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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

This week’s Friday’s Letter from America is not the one we originally planned from Michael Kosor, this will be published in due course.

First a little news from Europe, only last week we told of the calls from HMRC informing people that they have money from the Spanish courts, one reader has sent us this information.

They were called by a Kipp Stuart from HMRC Accounting, this was with reference to a ruling at the Malaga courts, Kipp informed them that they were holding over £22,000 on their behalf, unfortunately as there was no paperwork then the funds could not be released. They were given reference numbers along with the following telephone numbers:

08713 581033 to confirm with HMRC

0034 602489947 for the Malaga Court

Wonderful, only problem, the 08713 number is not used by HMRC and also carries rather hefty charges.

The 0034 number is a Spanish mobile number and no court will issue mobile numbers for confirmation.

As we published before

HMRC DO NOT CALL PEOPLE WITH NEWS THEY ARE HOLDING MONEY ISSUED BY THE SPANISH COURTS!

On the subject of courts, it has been a rather busy, that lot at CLA have announced six more wins. There have been five in Tenerife, four of these against Silverpoint, with one of the largest awards we have seen for sometime. In this case the client was awarded over 67,000€ including legal interest and second instance legal fees with the contract being declared null & void.

The other case involved European Coast & sun Holidays SL, the judge of the Court of First Instance declared the client’s contract null & void, along with the return of over 15,000€, then as a double whammy he also ordered back payment of over 16,000€  double the deposit paid.

Then in Fuengirola at the High Court the judges reaffirmed a sentence from the Court of First Instance against Petchey Leisure, by awarding over 14,000€ plus interest and legal fees.

Back to Gran Canaria and the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas once again declared an Anfi contract null & void with the return of 21,000€ plus legal interest.

These are just some of the cases announced this week, it is certainly an expensive one for those companies.

Now on with this week’s letter.

The Deep, Dark, Dank, Obscured From View, But Very Lucrative Timeshare Developer Revenue Stream: Are Its Days Numbered?

money tree

By Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

Originally published by Inside the Gate

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-developer-revenue-stream-days-numbered

Clarifications in blue added by Irene Parker for non-legal minds (like mine)

September 14, 2017

We as consumers, with a certain level of understanding of business, probably attribute the lion’s share of timeshare resort revenue to two central factors: timeshare sales and timeshare rentals. As it turns out, there is a third major revenue stream that’s related to sales, but is an entirely separate source of revenue, and it’s a significant one. Depending on the nature of the initial purchase, whether it was a deeded interest, or more commonly over the past fifteen years or so, a “right to use” amalgamation of points, this shrouded revenue source may indeed also be in violation of certain state consumer rights statutes, including the Uniform Commercial Code.

I’m speaking to the universally accepted resort practice of the resort retaining every dollar received from a defaulting purchaser, even if the entire purchase price or an amount close to the total was paid over to the resort prior to the owner’s default. This would include a cessation of paying the purchase price, maintenance fees or capital assessments.

It’s not considered relevant, at least if one believes the purchase contract, to factor in the sometimes quite significant amount paid in up to the moment of default, in terms of any form of accounting back to the sum of money paid by the defaulting purchaser. It’s all retained by the resort pursuant to the purchase contract, as “liquidated damages”.

In other words, an unwitting purchaser could have paid in say $18,000 of his/her $20,000 purchase price (not to mention the additional payments of interest and annual maintenance fees), defaulted for any number of reasons and still be pursued by the resort as a debtor for the unpaid balance! Well, isn’t that appropriate, you may retort! After all, the purchaser has defaulted on a perfectly legal (on its face) promissory note obligation of $20,000 when only $18,000 has been paid? Well maybe, but let’s examine what happens next.

Foreclosure of real property and disposition of personal property are governed by different bodies of law. Real property foreclosure sale varies dramatically among the states. Personal property disposition is governed by each state’s versions of Article Nine commercially reasonable disposition.

I found this explanation of the difference in real property foreclosure compared to personal property distribution in Texas helpful:

Texas Real Property Foreclosure

Section 51.002, et seq. of the Texas Property Code defines the minimum statutory procedure that must be satisfied to properly foreclose upon real property. In addition to the minimum statutory requirements, the deed of trust executed by the debtor-mortgagor details the agreed contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of real property.

Personal Property Disposition in Texas

Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code defines the minimum statutory procedures that must be satisfied to foreclose upon personal property. In addition to the Article Nine requirements, the security agreement executed by the debtor-mortgagor defines the contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of personal property. Generally, personal property disposition must be commercially reasonable.

Commercially reasonable is the key concept here. We can all relate to selling a car. According to NOLO, there is no hard and fast rule on what “commercially reasonable” means. What is commercially reasonable depends on a number of factors.

The procedure, not the price, ultimately determines whether the sale is commercially reasonable. Whether a sale is commercially reasonable depends on four factors, the:

  • manner
  • time
  • place
  • terms of the sale.

Perhaps Mike’s concern as it pertains to timeshare foreclosure being commercially reasonable, as it applies to car sales, also applies to timeshare.

“There are times, however, when a private or “dealer only” sale may not be commercially reasonable”, such as in the following instances provided by NOLO. Two of the six points they mention seem to apply to timeshare:

  • the creditor has the ability to sell the car on the retail market
  • the creditor buys back the vehicle then resells it a significantly higher price.

What If I Believe the Sale Was Not Commercially Reasonable?

If you can demonstrate that the creditor did not sell your car in a commercially reasonable manner, you can raise that as a defense against any lawsuit brought by a creditor looking to collect on the deficiency balance. In some instances, if you can prove the sale was not commercially reasonable, the court may reduce or even eliminate your obligation on the deficiency balance.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/car-repo-sale-was-commercially-reasonable.html

Back to Texas

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

Thus, real property foreclosures in Texas are very defined and structured procedures unique to Texas law which do not require the sale to be commercially reasonable. On the other hand, personal property foreclosure sales are not structured by statute, but they must be commercially reasonable as to every aspect of the disposition, including method, manner, time, place, and terms. The apparent conclusion is that although the legislature has specifically defined the procedures that must be followed to dispose of real property, personal property may be disposed of in any manner the secured party elects, as long as the sale is in all respects commercially reasonable.

The differences between real and personal property foreclosure procedures and requirements have had interesting effects upon lenders and borrowers. The notice provisions for real property foreclosures mandate procedures known to both the lender and the borrower. The procedures provide certainty as to the mechanics of the sale. Both lender and borrower are offered an opportunity to dispose of property, with each fully understanding when, where, and how the sale or purchase will occur.

In contrast, the nebulous standard of a commercially reasonable sale leaves both the lender and the borrower uncertain as to the ultimate and satisfactory sale or purchase procedure for personal property. Article Nine attempts to place the burden on the secured lender seeking a deficiency to sell in a commercially reasonable manner, whatever that may be in the particular circumstances found by the lender. Likewise, the debtor has no knowledge of how the lender will proceed with foreclosure and has the burden of proof, if attacking the sale, to show that the sale was not commercially reasonable. The more certain real property foreclosure procedures seem to work more effectively for both the lender and the borrower.

http://www.lenders360blog.com/2008/10/real-estate-foreclosure-vs-ucc-personal-property-commercially-reasonable-disposition/

Commercially reasonable according to Cornell Law School: A disposition of collateral is made in a commercially reasonable manner if the disposition is made:

(1) In the usual manner on any recognized market;

(2) At the price current in any recognized market at the time of the disposition; or

Wait a minute here!

face

“At the price current in any recognized market at the time of disposition” means my Diamond Resorts points should be sold for nothing. Not one of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will even accept a DRI listing and even Howard Nusbaum, CEO of the timeshare lobby ARDA, has been quoted as saying modern timeshare is a right to use product so the member should not expect any value back. I think Mike really is onto something!  

Other timeshare companies may argue that they do have a secondary market, but even those fortunate to be able to sell their timeshare, frequently sell them for pennies on the dollar of their original investment.

(3) Otherwise in conformity with reasonable commercial practices among dealers in the type of property that was the subject of the disposition.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/9/9-627

Now on the edge of my seat, we continue with Mike’s narration:

In our original example, is the developer out the missing $2,000?  Ask what happened to the object of the $20,000 purchase? Well look at that, the actual property never, even for a moment, left the possession of the developer! My goodness, the developer just re-sold the interest to another brand-new buyer for a fresh new $20,000! So now are you still comfortable with the original purchaser being pursued for the missing $2,000? Perhaps sued, almost definitely having derogatory credit reporting, not to mention harassment from bill collectors? So what exactly happened to the first purchaser’s $18,000 paid to the resort? Is any of it accounted for with maybe a portion returned to the guy who ended up with nothing except perhaps a lawsuit?

Not a chance in Hades! The so-called ‘extra revenue stream’ is now actually an extension of the existing stream to the developer from sales, and sales, and maybe still more sales. How many times can the same unit interest (or bloc of points) be resold over the life of the project?

The distinction (and thus a portion of the reason for my overly dramatic title) is that typically sales revenue in say a condominium project is recorded once, and the revenue is, of course, offset by the cost of acquisition of land, construction costs, marketing costs, etc. and the net amount remaining after those costs is the developer’s profit. However, in the case of the timeshare developer, the original buyer covered those costs in their initial transaction, therefore the new additional piggy-back to back transactions didn’t come with any more land acquisition or construction costs, and therefore essentially came only with very little new or fresh costs of sale beyond the re-marketing costs.

light bulb

Well wait, you might say, this can’t be right! You sure this practice is universal? Yes? Well then, are you sure this unconscionable practice is even legal? Good question, and one wherein the answer to that question may be evolving and it’s not necessarily the laws in place that are changing, it’s the timeshare product changeover, the newer form of the property that is being marketed by the developer that is creating a change in which already existing laws are now perhaps becoming relevant to the timeshare purchase, and by doing so may be enforced by the previously out of luck defaulting purchaser. In fact, it may well be that the same old existing law pendulum may be swinging back in favor of the consumer!

I reference the fact that over the past decade plus a few years, there has been a change in the product that the timeshare industry is selling. Just after the turn of the century, the industry has backed off of selling of the deeded weekly timeshare product, which was indisputably a real estate product, in favor of a product they tout as being more user flexible: a product called a “right to use” product. Setting aside the differences in the actual ability to use the two very different types of timeshare “ownership,” the focus of this article is on the migration of the timeshare product from a real estate based product, morphing into what we attorneys refer to as “personalty”.

In our lawyer’s world, everything not legally defined as real estate is personalty (the only other option in the law). Presumably a ‘right to use’ timeshare product (points based) is not considered by the law as real estate, (if it no longer possesses any attributes of real estate and therefore as ‘personalty’, is subject to differing state laws particularly including the universally adopted, in some form in every state, Uniform Commercial Code).

