standing.” When condominium associations are involved, there is a legal concept known as “associational standing.”

A recent case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida addressed the concept of associational standing. Mediterranean Villas Condo. Assoc., Inc. v. Moors Master Maint. Ass’n., Inc., No. 11-23302, 2012 WL 882508 (S.D. Fla. March 14, 2012). Mediterranean Villas Condominium Association is a condominium sub-association that operates the Mediterranean Villas Condominium. The condominium consists of 252 units, which share certain common areas. The Moors Master Maintenance Association Villas' master association.

In October 2010, Moors announced a change in the way it would levy assessments against the owners of the condominium. Villas alleges that the change greatly increased the amount assessed against the condominium's owners, and the increase is improper and violates the Master Covenants. Some of the unit owners refused to pay the increased assessments. Villas sued as the representative of the unit owners, alleging that the increased assessments are improper and that the unit owners who have paid the increased assessments have overpaid.

The Southern District Court reviewed the complaint to see if it stated a claim or was subject to dismissal. The Court noted that an association has “associational standing” to bring a suit as the representative of its members if it shows that:

  1. Its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right;
  2. The interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and
  3. Neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.

An association may have standing in the absence of injury to itself so long as a member has standing and the nature of the claim and of the relief sought does not make the individual participation of each unit owner necessary for a proper resolution of the case. The Court held that Villas failed to establish that it can bring this suit without the participation of the unit owners. The unit owners’ claims will vary based on their differing circumstances. Some unit owners paid the increased assessments while others refused to pay. Since each unit owners’ circumstances are different, the participation of Villas’ unit owners is required to properly resolve the individualized claims. The Court dismissed the case, and stated it is doubtful the Villas will be able to overcome the lack of associational standing.

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