Move-In and Move-Out Fees: Are They Lawful?

By Catherine Park, Esq.

The Condominium Association generally has broad authority to regulate the internal affairs of the condominium, but such power is not without limit.  Move-in and move-out fees are assessments against individual unit owners, and, as such, are over and above the assessments paid by unit owners each month according to their pro rata share of the Condominium’s expenses.

In Westbridge Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Lawrence, 554 A.2d 1163 (D.C. 1989), the D.C. Court of Appeals invalidated a $150 move-in fee imposed by the Condo Association because the Condominium’s governing documents did not authorize it.  The governing documents (the declaration and bylaws) limited assessments against individual unit owners over and above their pro rata share for use of the common elements to situations involving owner negligence, misuse, and neglect.

The Association argued that the move-in fee was justified because the loading dock, doors to the entryway, elevator, and common area floor were all used during move-in.  However, the evidence at trial showed that move-in involved merely temporary and non-exclusive use of the common elements.  No resident was denied access to the common elements during the move-in, and no damage to the common elements resulted.  The trial court held that the move-in fee was an invalid double charge for services already paid for through the monthly condominium assessments.

In Westbridge, the Court determined that the Association acted beyond the legal powers granted to it by the Condominium’s governing documents and by statute (the D.C. Condominium Act, now codified at D.C. Code § 42-1901.01, et seq.)  The statute limited the power of Associations to those expressly granted by the governing documents, or those not prohibited by the governing documents and subject to any limitations therein.

DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed herein are general and might not be applicable to your case or circumstances.  If you need legal advice about a specific matter, consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.