Additionally, state laws regulating the real estate within its boundaries, do vary from state to state. Personalty, however, is a commodity of a different color. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as its title suggests, is nearly uniform in its textual content, and from an applicability standpoint, every state in the Union has adopted, with minimum exceptions not applicable to this article, a version of the UCC almost identical with its neighboring states. In other words, as we discuss the law of personality (again, all that is not deemed real estate) we can speak to it across the board. These laws apply everywhere within the USA.

As a Florida lawyer, you may have seen other articles where I either cite specific Florida statutes or have issued a cautionary statement that the principles I was espousing may not apply in other jurisdictions. Contrast this article where I do not constrain my statements. Also, rather than cite state specific portions of the UCC, I, in places, simply refer to Articles within the UCC and in others the ‘pure code provision’.

Further, this article is not intended for an audience of lawyers or jurists. It’s intended for consumers to get a grasp of a relatively new set of laws, including the Uniform Commercial Code, that now may begin to play a much greater role in the laws governing timeshare projects and correspondingly, the developers who operate these projects.

I would like to ask Mike at this point about another universally accepted practice – advising borrowers to go home after purchasing their dream vacation plan and arrange financing with their bank or credit union. Perhaps it’s the subject of another article, but the majority of complaints received by Inside Timeshare say their sales agent advised them to seek a home equity loan to lower timeshares usury type timeshare lending rates. Many have done just that. My husband and I were told we could get lower rate financing, “No one should finance at our rates,” warned Donna. (Grand Beach, FL July 2015) I guess buyers that follow that advice are just out of luck, like Sylvia Saldana, now stuck with a $30,000 home equity loan after Diamond Resorts “took back” $60,000 worth of timeshare points. To make matters worse, Sylvia said she was aggressively encouraged to open Barclaycards, told buying more points would lower their maintenance fees. Had she succumbed to that suggestion, Sylvia and her husband would have lost even more money.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Back to Mike

Consumer rights may also get a major boost by the applicability of the UCC as well, since, to the extent that a contract provision contradicts an applicable statute, that contractual provision will be rendered null and void.

So, for example take the typical contractual provision that, “all monies paid will be retained by the developer as ‘liquidated damages.’’’ Essentially, the amount of damages fixed must be reasonable ‘in light of actual or anticipated harm’ and a term fixing an ‘unreasonably large amount’ is void as a penalty.

Therefore taking a contract, say with a 10% down payment and then adding subsequent monthly payments, the sum total could easily become ‘unreasonably large’, particularly in light of the quick turnaround on the “use rights” for which there has been a default, assuming which I think is fair with on-site sales team (ARDA’s Mr. Nusbaum calls them forever sales centers), that the interest will be promptly re-sold.

Another example of a UCC provision that may well change the way defaulted buyers are treated is as follows. The included reference to the specific UCC provision is the actual textbook unadulterated Code provision number, and may well differ from numbered state specific statutes. The developer or secured party is under a duty to notify debtors of the disposition of collateral under UCC Section 9-611. Further, the disposition must be done in a commercially reasonable manner.

Of particular importance, the secured party/lender is required to apply proceeds of any disposition to the underlying debt once expenses have been taken.

Is this where we end up with money back to the debtor? Can we go back to our original example?

I paid $20,000 and default at $18,000. For sake of discussion I am current on maintenance fees (which is probably not the case). The developer sells to the next hamster my forfeited points for $20,000. I am relieved of the $2,000 still owed, but if the developer sells for $23,000, I will be relieved of the $2,000 owed plus get $3,000 from the surplus amount? This next sentence sounds like the answer?

Also of notable significance is the duty of the secured party to pay the debtor any surplus which results from the disposition of collateral.

Additionally, the secured party/developer is liable for any damages caused by its failure to comply with Article 9.

In summary, a new day in the life of an unhappy timeshare owner is dawning. Existing laws never before applied to timeshare purchases may well now apply and particularly those timeshare interests that are non-real estate based like the ‘right to use’ interests that are now the mainstream of the timeshare community! Stay tuned for future developments on our website as we begin to apply the theories and applicable state statutes referenced hereinabove.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

www.finnlawgroup.com

michaeldfinn@finnlawgroup.com

work desk

Whew! That was exhausting. It’s a good thing we have legal eagles to figure these things out because Charles Thomas and I get pretty depressed at times listening to “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories. We have heard enough to fund a series. The question I am most frequently asked is, “How can they sleep at night?”

Thank you to Mike Finn for the chance to publish this and also to Irene to add her clarifications for those without legal minds.

It now only remains to say be careful who you do business with, check and check again, if you need help, then contact Inside Timeshare. Have a good weekend.

weekend02

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Here we are again, another Friday and another letter from America, yes, this week we are back with our cousins across the great lake. Irene Parker gives us another article in the series Nightmare on Timeshare Street. Irene and her Husband have evacuated from their coastal home due to Hurricane Irma, which is set to hit over the weekend, we hope that you all remain safe.

nightmare

Now on with some news from Europe, as we have shown in the past there are many types scams to rob you of your hard earned cash, this is the latest we have been informed about.

It begins with a telephone call supposedly from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, from a Mr D Clarke, he informs the timeshare owner they have received from the Spanish courts several million pounds, which is to be divided up and paid to owners. In this case the lucky owner is to receive over £24,000, but as it is over the £10,000 limit the owner has to ring the number given and quote the supplied reference number.

The numbers supplied by our reader are 003460209896 which is a Spanish mobile number and 033558663 (the reader has missed out some numbers).

No doubt the next phase is when you do call, there will some “tax” that you need to pay first, once this is paid then you will get the money. Well, we have heard that one before!

hmrc

Firstly, HMRC will not make telephone calls or send emails, they will contact by post, they will also not be working for the Spanish courts to hand out “compensation” especially for timeshare. If you have employed a lawyer or law firm to take legal action in Spain, then once your case has been heard and the court awards you payment, this will be dealt with directly from the court. The court will pay you through a bank transfer direct to your account. They will not be sending it to HMRC or any other third party.

CLA have also published a letter from one of their Norwegian clients, in this case they purchased from Anfi 2 floating weeks in 2005, for around 34,000€. They explained that after 4 years they found what they had purchased was not for them, it wasn’t working in their interest. They also found out that it was difficult to get out of the contract, selling would not get them anywhere near what they paid.

They came across CLA who then took on their case, their case was heard at the Supreme Court, their contract was declared null & void on the basis of the illegality of the floating weeks and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period. Eventually, in June this year the awarded amount was transferred to their bank by the court. This does show that contrary to claims made by Anfi that no one gets paid out, clients do eventually get their money.

So, now on with our Friday’s article from Irene.

Triple Nightmares on Timeshare Street!

Diamond Resorts says Marjorie Menacker’s claim is without merit

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring Closes Case

A Victory for the Oral Representation Clause

back hander

By Irene Parker

September 8, 2017

Marjorie, Ann and Marcia share their experience

Inside Timeshare has received 130 Diamond Resorts complaints from US members. The following three timeshare dream vacations nightmares are allegations, but with 119 out of 130 complaints alleging deceit and bait and switch, in our opinion, a compelling and compounding pattern seems to have developed.

As in any industry, the bad apples make things difficult for timeshare sales agents trying to compete honestly in a world where Master Closers earn $1 to $2 million a year working at sales centers that can book $10 million a month. I have interviewed nine former and current timeshare sales agents and managers who assure me “pitching heat” is endorsed and encouraged top down and industry wide by sales agents that hop from resort to resort as they make their way up the ranks.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?mcubz=3

This came as a shock to me. I built my business as a stockbroker, myself hopping from timeshare resort to resort in Hawaii, signing up timeshare sales agents for retirement and stock trading accounts. Back then many sales agents were independent contractors. “So we’re the units!” they would jokingly say. They were good people and one of those sales agents is still a close friend today. She too is shocked by the escalation in aggressive tactics, assigning buyers to a perpetual contract, often with no secondary market.

Today’s Triple Nightmare on Timeshare Street includes Marjorie, Marsha, and Ann. Marsha called me on the eve of what would been her 51st wedding anniversary, attempting to file a Mark Herring Virginia Attorney General complaint online. Marsha told me she was literally having Diamond Resort nightmares. All three direct their complaints against Diamond’s Virginia sales centers. Inside Timeshare has received twelve complaints against Virginia sales agent. Six of the members have reported a positive outcome feeling Diamond, after many rebuttals, listened and took appropriate action. Diamond Resorts Advocacy Department has resolved issues for a total of 31 out of a total of 74 formal complaints filed by our readers. Ann and Marjorie’s complaints are against the same Virginia sales agent.

Inside Timeshare has reached out to AG Herring and to Diamond Resorts for comment. To date they have not responded. Diamond has introduced a program called CLARITY ™ which they say offers transparency, accountability and respect for members.

I will call the following nightmares allegations, but Marjorie, Ann and Marsha would argue this is what really happened. Ann and Marsha have asked not to be identified, but they want to show Marjorie their support, having experienced up-sells similar to what Marjorie alleges.

3 women

Marjorie’s story

Elle and I purchased an additional 6000 Diamond points December 26, 2015 having been told about an exciting one day promotion if we purchased that day. The sales agents said we would not have to pay maintenance fees for 2016 or beyond. We had been struggling to keep up with rising fees as a result of medical expenses. Our contract lists a William Humphries as our sales agent, although we spoke to Brian and his supervisor Jeff at Diamond’s Greensprings Plantation Resort. We were encouraged to open two Diamond Barclaycards to finance the purchase. The finance rate is 25.74%.

The  sales presentation was very high pressure. We repeatedly stated that we could not afford anything that would require a loan, and did not like the difficulty we encountered finding availability. Maintenance fees were rising faster than we expected.

Brian repeatedly assured us that if we took advantage of the promotion offered that day, we would not have to worry about any maintenance fees ever again. He illustrated in chart form on paper how this program would save us money by trading in part of our total points each year. He said the remaining points would actually get “treated as double points.”

We were told this promotion would have been offered to us had we participated in dinner meeting offers over the previous year. I’ve learned almost all Diamond presentations begin with, “You should have been invited to a dinner meeting.” Out of our sight, Brian obtained special permission from his supervisor Jeff to extend the offer only for the day (12/26/2015).

