Move-In And Move-Out Fees: Are They Legal?

The Condo 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 condo fees paid by unit owners each month according to their pro rata share of the condominium's expenses.

By Catherine Park

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 limited assessments against individual unit owners for use of the common elements to situations involving owner negligence, misuse, and neglect.

The Condo 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 by monthly condo fees.

Westbridge, the Court determined that the Condo Association acted beyond the legal powers granted to it by the condominium’s governing documents and by statute. The statute limited the power of Condo Associations to those expressly granted by the governing documents, or those not prohibited by the governing documents and subject to any limitations therein.