Condo Buyers Beware of the Fine Print

March 20, 2019by Brandon Banks

Who wouldn’t want to live in a luxury, oceanfront highrise building in Sunny Isles Beach? While many people covet a condo in the Muse Residences, one man is regretting his purchase of three condos in this very building. According to reports, a buyer filed a lawsuit against Muse developer Property Markets Group (PMG-S2 Sunny Isles LLC) seeking over $7 million for misrepresentations regarding the condos he purchased.

The lawsuit suggests that Stephen Hess and his company Clearwater Beach Co. reviewed marketing materials regarding the Muse Residences that stated each condo would have 3,635 square feet of “A/C Area.” Hess states they assumed this meant that they would get 3,635 square feet of living space in each of the condos. Based on this information, the plaintiffs made substantial deposit payments on three of the units in 2014 and 2015.

In 2018, they then filed a real estate lawsuit claiming the marketing materials misrepresented the size of the living space in each condo. Specifically, they claimed the “A/C Area” included common areas, corridors, balconies, and structural columns that should not have been included in the living space measurements.

While the buyers assumed A/C Area referred to living space, the floor plans apparently explained the term included other areas of the building – in very fine print at the bottom. The lawsuit alleges the disclaimer was “unreadable” and would require a magnifying glass or squinting with your nose on the page to read it. Plaintiffs allege that Florida law requires important terms and disclaimers to be at least 10-point font and bold type, so they are conspicuous to readers. They also claim that had they known the living space was 400 square feet less than expected, they would never have put down deposits to purchase the condos.

As expected, Property Markets Group calls the claims “baseless” and plan to defend against the lawsuit aggressively. PMG’s lawyer reported that the plaintiffs lost their deposits after they failed to close on the condos and are merely using the lawsuit as a way to reclaim those funds.

Beware of Hidden Terms in Real Estate Contracts

While we wait and see how the above lawsuit turns out, it does serve as an important reminder for everyone to always read the fine print on sales materials and contracts. If there is fine print at all, it is probably important, and the marketing company probably doesn’t want you to notice it!

Sometimes, unfavorable terms in a real estate deal are right there in front of you, but they may be hiding behind overly complicated legal jargon or in seemingly boilerplate provisions. The last thing you ever want is a surprise when it comes to a real estate purchase since so much is usually on the line. Never take chances – instead, always have an experienced real estate attorney reviewing every inch of your contract before you even think about signing.

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