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Ann S

First, last January, when meeting with Brian Humphries at an ‘Owner Update’ in Virginia, we were told FLAT OUT  that if we bought 7500 more points we would now be part of an ‘ELITE’ group of Platinum owners who are credited 30 CENTS PER POINT when ‘recycling’ annual points back to Diamond so that Diamond can bring in potential owners. We were told that the conversion at 30 cents per point would be more than enough with all our points to pay our annual fees and still have points on which to travel. We restated the claim back to Brian several times to make sure we understood correctly. Brian now denies that he made any such promise. When I called Diamond and even the Platinum Department no one had ever heard of such a program and kept referring us back to Brian. He had even told us “When you get your bill and it’s time to pay your maintenance fees just contact me and I’ll explain how you do this.”  We would NEVER have purchased that day had that not been our understanding. But then nothing was ever given to us in writing (they even somehow took our personal notes from us and did not return them) and repeated emails and phone requests only ended in denials or flat out ignoring of our questions. After hearing what happened to Marjorie, I will be filing a complaint with the Virginia Attorney General’s office.

Marsha Y

I only purchased additional points because the sales agents at Diamond’s Powhatan Resort in Williamsburg said the maintenance costs would go down if I purchased more points. I have since learned this was not true. I had told the agents I could not afford the rising maintenance fees. I was also not told a $7,100 charge would be charged to a Barclay card for a down payment. The same thing happened in Hawaii. I was not told a Barclay card was being opened to charge a Sampler. I later learned the agent in Hawaii was later fired for this.

The hospitality agent in Williamsburg, when I told her about how I had been deceived previously, told me she understood and that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until the CLARITY ™ program was put in place. Still, when I attended the Williamsburg presentation, I was charged $7,100 on a Barclaycard without my knowledge.

My husband (now deceased) and I originally owned three deeded weeks. We had no complaints about the agents that sold us those weeks. Up until this point, what I owned was within my budget. The additional charges have caused a great hardship. I am a widow on a teacher’s pension. The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. My credit score has dropped from over 800 to the 700s. I had no intention to buy points as it is not as easy or enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would be able to remain a Diamond customer if I would be returned to Silver status.

Will the timeshare industry ever admit to deception on the front end of the timeshare sale? Are these customers really not to be believed, along with so many other identical complaints? All three attended the presentations with their families and are adamant what they heard was what they were told.

The following Facebook pages consist of members helping members. Contact Inside Timeshare or join with others members working towards reform if you have a timeshare story, positive or negative, to share, or need help with a timeshare concern. After this Attorney General’s ruling, it really does seem the only court available is the court of public opinion. We posted below “Do you know your Consumer Rights?” Are there any Consumer Rights?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

consumer rights 1

Thank you Irene, Marjorie, Ann and Marcia for your contribution to this week’s article, as you can see, timeshare can become a nightmare, it all sounds so great in the presentation.

It just leaves us to say have a good weekend, and for those of you in the path of Irma, stay safe.

weekend cat

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday! Time for another Letter from America, this week one of our advocates writes an open letter to an industry advocate, Irene Parker provides the introduction, but first some news from Europe.

Those nefarious fake lawyers from Tenerife are at it again with another new twist to secure your money. This time it is from Armando Gareca Abogados, one of the new names in the Litigious Abogados family, thank goodness this reader decided to search the web before paying any money and found our articles.

armando-gareca-abogados-logo-1

This particular reader was contacted by Armando Gareca and informed that a case had been lodged with the court against their timeshare resort, not bad considering the courts are closed in August. They were informed they could become part of this case and once they paid the Procurator fees of 1,012€ the case would proceed. It all sounded very good, they were told how much they would be getting back and when they would receive it. Obviously this law firm has a crystal ball and can tell the future!

As we said the courts are closed in August, but also they have expanded their jurisdiction, the Spanish courts and these so-called Spanish lawyers now have the power to take a Greek resort to court in Spain. Not only that Spanish law is applying to a purchase made in Greece!

So just to recap, if you purchased your timeshare in Spain or any of its territories, then Spanish law will apply, if you purchased in the UK, Malta, Portugal, Greece or anywhere else in the world, then Spanish law will not apply. Also it takes at least 12 to 18 months to get a case to court, there are some lengthy procedures to go through before it gets to trial, so the promises of this particular group that the case is being heard within weeks are false.

We have also had some enquiries regarding finance for timeshare purchases arranged by the sales staff, many of these are with Barclays Partner Finance or Hitachi. Some of our readers who have been contacted by various claims companies are told that once they sign up for legal action, they will have the loan stopped and the interest repaid.

This is a false claim, the timeshare resort acted as a broker for the finance, your agreement and contract is a personal one with the finance company and nothing to do with who sold you the timeshare. If you are taking legal action against your timeshare company, the loan is a separate issue, which can only be dealt with after a successful outcome against your resort. By stopping any payments to the finance company you are then leaving yourself open to legal action by debt collectors and subsequently receiving a CCJ, or County Court Judgement. This will have a devastating effect on your ability to get any credit, even being able to get a mortgage.

So beware of many claims, these people will play on your emotions, make promises that are not there, it pays to to check and double check. Do your homework!

homework

Now we move on to this week’s Letter from America.

An Advocate’s Open Letter to an Industry Advocate

greed1

By an Advocate

Introduction by Irene Parker

August 25, 2017

The following is a letter submitted to Inside Timeshare written to a timeshare industry proponent by one of our Timeshare Advocates. The letter is in response to an article the author wrote posing the question as to whether the timeshare industry needs to look in a new direction.

The letter writer asked that he not be identified and that the title of the article not be mentioned as this was a personal letter written to the author. One thing sorely lacking is dialogue between critics and proponents of the right to use timeshare product which can be financially devastating for a family when the resort denies their release and when no secondary market exists.

Following the article I have offered comments agreeing and disagreeing with both the author of the article and the letter writer. We encourage others to weigh in.

Thank you to our Advocate reaching out to the industry. We hope he receives an answer.

QA

In your article you state, “Timeshare is definitely not a real estate investment and apart from the occasional overzealous sales associate, timeshare companies long ago stopped pitching it as such an investment.”  While I agree with your assessment that it is not an investment, I must ask, are you saying timeshares are not real estate or are not an investment?  I also read other timeshare articles you wrote. You are knowledgeable, but I believe you missed some of the key issues a potential buyer of the product needs to understand. You are not the only financial timeshare writer glossing over two important issues:

  • Timeshares have no viable secondary market,
  • The timeshare product has evolved to no interest in real property.

Consider the potential impact on the industry, or better stated, why the issues have not yet impacted the industry.

You rightly state in your article, timeshares are overpriced and there is no appreciated value in the real estate. I wish you had made it clear, that once purchased, a timeshare has no value. You must be aware of the fact that there is no viable secondary market. With little data available (the industry controls it), I find the “sale” of most timeshares on the secondary market require the seller to bring money to the transaction. That equates to a negative value.  

Recently, in an effort to avoid increasingly ugly publicity, many of the largest players are offering a “give back” or “surrender” option to older owners, not actively using or able to use their timeshare, provided the associated home facility is viable and the product is fully paid. These guys are such good sales people they have actually been successful in improving their image, offering certain members in select properties the opportunity to give back their timeshare to the developer with nothing in return other than to escape their burden. The timeshare interest they bought for $20K to often well over $100K is given up for nothing so the developer can resell as new.  

The non-viable secondary market environment is no accident. It certainly is not caused, as ARDA would have you believe, by an oversupply of inventory, or the result of advocacy groups and “sell your timeshare” type organizations that illegally prey on owners. ARDA has long acknowledged the lack of a viable secondary market and has for years committed to fix it. While out of the public eyes, ARDA does nothing, even works not so secretly against efforts to raise a secondary market.

I am sure you have read industry 10Ks. In most every 10K I have read for the past 15 years, the existence of a secondary resale market would have a significant negative impact on developer earnings. It’s no surprise the industry is active in suppressing the market to eliminate their perceived risk. I just wish our consumer protection guys, wherever they may be, would mandate the same level of discourse for the individual timeshare buyer.      

I also wish you had not implied a timeshare interest is necessarily tied to a real property interest (and again the industry should be required to disclose this to potential buyers). The classic deeded timeshare is today by far the minority of sales. Timeshare consumers buy either an interest in a “user rights” trust, not the underlying real estate, or simply buy into a timeshare “club” arguably not a timeshare at all. Many in the industry call them vacation clubs.

Please understand my criticism of your piece is meant to be constructive and more importantly, intended to spur some additional interest on your part by examining the member’s perspective. Few consumers really understand the product and/or business model. The consumer protections guys are asleep at the wheel or have no mandate/political incentive to get involved, and the industry will not speak up for fear of risking a very profitable business model born on the backs of timeshare buyers fallen victim to the oral representation clause, locked into a perpetual contract. It’s tough for the consumer or the industry to get the real picture.

Have you had a chance in the past several minutes, as you struggle through my letter, to consider my question about the implications of the issues presented?

  • No secondary market,
  • Inadequate regulation,
  • ABS markets,
  • Cash flow should the issue of a non-equity product make the light of day,  
  • Inadequate disclosure as to the lack of a secondary market.

I am right?  No?

Well, I will end now and hope you do consider the implications of what I touched on. If I have sparked any additional interest on your part I’d like to talk more. Please call or write.

Respectfully,

An Advocate

gps cartoon

I would like to add a few comments to some of the issues raised or not raised by the letter writer and the article’s author.

First, I disagree with the article’s author in his statement that only a few overzealous timeshare sales agents sell a timeshare product as an investment, as the US side of Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints almost daily from our readers reaching out to us for assistance after they allege being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, meeting the definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud. Timeshare sold as an investment, told it would be easy to resell, is still one of the top five complaints.

We always want to acknowledge sales agents and developers trying to exist in a timeshare world so ingrained in deception on the front end of the sale. The 7,000 plus timeshare members belonging to five Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Facebooks are filled with posts concerning allegations of deceit.

Second, surrender programs are no help to the majority of timeshare members that have reached out to Inside Timeshare because these members allege they were duped into signing up for high interest rate loans and credit cards. High 25% interest rate credit cards now can pop out on site like toast out of a toaster. Multiple credit cards are often opened.

As to a secondary market, we have heralded Disney Vacation Club as a company that allows an acceptable secondary market.

http://insidetimeshare.com/mid-week-report/

This is where the letter writer and I disagree. Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX would argue Hilton also has a solid secondary market in that they don’t punish the secondary point buyer to the extent other developers do. Judi has been working the Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare resale market since the beginning of their current resale program.

“In my opinion, Hilton has the best resale market out there – the developer does not punish the resale deeded points buyer. Buyers of points on the secondary market are rewarded with the ability to join the Elite Club. They are still allowed to use the open season rates, trade internally and use RCI through Hilton.”

