In our December issue, Resort Trades will be discussing four major questions facing our industry with some of the experts who deal with them every day. In part two, we asked Sandra “Sam” Yartin DePoy, senior vice president, Federal & Regulatory Affairs, for the American Resort Development Association, “Will class action lawsuits continue to be an issue for our industry?” Here’s what she had to say.
“Due to the nature of our industry, shared ownership developers and resorts are subject to a multitude of regulations, from requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act when guests visit our properties, to real estate lending and other requirements at the sales table, to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when it’s time to collect payments for mortgages and maintenance fees.
What all these regulations have in common is the ability for attorneys to seize on non-material lapses when they occur. For example, the ADA is being undermined by a growing ‘cottage industry’ made up of attorneys and plaintiffs who file lawsuits against business and property owners over alleged violations. The current system creates confusion amongst business and property owners who reasonably believed their property was ADA compliant – typically based on assurances by state and local inspectors. Oftentimes, business owners find it is less expensive to settle the suits than to defend them, even if the property owner is compliant.
That’s why ARDA is supporting legislation require that business owners have time to fix what is allegedly broken before being subjected to abusive lawsuits.
Similar stories activities have occurred for minor violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other regulations. My advice to all developers and associations is to strictly abide by all applicable laws, ensuring that any inadvertent violations be remedied as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, these types of lawsuits are a fact of life today, so it behooves us to seek competent legal counsel and follow their advice diligently.”