Third, I disagree with the letter writer in that he states ARDA has stated they want to fix the secondary market problem. I think that is old news from a 2014 RedWeek article. In recent statements, ARDA CEO Howard Nusbaum has stated timeshare is a right to use produce so members should not expect any value back. My rebuttal is that if timeshare is now defined as a country club of sorts, why is the contract perpetual? What country club is out there you can’t quit? What country club, except for the likes of Mar-a-Lago, requires an initial payment of often $50,000 or more?  What about the consumer that has turned over $50K to sometimes over $100K only to learn two weeks later they allege they were lied to as showcased in several of our Nightmare on Timeshare Street articles.

The letter writer mentioned Advocacy groups. I would like to make a distinction between real advocates and scam artists that call themselves advocates, including some law groups. We have 93 timeshare members helping other members I consider real Advocates. We also have 55 Advocates, including several attorneys and professionals, who donate their time pro bono to offer an assessment or opinion after the resort has denied the member relief.

Thank you to our letter writer and to all our Contributors. Your voice is important because one or two voices alone do not a concert make. Contact us or one of the Bluegreen or Diamond Facebook pages if you need assistance, would like to share your timeshare experience, or express your opinion.

pin up

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

There we have it, the end of another week and the start to what we hope will be a great weekend. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who contact us with information and enquiries, it is with your help we can bring those issues to a wider audience. Keep them coming.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend01

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Karen Garello’s Secret Shopper report, but as usual we look at what is happening in Europe.

During our daily searches of various timeshare websites and forums this particular article made us chuckle. It was published on the Travel & Leisure Group (timeshare resale) website under information and Timeshare Blog, it is an interview with Gavin Brown and his recent stay at Anfi, he is manager of the said company, obviously written by one of the employees who conducted the interview.

The piece starts out with Anfi Beach Club is known throughout the timeshare industry as a real gem”. It then goes on to describe the location, “Ideally located on a heart-shaped island in Gran Canaria”. Well straight away that brought everyone down laughing, the heart shaped island is a man made island which is situated between the beach and the marina. It does not have the room for the huge resort called Anfi! It does however have sunbeds, a cocktail bar and a restaurant. You can also hire the island for weddings, if you can afford the 12,000€ for the basic package.

heart shaped island Anfi
The heart shaped island at Anfi

It turns out that Mr Brown, who has been in the timeshare industry for years, has never owned a timeshare, (I wonder why?). Mr Brown stated that he always booked with online travel agents and package holidays, but due to sometimes being disappointed with room location and the standards of the hotels, he felt that timeshare resorts offered better standards.

Well, we can agree with that, so why did he choose Anfi? As he put it he has a great knowledge of Anfi, having sold so many resale weeks, so when “A fantastic week and apartment became available at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up”. Although we couldn’t help wondering if he would have bought at the ridiculous prices direct from Anfi?

He then goes on with a wonderful sales pitch on how great the place is, the wonderful facilities and the great restaurants, with reasonable prices compared to other 5* resorts. Well sorry Mr Brown, but you can get even better food at even better prices by leaving the resort and heading to some of the local restaurants.

The article then ends with “If this has made you consider Anfi Beach Club, or any of the other Anfi resorts, why not call Gavin himself or one of his colleagues to discuss further”?

Could it be they have that many weeks on their books they need to do a sales drive to get rid of them?

The other point to remember is that when you buy resale you don’t get all the benefits as you would buying direct from Anfi. See the link to the previous article on Resale Vs Direct.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+resale

It has also been announced that ABC Lawyers Ltd, another Mark Rowe company has bought Lansdown Financial Ltd, a claims company registered with the Ministry of Justice. This is another acquisition following that of Tucola Ltd and Justice4 Ltd, Mr Rowe is certainly expanding, the question is why?

After all, his past is not what you could call squeaky clean, there has been a lot in the press and on TV about some of his past enterprises, Monster Credits springs to mind. By purchasing a company already regulated by the MoJ it does save him the problem of applying to the MoJ for authorisation, then having to pass the competence and suitability assessment, which is not a simple task.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481751/CMR_Applications_for_Authorisation_Guidance_WEB.pdf

Going back to Anfi, although the courts are closed during the month of August, some staff are still working and issuing sentence papers from cases heard previously, this particular case was heard on 6 July. The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas awarded the former Anfi member 42,625€, again the infringement of the timeshare law was the length of the contract, being over 50 years in duration. So Anfi, do you continue to deny that you are losing in the courts?

So on with this week’s Letter from America.

Link to Karen’s first report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report

two meeting

By Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator

August 18, 2017

Inside Timeshare encourages its readers to submit positive articles about timeshare experiences, so I was relieved to have attended a positive sales presentation at The Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, the presentation was followed by a less than positive customer service experience.

My Diamond saga began when I purchased a trial Sampler program I had not realized I had purchased until I returned home and saw a $3,995 charge to a Barclaycard. Diamond would not reverse the charge.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to attend a presentation as this is required when purchasing a Sampler. After I returned home from a Branson presentation, I attempted to access Luxury benefits but was denied access. Luxury benefits include luxury hotels, shopping and wine. When I contacted customer services at the Sampler department, asking why I was denied access, the customer service agent put me on hold for a long time while he called Branson. After completing his “investigation” he told me the reason I could not access Luxury benefits is because Branson reported me as a “NO SHOW”!!!

Had it not been for our Diamond Resorts member supported Advocacy Facebook, I probably would not have gotten the sales agent’s name, and I certainly would not have prepared a report.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Admitting deceit it seemed, the customer service agent said, according to the notes during the presentation (he initially said I had not attended), I had told the sales agent TK I had complained about the unauthorized charge to purchase the Sampler. I pointed out that I had used my American Express for all the charges I made at The Suites. Customer service said they will investigate further and get back to me.

Now onto my original article

buttons

Many timeshare companies already have Secret Shopper programs. Still, it doesn’t hurt for timesharing member Secret Shoppers to evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

I guess I am not that secret of a Secret Shopper in that my name is on this article, so I hope the good experience I had at Diamond ResortsThe Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri wasn’t because they were aware of my Timeshare Advocacy Group™ position, Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

My presenter was TK Armstrong. She used to work for Bluegreen but joined Diamond because she said they have more resorts. TK and I talked for about 45 minutes. I went over my Polo Towers experience. She seemed sincerely concerned. She showed me a description of CLARITY™ Diamond’s new Enhanced Quality Assurance program. She was supportive of the program and said she was going to abide by it. She went over the Sampler product I did not realize I purchased until I returned home from Polo Towers. At least I know what I bought now.

We have three new Secret Shoppers. We will not identify them because they are, well, secret. After compiling over 100 complaints from readers who have reached out to Inside Timeshare for assistance, we have determined the most popular complaints involve the following:

  • Maintenance Fee relief program that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • The value of travel awards,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset Maintenance Fees,
  • Stating a lower loan interest rate can be obtained from a bank or credit union in order to escape high timeshare loan interest rates,
  • Oversold availability

We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions that, maybe because of being on vacation brain, people forget to ask. These are questions of course that any timeshare consumer can ask, so we share them with our readers. Transparency, honesty and accuracy are rated on a scale from one to five with a five being the most honest. Results are tabulated quarterly and sent to our team for review. After we complete our pilot program, we hope to submit the data to the respective resort for review.

Suggested Questions

  • May I take notes?

Qualifications

  • How long have you worked at this resort?
  • Have you worked at other resorts?
  • What did you do before you sold timeshare?

Consumer Protections

  • May I call my lawyer to discuss your proposal?
  • May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?
  • Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.

Resale or Exit Program

  • What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
  • If I can sell it, how can I sell it? Who do I call? Can you give me a reference?

Note: Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask about the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the resale market and to see if they will accept a listing for the timeshare you own.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

  • Please show me in the paperwork the cap on maintenance fee increases. How much does a maintenance fee go up on average annually? Does it go up every year?
  • Can you provide a five year history of Maintenance Fee increases?
  • Is there anything I can do to offset Maintenance Fees?
  • If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?
  • Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?
  • If I offset Maintenance Fees with credit card purchases, please provide an example of the value of a $1 purchase and how many purchases it would take to pay off my annual maintenance Fee? (One member reported it would cost over $270,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,700 Maintenance Fee!)
  • Can I rent my timeshare to pay Maintenance Fees?

Travel awards

  • If I can use my points for hotels, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?

Loans

  • Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?
  • How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate?
  • What is the interest and penalty if I miss a payment?

risk

If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item without comparison shopping. Well over half of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received involve high interest rate financing.

We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret. Societal changes are influencing the wants and needs of today’s traveler. Are timeshares more flexible or less if you are locked into usage and maintenance fees increasing annually.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper report. She reported some good and not so good observations. Of merit is the warning to timeshare buyers to take the promise of travel awards a step farther and ask, “At what value?” In general consumers should buy a timeshare for its intended purpose which is to vacation at a resort. Here is Laurie’s report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience. There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ posts information from all sites. Our motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is –

knowledge speaks

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Thanks to Karen for her Secret Shopper part II, also thanks to Irene as usual for the editing and coordination from the other side of the great lake. We have many more articles coming up in the next few weeks with part II of Hug Your Haters and a piece about the Castle Law Group lawsuit with Orange Lake. We will also be having another article from our Antipodean friends from the other side of the world.

So that’s it for this week, have a great weekend and we will be with you next week.

 

 friday dog

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we continue with another chapter from our traveling writer David Franks, this week it is entitled Miami Vise, edited by Irene Parker. But as usual we begin with some news from Europe.

eu news

Back in May Inside Timeshare reported on some very nasty events in Tenerife, this involved the former Wimpy resort Los Claveles, which was subject to a management buyout by Ivan Pengelly in 1998. Over the years the resorts operated by Wimpen (Wimpy Pengelly) had very good relationships with the owners and the owners committee, this all changed when Pengelly sold out to the Ona Group. (see previous articles).

But there may just be a glimmer of hope on the horizon, it was announced this week that the arbitration process has completed and a judgement has been made. It is in total favour of the owners committee, that the Ona Group, Wimpen and the FNTC, are all in the wrong. The owners committee is legally constituted and has all the rights to run the resort. This means everything must be handed over to the committee, that Wimpen (Ona Group) have no right to collect or demand maintenance fees.

It now just needs to be seen if these companies comply with the Arbitrator, if not the committee will then have to resort to the Spanish Courts to enforce the judgement. We wish them all the very best and hope that this sorry tale will be over very soon. More on this as and when new information comes in.

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-return-bad-days-timeshare-tenerife/

http://insidetimeshare.com/los-claveles-battle-goes/

http://insidetimeshare.com/horror-weekend-los-claveles/

Now for some news which is proving to be rather disturbing.

Justice4 the claims company owned by Lee Roy Pallister, which went bust recently but re-emerged as Hello Consulting and Tucola Ltd, with his wife as named director, has been taken over. Could this be good news for all those clients who paid Justice4?

Unfortunately that may not be the case, the take over is by ABC Lawyers, yes, you did read that correctly. Mark Rowe of Monster credits, Hollywood Marketing and Jive Hippo fame is now owner of the former Justice4!

http://insidetimeshare.com/monster-credits-associated-companies-summary/

Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare

The TCA (Timeshare Consumers Association) whole heartedly endorse this, not surprising considering the TCA is also owned by Mark Rowe.

What also has to be remembered is Mark Rowe was at one time a senior sales manager for Resort Properties / Silverpoint under Mark Cushway, now look at the history of that company! Also Lee Roy Pallister is another ex-timeshare salesman. We leave it up to you the reader to decide what the implications of this will be. We think we already know what they are likely to be!

Yesterday Inside Timeshare published an article about Anfi, just after publication, news came in of a sentence which had been issued by the court, it would seem that even though it is August some people are still working.

Another loss for Anfi, at the moment we do not know the infringements ruled upon, but it is more than likely the usual, either perpetuity, floating weeks or points. In this case the ex-member has been awarded 37,224€ plus the legal fees and the court also awarded back all maintenance fees that had been paid.

Do you still believe what Anfi say, that they are not losing any court cases?

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

Our DRI Misadventures

Chapter Four: Miami Vise

miami

By David Franks

August 11, 2017

For background, you might wish to read the first three chapters:

Chapter 1: Vegas, Baby! — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Chapter 2: Missouri Loves Company — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

Chapter 3: Stand Back. These People are Professionals  —http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-12/

(You might not. The annoyance is epical.)

April 2016 arrived. Never mind the showers; my lovely wife and I were going on a Diamond Resorts International Dream Holiday to Miami, Florida and the western Caribbean!

We started the adventure on Tuesday, April 5. I shall note at the outset that it was road and bridge construction, not DRI that turned the drive to the airport into a slightly mobile parking lot.  XNA in Bentonville, Arkansas is a lovely little airport.  It is expensive to fly in and out of XNA, but the cost was covered in the Dream Vacation package.  Score two for DRI.  Keeping their intervention to a minimum works wonders.

We arrived in Miami without incident, unless changing planes at the Houston airport is an incident. We made our way to the Penguin Hotel in Miami Beach, a nice old place on Ocean Drive in the historic South Beach Art Deco District. We had selected the hotel because of its age, and because it was possible (though not easy – see Chapter Three) to get an ocean-view room.

We arrived at the hotel to find that we did not have a room there. Somebody from DRI had decided to “upgrade” us to a brand-new room in the President Villa, a newly-remodeled building. We talked to a couple of hotel managers, met a couple more concierges, and confirmed that our reservation for an ocean-view room was in underlined capital letters in their reservation book.  Having been made aware of their faux pas, the helpful DRI people attempted to mollify us with a $100 certificate for dinner at a rather nice little bistro (double the regular value of $50). We were not mollified, but we accepted the certificate.

Unfortunately, we would not be able to have the favor of their “upgrade” corrected immediately, as there were no rooms available in the Penguin until the next day. So, guided by a helpful DRI minion, we excursed from the Penguin along a dismal alley route to the President Villa, a former office building next to the President Hotel on Collins Avenue. The conversion to residential use was not impressive. Our room was so awkwardly designed as to be uncomfortable; the bathroom would not have been even adequate for a modern resort guest. The ocean view I had struggled to get was of course not available, and the slight smell of fresh paint was no compensation. When we compared the President Villa to the Crescent Resort – and even to the dinged-up but charming Penguin – we felt that we were being treated as second-class guests.

On the other hand, the President Villa – despite its lack of accoutrements consistent with a nice hotel – did offer, under the same roof, exotic car rentals and the services of a psychic/fortuneteller.

gypsy

While we were unable to see the ocean, we were able to see from our window an endless stream of people taking selfies standing next to or sitting in Ferraris and Lamborghinis, presumably with permission.  We declined the opportunity to have a tarot reading, as we already suspected that our future with DRI was not becoming less bleak.

We trundled back over to the Penguin the next morning and took possession of our ocean-view room in time to attend a luncheon provided by DRI prior to a mandatory “buyer update” meeting that afternoon.  The luncheon, set up in the lobby of the Penguin, was actually rather pleasant (DRI managed to not interfere), and we met a few Diamond Resorts members who made a good show of not seeming like victims.

We eight or so members then went next door to the Crescent Resort and up to the penthouse, where over the course of a couple of hours we were told a couple of things that started out interesting but have since turned out to not be true: that, as Gold and Platinum members, we would be receiving a tablet computer preloaded with DRI-related software, which would enhance our owner experience; and that DRI was looking at adjusting maintenance fees based on actual resort usage, which would reduce some members’ fees (“Like ours?” I asked. “Like yours,” they said) because there’s no need to pay so much to maintain facilities one doesn’t use. Oddly enough, they didn’t try to get us to buy more membership, but they did make us stand around on the roof deck for quite some time for no apparent reason.  Particularly given the lack of veracity of the “buyer update”, we would have been better off using the afternoon thus occupied for sightseeing instead.

[Note from Irene: Maybe they read Chapters 1, 2 and 3?]

Our only interaction with a DRI concierge as such was an attempt to find the nearest Walgreens where we could get a prescription filled. He didn’t know, and he guessed wrong.

We had a good time during the remainder of our stay in Miami Beach. We had a nice bus tour, visited Calle Ocho, and enjoyed the meal at the bistro, which ended up costing a little over $100. The Penguin is a perfectly good hotel if your expectations are in line with what an old hotel has to offer. The room was fine – its ocean view was just as good as from a newer hotel – and its cafe provided a good breakfast. As it turned out, we were not charged for the upgrade to an ocean-view room. I hope the Penguin didn’t end up eating a loss caused by DRI’s interference.

group

Important points this week:

  • Although I will not attribute the change in our room reservation to malice or perversity (but what’s left?), I will note that I had explained at some length our interest in the Penguin as a historic hotel as well as our interest in an ocean-view room to everybody I talked to, and our reservation had been emphatically logged.  Calling the change an “upgrade” was a little perverse, however.
  • The Crescent Resort is a DRI property. The Penguin Hotel and the President Hotel are “Club Affiliated” properties.  DRI does not mention the President Villa at all; apparently they prefer to surprise unsuspecting guests with it.
  • Renovation tip: never hire DRI to oversee or approve of a building makeover.
  • Except for the meddling in Miami – which was the only real opportunity DRI had to screw things up –  the Dream Holiday, once underway, went well, despite the fact that it involved a seven-day Carnival cruise (which, apparently amazingly, came with an ocean-view stateroom).  My lovely wife and I thought the Dream Holiday was a good value at 7,500 points, and we saw no need for DRI to misrepresent the potential retail value of the hotel room.
  • Subsequent mentions of the tablet computers and the purported maintenance-fee adjustment to DRI customer service indicated that DRI had never discussed them with the front people at all.  Upon escalating the issues, it turned out that the tablets were supposedly an inducement for brand-new members, rather than an amenity for existing members.  One of the people I talked to said it sounded like I should get a tablet, and he would check into the matter and get back to me. (He never did.)  Based on several reactions at escalated levels of customer service, the supposed maintenance-fee adjustment was a total fabrication.
  • More concierges!  (DRI seems to be a tad lenient in bestowing the title of “concierge”, if my understanding of the office is correct.)

plane

Well, there you have it. David Franks, our intrepid travel writer, is safely back home no doubt planning his next Diamond adventure. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to share your Airbnb, Diamond, Bluegreen or Wyndham travel experiences. Canadian postings tell us Diamond is allowing some users to use their Diamond points to book AirBnb. As they say, if you can’t lick them, join them. More on that as we investigate further.

Contact Inside Timeshare or Diamond and Bluegreen member supported Facebooks if you would like to become an Inside Timeshare contributor.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1718664518412381/

This Bluegreen Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members helping members.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

So there it is, the end to another week, Inside Timeshare again thanks all contributors to the articles, we also thank those who have sent in details on their dealings with some of the companies that have featured. Without that information it would be difficult to give you the facts.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and truthful facts on the murky world of timeshare.

weekend02

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week Eron Grant submits her open letter to ARDA (American Resorts Development Association), for those in Europe that is the RDO. She explains her experience at the hands of a sales agent and asks why does ARDA have a code of ethics if these agents and resorts ignore it? Very good point, the same can be said of the RDO.

First a roundup of this week. For August it has been quite a full week for Inside Timeshare considering that the courts are closed so no news on that front. We began with the ongoing story of the fake law firms in operating out of Tenerife, yes, that family called Litigious Abogados, bit of a sorry story this one.

Unfortunately, the gentleman in question didn’t find our previous story in time, he was totally taken in by the documents and smooth legal talking of this crowd. It began with the usual pitch, that his timeshare company had a case against them ready to go to court and he could be part of it. He duly paid the initial Procurador fees, then a few weeks later he got the great news that he won the case and the court had awarded him thousands in compensation, brilliant!

Now it was only a matter of paying 20% of the award to the tax man to release the money, this done he was told his cheque was on the way. The envelope arrived with the court papers, but no cheque, the envelope had been opened and the cheque missing. After contacting the “Law Firm”, another company contacted him saying the court had appointed them to investigate and get his money back, apparently this Romanian gang had stolen the cheque and cashed it. Don’t worry, we will get the money back from the bank. First you have to pay us 10% of the amount.

Compensation_Cheque-page-001

Then in what can only be described as a further insult to injury, he was told he owed the property tax on a property he owned in Spain, his NIE Number had expired plus he had outstanding fines for a traffic offence. But we can sort this out for you and get the money released, for a fee.

This has lost him thousands of pounds and has caused him great stress. So beware, it may sound good and look genuine, but it rarely is.

On Tuesday, we published the ongoing story of Tauro Beach, the flagship project from Anfi, this time it was a couple of independent research journalists, Anders Lundqvist and Rowan Bauer. In their article, published in the UK paper The Guardian, they investigated the importation of the sand for this man made beach, brought in from the Western Sahara in breach of UN sanctions and European Court of Justice rulings.

This investigation is still underway by various authorities, the main one being SEPRONA, the Nature Protection Service of the Guardia Civil.

Wednesdays article was from Irene Parker on the Welk Resorts case against Timeshare Exit Team. It highlights the dire need for a proper secondary market and a fair exit strategy for those who do not wish to sell.

In this article we opened with news that the TATOC Help Line had closed, we also published a link to a very good in depth report on the importation of sand from Western Sahara and a little of the history from that region. This was written by Ed Timon Editor of The Canary News, an english language newspaper in Gran Canaria.

Yesterdays article was entitled, Loyalty: No Such Thing in Timeshare, in this piece we showed that even old friends will attack each other for your money in this business. It told the story of a company owned by an ex manager of another company, who is now in the business of supposedly claiming compensation against his old employers. Unfortunately, his history and publicity is not as squeaky clean as he would like you to believe, we leave that to your judgement.

So on with this week’s letter.

Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Woman what

Members are beginning to wonder

ARDA’s Answer from ARDA’s website

ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics.

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.

By Eron Grant

August 4, 2017

Part I – My letter to ARDA

Part II – ARDA’s Code of Ethics

Part III – List of Inside Timeshare member articles that question the Code

Mr. Clements, General Counsel and Lobbyist for ARDA,

My husband and I feel we have been deceived by Diamond Resorts International, and ask for your assistance in getting justice for our victimization.

In November of 2016 we stayed in one of DRI’s timeshare resorts in Sedona, AZ through our Interval International membership. While there we attended a DRI sales presentation. The hotel concierge gave our family of 4 a $150 gift card to a local restaurant for our thanksgiving meal, and in return we were to attend a 90-minute sales presentation. The presentation ended up lasting 6 hours, with our sales agent becoming agitated when we said we needed to leave due to my husband’s golf tee time. This violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics of “Information”.

The sales agent, Karen Calvano, empathized with us about our inability to stay in resorts unless located close to home which is in Houston, TX. She said she knew Interval International did not have many resorts in our area, but that DRI had many resorts, and we would certainly be able to find resorts in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. As it turned out, DRI’s resorts in our area are owned by affiliate resorts rather than DRI and costs approximately more points than we were sold. This violates ARDA’s “Exchange Program” in which we were over promised on the likelihood to exchange for Diamond’s inventory in our area.

When I looked on the Diamond member website recently, Diamond’s Great Wolf Lodge affiliate property in Texas was available for 26,911 to 66,467 points. If we multiply 26,911 by 20 cents which is the typical cost of maintenance fees, it would cost $5,382 for a one week stay. Booking.com had the same Family Suite available for the same week for $1,700. This is not an unusual scenario. I have searched various times throughout the year.

We attended DRI’s “Event of a Lifetime” in January, 2017 which we were told was our member orientation. The “orientation” turned into a high pressure sales presentation quickly with misleading information regarding redeeming our points for 30 cents per point if we paid to upgrade our membership to platinum. When my husband, Dr. Mark Grant, asked to see the price per point in writing, the sales agent pointed to his own written notes to show us that it was legitimate. My husband pointed out the documented literature which showed the amount at 10 cents per point, and the salesman quickly dismissed us to the next sales agent.

According to the ARDA Code of Ethics, this sales agent violated the ethics standard of “Avoidance of False and Deceptive Statements”.

Mr. Clements, as you can tell from the brief account I have written, we are in a rough situation with devious minded people who have not followed ARDA’s Code of Ethics, and should therefore be forced to let us out of our contractual agreement.

We appreciate your consideration, and assistance!

Sincerely,

Eron Grant

Response from Diamond

I am responding to your concerns regarding availability in Texas and Louisiana. While Diamond Resorts does not own or manage any properties in these states, we do have affiliate agreements with several resorts. These properties offer us limited inventory each year to offer to our members to book with their points. Inventory is typically limited, and prices are set by the properties themselves, and not by Diamond Resorts. These properties are offered on a first come, first served basis in addition to the Diamond Resorts properties covered under your contract.

Diamond Resorts does offer a property in New Mexico, the Villas de Santa Fe. If you would like assistance booking at this property, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.

My Response

My concerns with Karen Calvano stating “DRI has several resorts in TX, LA, and NM” is that when we asked her to show us the properties she said, “Oh we can’t do that right now, but we can do that later.” After 6 hours of being with her, we were exhausted and never did see the properties.

We explained that we are owners with Marriott and members of Interval International already, so affiliate properties through DRI really don’t help us. Plus, the value of your affiliate properties is ridiculous. How does this help us?

questman1

I would like for Mr. Clements or someone at Diamond to explain to me why this does not meet the definition of White Collar Crime: Deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. In my opinion, there is no doubt what we were offered and what we received meets this definition and violates ARDA’s Code of Ethics.  

Ethics Code of the American Resort Development Association

adopted by the Board of Directors April 7, 2014

  1. General Ethics Standards.  
  1. Disclosure.

With respect to the sale, resale or marketing of a Vacation Interest, the Member shall:

  1. Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer regarding the Vacation Interest and all material terms and conditions of the offer of a Vacation Interest.
  2. Provide fair, meaningful and effective disclosure to the consumer of all material terms and conditions of all other products offered contemporaneously with the Vacation Interest, including exchange programs, incidental benefits, financing, short-term products and exit programs.

The Full Code: http://www.arda.org/ethics/

audience

Note from Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from many angry timeshare members, including Bluegreen members. Here are just a few of the many members who have contacted Inside Timeshare wanting their voices heard.

This is our DRI Advocacy Facebook page which respectable sales agents and corporate personnel are allowed to join. We hope the folks at Diamond, Bluegreen and ARDA will take the time to read member stories. We promise you will learn a lot.

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Member articles

Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-australia-no-read-correctly/

Alan and Debbie Callner

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

Detective Lela Renea a Bluegreen member

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

David Franks Chapter 2 (Chapter 4 upcoming)

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

Karen Garello Secret Shopper June 22, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Romeo and Lily

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

Dr. Jeffries

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-7/

Angela Johnson

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy-group-update/

Neina Orrillo

http://insidetimeshare.com/diamond-in-the-news-again/

Barclaycard and Member stories May 17 2917

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-barlcaycard-us/

Marjorie Menacker

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street-client-experience-diamond/

Eron Grant May 12, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-4/

Nancy Callahan April 24, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

Betty Burmeister and a Filipino Family April 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/anatomy-timeshare-foreclosure/

Laurie Sabbagh Secret Shopper March 17, 2017 Clarity Review

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

A Military Family March 6, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

The Hurleys January 25, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Irina Allen January 13, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

Kathie Old December 6, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/

Wyndham Trish Williams $20 Million Whistleblower Jury Award December 5, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/wyndham-whistleblower-update/

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles November 7, 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

Sylvia Saldana and the Barclaycard October 25, 2016

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

right wrong

Thank you Eron Grant and Irene for this weeks contribution, these are your stories, they are published so you know what is going on in this murky world called timeshare. If you have a story you would like to share or have any comments Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

If you have any questions or even need to know if you are dealing with a possible “scam” company, get in touch with us. Even if we don’t know the answer straight away we know where to look and can point you in the right direction. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry, doing your homework is essential, even more so in today’s timeshare world.

So it only leaves us to say, it’s Friday, have great weekend.

fridaycat

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish an article from one of the Advocates, as usual this has been edited by Irene Parker. First a word from Europe.

The Litigious Abogados family have taken their little scam to a new level, Inside Timeshare was horrified to receive yet another sorry story from a reader who found the articles too late.

In this story he has paid the initial procurator fees, then the “tax” to have the money released from the court. He then received an envelope with the cheque for his compensation, unfortunately it had yet again been opened and the cheque was missing. As usual he then received another letter from another company stating they had been assigned by the courts to investigate this and get his money back from the bank. This cheque had yet again been cashed by a gang of Romanians.

He then paid the 10% of the amount on the cheque to this company, then he receives notification that he has outstanding property tax for a property he owns in Spain, this needs to be paid before the money is released as it is embargoed. He is then informed that his NIE number is out of date and needs to be renewed, they will do it for him for a fee.

The next letter he receives is that he has outstanding fines for a traffic offence!

Very strange indeed, the full story will be published next week, but this does reinforce the fact that before you pay any money, check who they are.

So now on with this week’s article.

A Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Advocate

Offers a Timeshare Industry Analysis

cartoon a

By an Advocate

July 28, 2017

What I have started to think when it comes to timeshare ownership and the future of the industry…

Everyone knows this industry is not well regulated (but obviously needs to be). Some of the actions and activities of individuals and companies that get reported in the timeshare world would result in major fines and possibly prison sentences in other better regulated industries.

It appears the industry has long depended on “self-regulation”. It has not done a great job of that but there have always been just enough companies that seem to try and deliver a quality product and quality customer experience at the same time they balance trying to make a healthy profit.

I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience. I am sure there are other good examples.

In the past, the actions of the bad eggs of the industry (the industry’s worst examples), the negative impact was always minimal and able to be managed before it metastasized. But the potential problem as I see it is that in the last decade it appears what may be described as large predatory financial engineering companies almost “posing” as timeshare companies have risen and aggressively worked every loophole and non-regulation to their own advantage and now are probably guilty of gross violations of their fiduciary responsibility to their customers / owners. These companies have created vast fortunes for a very small network of individuals at the top of the pyramid.

Ironically though, and looking at historical examples from other industries, it is these very companies likely to bring the whole industry into the national spotlight and to its knees eventually. Some of these appear to have walked to the edge of doing that already.

As these quasi financial engineering / timesharing companies become increasingly more brazen in chasing profits by any means possible, raising fees rapidly at the same time they are reducing owner benefits, due to their increased sheer size the public outcry will likely increase and just the odds of random probability suggests there will be a “Gotcha” moment or event that will bring increased scrutiny and increased legislation.

If the good timeshare companies try to ignore what the bad ones are doing, they may find someday that their systems and profits and share prices are negatively impacted by the future regulations forced on the industry from the egregious actions of the bad actors in their industry.

Pharma for example is still dealing with the Turing Pharmaceuticals fallout even now 2 years later, and that fallout will likely not dissipate anytime soon.

This is just my still forming hypothesis. We’ll see.

greed

Thank you to the author of this article and to Irene who did the editing, we also thank all those who read and made comments before it was published.

It just remains for Inside Timeshare to wish you all a very good weekend.

friday-again

 

letter from canada

Friday’s Letter From Canada

Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter From Canada, Inside Timeshare is pleased to give a warm welcome to Club Intrawest Owners Group who have contributed this week’s article. As Usual we start off by looking at the European timeshare scene.

At the moment, which is nothing unusual for this time of year as it is rather quiet, that will change after the summer holidays when the maintenance bills start to arrive. That is when we start to see a lot of new or resurrected bogus companies start to appear.

bogus clipart

On the legal front, the courts in Spain have been very busy, with an almost daily announcement of cases being resolved. At the moment there seem to be two companies in the firing line, Anfi in Gran Canaria and Resort Properties / Silverpoint in Tenerife.

Anfi, which was the dream project of the late Norwegian Bjorn Lyng, who wanted to build a resort which was pure luxury, has for some time been on the receiving end of many claims for breaches of the timeshare law.

Many of these, involve the taking of deposits within the statutory 14 day cooling off period, contracts with a duration of more than 50 years and the floating weeks and points systems.

This week the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas has ruled on two case to the value of 44,131€ and 35,485€ respectively. In both cases the contracts have been declared null & void.

Resort Properties / Silverpoint have also had several rulings against them this week.

The first was at the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, the judge ordered the return of £22,736, this was followed by a Supreme Court ruling with the judge ordering the return of 37,400€.

Tenerife

We then had another Court of First Instance ruling of around 25.000€ and as we go to print our sources in Madrid have informed us of another 3 rulings by the Supreme Court. At the moment we have no idea of the amounts involved, but we do know that all contracts have been declared null & void.

On the fake law firm front, one gentleman has had lucky escape, he received correspondence from Armando Gareca Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family, who we highlighted sometime ago. He received notification to pay the initial procurador fees to get the case into court, but something made him suspicious. He did a search on the internet and found the articles posted on this website about them.

Needless to say he realised he was about to be the victim of an elaborate scam and has not gone ahead. He sent a message of thanks as this has saved him not only a substantial amount of money, but a lot of stress. This does go to show that you must do your homework before engaging with any company, especially if they have contacted you with a story that sounds too good to be true.

homework

Tauro Beach

The Anfi man made beach project.

It has been awhile since we had any news on this sorry subject, so here is the latest.

As we previously reported the beach has been fenced off denying access to the public, with security guards and police removing anyone who entered the beach. Although recently massive crowds have flocked to the area in defiance, a new strategy has now been implemented.

This new move has also had the impact of denying access to the homes of people who live there, all paths and access roads have now been blocked with rocks and other implements. Videos and photographs have been posted on facebook by one resident who has been campaigning against this project from the start and also published in laprovincia a Spanish newspaper.

This is another example of how a timeshare company behaves, not just to it’s own members but to the local community. It is also an example of how elected authorities view the people they are supposed to serve. Please show your support for the people and post your comments on the links.

Follow the links to view the posts from this local resident and the La Provincia newspaper.

http://www.laprovincia.es/gran-canaria/2017/07/20/grupo-anfi-cierra-acceso-playa/961620.html

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1491927374183912

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1492232357486747

Now on with our latest contributors.

Club Intrawest v. Canada

Club Intrawest (Embarc)Timeshare

Must Pay Millions in GST Back Taxes

Following Recent Federal Court of Appeal Decision

gavel

July 21, 2017

On July 11, 2017, In a decision that will likely affect all timeshares and owners of timeshares with properties located in Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the Tax Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Club Intrawest v. Canada. In doing so, the Court of Appeal substituted its own decision to refer GST assessments back to Canada Revenue Agency for reassessment of GST just for services supplied in Canada in relation to vacation homes situated in Canada.  Federal Appeal Court Judges Nadon, Gauthier and Dawson agreed with the Tax Court’s finding that a principal-agent relationship does not exist between the club and its 22,000 members. This decision also confirms that members of Club Intrawest (now re-branded Embarc by Diamond Resorts International (DRI)) do not hold beneficial ownership in the real estate and equipment in vacation home resorts and do not control the Club.  The Court found that members merely own a right of occupancy in exchange for their resort points. This contradicts sales presentations, financial and marketing materials by Intrawest Corporation (“Intrawest”) and now DRI, to the effect that members have beneficial ownership of vacation homes and control the Club through election of the Board of Directors, responsible for managing the Club’s operations.  The ruling will require the club to pay reassessed GST back-taxes for tax years 2002-2007. The GST/HST tax liability for tax years 2008-2016 is unknown at this time.  All timeshare owners with vacation homes in Canada may be impacted by this decision and may also see themselves assessed for back taxes on the supply of services in Canada related to vacation homes situated in Canada.

“Based on a detailed survey answered by more than 400 members, I expect that the majority of our members will be shocked and disappointed that the court found that members have no beneficial ownership in the vacation homes.  About 79% of them remember being told by Intrawest and DRI sales representatives they would own a real estate interest in the resort properties. About 91% of members also remember they were explicitly told that members controlled the Club and that resort properties were vested in a trust for the benefit of members. The Federal Court of Appeal now tells us that no evidence was produced that ownership of these homes has been vested in a trust for the benefit of members”, says Patrick Cormier, Volunteers Team Leader of the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG) a grassroots movement of over 3400 members.  “However, it seems clear that the Intrawest/DRI-dominated Board of Directors anticipated the GST liability all along since it began accumulating a C$14 million reserve from members’ resort fees under a 2011 Board resolution without informing members until the CIOG raised the GST issue with the Board in 2016”.

Club Intrawest was established by Intrawest Corporation in 1993 as a stand-alone not-for-profit Delaware corporation, but with Intrawest in a controlling position. Intrawest ensured they had control of the Club in several ways, including by granting themselves (as “Declarant” member) a 15 times voting power advantage over individual members guaranteeing Intrawest and now DRI, ongoing and complete control over all aspects of the Club.  In addition, Intrawest and now DRI voted in their own employees on the Club’s Board of Directors to maintain a controlling majority on the Board, hired themselves as manager and pay themselves a guaranteed 10 to 15 per cent management fee on all financial transactions.  Club Intrawest (Embarc) members have no control of the club or effective means for recourse, even though members, other than DRI, own 95 per cent of the timeshare points.

About the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG)

The CIOG is a grassroots movement of over 3400 members who are banding together seeking fairness and transparency in their Club’s operation for all 22,000 members.  The CIOG is disputing and challenging unfair actions of Intrawest Corporation, Diamond Resorts International and their domination of the Club’s Board of Directors and Management Company. The CIOG came together as a volunteer group in December 2015, following Intrawest’s announcement of the sale (without member input) of Club Intrawest’s management to DRI. Following the sale, DRI rebranded the club to Embarc and fully controls the not-for-profit timeshare.  For more about the group, visit

www.citheownersgroup.org.

Judgment of Federal Court of Appeal:  see link

http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf/decisions/en/item/232795/index.do

canadian flag

Clearly this is an evolving story. Inside Timeshare will continue to monitor and report ongoing developments.

Other member sponsored Diamond Advocacy groups include:

DRIP launched by over 1,000 British Diamond members

http://drip.enjin.com/

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Group and because timeshare concerns are bigger than any one resort Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Some of the points in this article regarding the judges decisions are very similar to those from the Supreme Court in Spain. Especially on the system of “points”. The Spanish Courts also agree that they are not owners but members with only a right to use, it makes us wonder if the Spanish rulings may have had an effect on this?

Anyway thank you to our Canadian cousins or should we say “Canucks”, we look forward to more contributions from you. Also a great big thanks to Irene who is helping to make this happen. It is through articles like this we make the world smaller and help timeshare owners no matter where they are. So welcome to the global timeshare family from, The Philippines, Australia, USA and Europe. We now need some from South Africa!

Have a good weekend and don’t forget to do your your homework!

weekend cat

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we continue with Chapter Three of David Franks DRI Misadventures, but first more news from Europe.

We started the week with the article about members at Anfi complaining about the lack of availability, trying to book 12 months in advance and still fully booked. It is not just Anfi that we see this problem, it happens at every resort that runs the floating week or points systems, hence the Spanish law making these systems illegal.

Why is there no availability?

The answer is actually very simple, when resorts sold fixed weeks with an apartment number allocated to it, they could only sell 51 weeks in each apartment. Once these had been sold there was nothing left for the sales staff to peddle, the resorts no longer had another source of income other than the maintenance fees. So they came up with points and floating weeks, whereby you became members of a “vacation Club” rather than an owner.

fully booked

In this way they could continue selling, in essence quadrupling their membership base, this also had the effect of increasing the amount of maintenance they receive. The down side is obviously for the members, more members than accommodation or weeks available, do the maths. NO AVAILABILITY!

In our midweek post, Irene Parker explained CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates and how it could work for timeshare. Irene has personal experience of this as she herself was a special advocate. It certainly is something worth looking at.

Once again, we highlighted another “fake law firm”, Amador Ganeca Abogados, another in the list that make up the Litigious Abogados family. As we stated the website was only registered on 16 June, so it is only a month old, yet according to them they have over 15 years presence on the internet!

The “lawyer’s” shown on the website have been used before, names have been changed and even slight differences in spelling, none of them are registered with the bar association and the photo’s can be easily downloaded from sites such as Google images. Just search for lawyers and you will probably find the same pictures!

justice2

It has also been a very busy week in the courts, with another Supreme Court judgement against Resort Properties / Silverpoint being announced, which brings the number against them to eleven.

According to our sources, the courts in Maspalomas have also had a very busy week, the first to be announced was against Puerto Calma Marketing SL & Vista Amadores SL. This was quickly followed by six judgements against Anfi Sales SL. As yet we have not received any copies of the sentences, or the amounts awarded, but all contracts have been declared null & void.

Now on with our Friday’s Letter from America.

Our DRI Misadventures – Chapter Three

Stand Back. These People are Professionals.

customer cartoon

By David Franks

Friday, July 14, 2017

You might wish to read the first two chapters:

Chapter 1: Vegas, Baby! — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/

Chapter 2: Missouri Loves Company — http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-10/

(You might not. They’re pretty harrowing.)

Once we returned from our idyllic ordeal in Branson, and having—I thought—a better idea of our opportunities and obligations as new members starting in 2016, I set about booking the “Dream Vacation” we had selected: four nights in Miami and a seven-night western Caribbean cruise.

It took me relatively few phone calls—but more than I should have needed to make—to discover the following things:

  1. The prompts in the DRI phone routing system are not particularly helpful.
  1. Even people who work in DRI customer service find the phone system and internal organization confusing.
  1. DRI is not consistent about demanding adherence to “what the paper says”.  That is, they will use what the text of contracts, disclosures and descriptions say to limit the traveler, but they allow themselves a fair bit of latitude in holding up their end.  The best way to find out how weaselly their language is is to hear their interpretation of “what the paper says”.

After talking to a relatively small multitude of vacation professionals, I eventually got the “Dream Vacation” booked.  We would stay at the  on April 5,6,7,8 and cruise the week of April 9-16.  As the “Dream Vacation” leaflet features a photo of the front of the Penguin Hotel, which faces the ocean, I asked about upgrading the room from “standard” to “ocean-view”; I was told that I would have to arrange that with the hotel directly. (I understand that this is standard practice, but I started to wonder what all of those concierges we had accumulated in Branson were supposed to do for me.)

By November 16, I had found it necessary to escalate the room upgrade issue, as the Penguin Hotel had not received notice of our booking and I could not yet upgrade our reservation to an ocean-view room, which has limited availability.  I also found in my conversations with the hotel’s reservations desk that the supposed retail value of the “standard room” included in the package is not nearly what the leaflet claimed, even at peak season; indeed, an ocean-view room at peak season cost less than the claimed retail value of a standard room, which has no view at all.  Neither the people I talked to at DRI, nor the hotel staff (including two managers), could help me with this issue for some two weeks longer.  While there were some communications problems within the hotel’s reservation department, it appears that the problem was largely due to DRI’s delay in informing the hotel of our reservation, their unwillingness to deal directly with the hotel regarding the issue, and their convoluted organizational structure.

During my ongoing e-mail correspondence with DRI, one of the people I had corresponded with moved to a new position, and another person had continued the exchange without her own signature.  This caused a jarring change in tone.  At one point, I called M.W., my self-professed concierge in Branson, and he hung up on me.  After some two months—on January 13,2016—I was finally able to get the room upgraded, and I had both DRI and the hotel confirm that I had booked an ocean-view room.  Their trademarked slogan to the contrary, DRI apparently does not love to say “yes”, and despite my (and the hotel’s) problems with their service and procedures, DRI declined the opportunity to pay for the room upgrade.

Scheduling our flight and dealing with cruise details were relatively straightforward, probably because I was working directly with the airline and with Carnival.  The issues I had raised with DRI over the course of almost two months (!) of calls and e-mails were never fully acknowledged or addressed; my various contacts at DRI simply stopped returning my calls and e-mails, offering website links in lieu of transfers or introductions to the proper people.

Board

Important points so far:

  • The retail value of the hotel accommodation was touted as “up to $2,000”.  One of the reservations people (both available hotels used the same reservation desk) assured me that under no possible circumstances did either a “standard” room in either hotel or an ocean-view room at the Penguin ever go for $500 per night.
  • Dream Vacations” cannot be booked five days before or after Presidents’ Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. More often than not, the block around Presidents’ Day blocks Valentine’s Day. According to the reservations department, these blocked holidays are the periods when the retail values of the hotel accommodations are highest—though even then, they didn’t go for $500 per night.
  • The salesman who gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to think of him as my concierge hung up on me the first and only time I called him.
  • The “Diamond Bonus Points” trifold brochure (which is replete with legalese that I was apparently expected to memorize) features a quote, ostensibly from a delighted DRI member: “One of the reasons that we bought with Diamond was mostly for the flexibility … The flexibility is really limitless.” Word to the wise: it isn’t.
  • DRI has trademarked the slogan, “We Love to say Yes™”.  They haven’t said “Yes” to me since we signed the contract.  This is a tragic waste of a trademark.

respect

Inside Timeshare would like to thank David Franks for his article and all those who contributed to previous articles. We also thank those who have supplied information about new companies springing up and the insights into how members feel.

Have a good weekend and beware of any company that promises you anything, check them first, remember doing your homework is vital to save you from being scammed.

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letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome back to Friday’s Letter from America, last week we did change it to Australia to welcome our Aussie contributor Justin Morgan with his first article, which happened to coincide with Irene Parker’s first anniversary. Today we hear from our first Bluegreen owner, who also happens to be a detective in law enforcement, so this proves that all are vulnerable to the smooth talking sales staff.

Irene reported just as we were about to publishing today’s article, that four Diamond Members have been able to resolve their vacation issues this past week. Members tell us they appreciate having a human instead of a department to talk to. Previously members complained of continually having to start over with seemingly endless departments.

We hope other timeshare developers follow suit as timeshare complaints are widespread.

Now we have a look at what is happening in the European world of timeshare.

The National Police in Spain have busted a major scam being run from the Costa del Sol, they raided several premises and homes in the Velez Malaga – Torre del Mar area. Around 40 were detained, they included a husband and wife, son and daughter-in-law, along with it is reported two lawyers. The detained are mainly British, who have run several businesses in the area over a number of years, these targeted mainly British timeshare owners.

Police raid

The scams involved timeshare resales, holiday packages and discount clubs, this has over the years netted millions of pounds, with the police recovering around 100,000€ in cash, expensive watches, jewels and several high end cars.

It is believed the companies, which are well known by Inside Timeshare and other similar sites, are, Halfmoon Holdings, Excalibur Sales & Marketing, Blue Chip and Rosedale Marketing. The only problem is, when one of these raids takes place and they are put out of business, there are many others ready and waiting to fill the gap. No doubt, we will see a series of companies offering to help victims get their money back, for an upfront fee obviously. So readers beware!

Follow the links to read the stories in the UK tabloids.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3952419/dozens-arrested-over-timeshare-scam-that-saw-500-brits-conned-out-of-life-savings-in-multi-million-pound-costa-del-sol-racket/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SprnklrSUNOrganic&UTMX=Editorial%3ATheSun%3ATwImageandlink%3AStatement%3ANews

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/costa-del-sol-cops-uncover-10745713

On the legal front, it looks like those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been busy this week, with several announcements of cases won.

We started the week with a judgement from Tenerife against Resort Properties / Silverpoint followed on Tuesday with news that the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas GC, awarding a client who purchased at Anfi, over 59,000€ with their contract being declared null & void. Once again the court ruled that the contract was longer than the stipulated period of 50 years.

On Wednesday, the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, again found against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, in this case the judge ruled the contract was missing information which is required by law, the period again was longer than the 50 years allowed, plus deposits were taken within the 14 day cooling off period.

The British client will now receive over £14,000 plus legal interest and has had their contract declared null and void.

On Thursday there were two announcements the first from Tenerife, the Chayofa Golf & Tennis Academy, was ruled against by the Court of First Instance, the contracts signed under the company United Sales 1997 Ltd were declared null & void. Again the infringements were the perpetuity contract and the illegal taking of deposits, the client will now receive over £9,000 plus legal interest.

Malaga Court

The second was from the High Court in Malaga, Club la Costa was found guilty with the contract being declared null & void. One of the main aspects of this case is the company is a UK registered Limited one, Club La Costa Leisure Ltd, which was probably an attempt to bypass Spanish law. As we have seen in the past, some companies have used this along with the clause that “this agreement and contract is subject to UK law and the jurisdiction of UK courts”, but it is evident now that this does not wash, if the timeshare was sold and the contract was signed on Spanish territory, then clearly Spanish law will apply.

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

Typically our Inside Timeshare readers don’t contact us to report positive timeshare experiences so our email inbox often looks like the cartoon above. Today we hear from a Bluegreen member who found promises made did not meet what was purchased. Not as familiar with Bluegreen we checked internet sites and determined Bluegreen is a company that could use a customer satisfaction evaluation.  

Bluegreen members can join a member sponsored discussion Facebook consisting of 770 Bluegreen members. More and more timeshare members are launching sites where members can advise other members.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is an umbrella organization consisting of volunteers stretching from the EU to the US and beyond including contributors from the Philippines and Australia. A few complaints have little or no effect, but a volume of complaints, especially directed against individual sales agents, can paint a pattern of deception.

A complaint process has evolved over the past year. Working through resort representatives, volunteer Advocates assist other members as we work through the “3 Rs or F of Timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always serve your best interest. I have not been able to get the $7 donation removed from my account.   
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. Given the CFPB’s diminished capacity, file with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby efforts. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to stop venting and act. This is one example of a military family that was able to resolve their dispute through Timeshare Advocacy Group™ http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/ and a hat’s off this 4th of July week to all those who serve in the military.
  • Last on the list is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation. Tennessee, Colorado, New York and Arizona are four states where Attorneys General have opened timeshare investigations       

law enforcement

Our Bluegreen member complainant works in law enforcement. Lela Renea is a detective appalled that, even though she works in law enforcement, alleges she became the prey.   

Lela purchased 6000 Bluegreen points in Las Vegas March 2015 for $8,200. Lela alleges she was a victim of deceit and bait and switch for the following reasons:

  1. Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  2. Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  3. Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  4. Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  5. Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  6. Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  7. Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

Lela has sent Bluegreen a demand letter requesting a refund. She will be filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies if her demands are not met. Lela will become an Advocate.

Lela’s friend and co-buyer contacted Pinnacle Vacation to do a transfer but Lela is worried Pinnacle may be a scam.

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/bluegreen-vacation-club-c4809.html

lawsuit

The following lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen but was dismissed October 2016. It voices many of Lela’s complaints. Again, the problem is the oral representation clause that timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group has frequently described as “a license to lie”.

The BlueGreen Vacations Timeshare Sales Tactics Class Action Lawsuit is Kyle Miles, et al. v. BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-00937, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The plaintiffs are represented by Todd M. Friedman and Adrian R. Bacon of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman PC.

BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit that accuses the timeshare company of using “hard sell” tactics and misinformation to convince consumers to enter into timeshare contracts.

During the timeshare presentation, the plaintiffs were reportedly informed that, if they were not satisfied with the timeshare contracts BlueGreen was selling, BlueGreen would buy back the contracts.

According to the timeshare class action lawsuit, BlueGreen also misled the presentation attendees by representing that the timeshare contract’s maintenance fees would not increase, when in reality, the maintenance fees increase on an annual basis.

However, the plaintiffs allege that the terms that were actually contained in the timeshare contract are different than the terms promised during the timeshare presentation.

They also claim that they were pressured to open two BlueGreen credit cards and to put the entire $5,000 down payment on the cards.

advo

Our local Florida news station today reported vacation rentals, as opposed to hotel bookings, have increased from 50% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. Our readers continually express disappointment and dismay over what they describe as an escalation in deception and overly aggressive timeshare selling. These are mostly members who were happy with their timeshare until deception set in. We want timeshare to be a healthy and robust industry. If the developers and lobby organizations don’t heed the damage being done by sales agents “pitching heat”, one wonders how the industry can survive in the millennial’s world.

Inside Timeshare thanks Lela for coming forward. We look forward to a new collaborator as a lot of what we do requires the skills of a detective. It did not take long to explain the basis of an IC3.gov complaint to Lela.

So there we have it, another week over in the timeshare world, with some good news for many and the start of a judicial nightmare for others. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who sent in the information which helps to form our articles, again thanks to Irene for editing the US contributions, together we are making a difference.

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