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The Wednesday Post

This week has been a rather quiet week on the legal front, yesterday it was announced that the High Court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife ruled against Resort Properties / Silverpoint yet again. In this case the judge ruled against the points system which the contract contained. The contract was declared null & void with the award of over 44,700€ plus legal interest being made.

As this article was being prepared this latest news came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again it was against the above company Silverpoint. This brings the total against them from this court to 11 rulings. Details at present are not available but the contract was once again declared to be null & void, with the return of over 20,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases as usual were brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, who have now got around 50 rulings from Spain’s highest court. Quite an achievement.

We have also this week received more enquiries about Abogados Amable & Garcia, one of the family of fake law firms which are part of the Litigious Abogados family. Luckily these readers found the article in time and have not parted with any money. It is only a matter of time before a new name appears, so if you have received any correspondence from a law firm in Tenerife which state you can be included in an upcoming trial against your timeshare resort, let us know.

Now on to Wednesday’s article from Irene.

Can the CASA Family Court System Work for Timeshare?

How members helping members can change the timeshare world

hands circle

By Irene Parker

July 12, 2017

Inside Timeshare is honored and proud to be part of a movement. Our Timeshare Advocates deserve a pat on the back as we hear from more and more members either resolving issues concerning their timeshare, so they can continue to use and enjoy their vacation plan, or at least be able to get out from underneath a dream vacation that turned into a financial disaster.

Aristotle Onassis, husband of Jacki O, once said he made the most money on ideas that were very simple – only no one had thought of them before.

Such a plan is logical, effective and offers a cost benefit in that it takes some burden off the courts, the families affected, and most importantly, the trauma and stress resulting when, as NBC Lester Holt described in his Dateline title, “The state steps in”, removing a child or children from their home for often over a year.

Timeshare is not as gut-wrenching as foster care. There is nothing as profound as telling a mom or her children parental rights have been terminated. Money can be replaced, but a child cannot. However, more than once I’ve been told of elderly widows considering suicide because of a vacation plan she could not get rid of and was not able to maintain due to the loss of a spouse. Frantic, desperate, angry, confused and overwhelmed are but a few adjectives that could describe many of the calls coming into Inside Timeshare.

CASA works even better for Timeshare members

Anyone who works for a nonprofit can attest to the challenges of keeping volunteers motivated for an extended period of time. Our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ volunteers are often victims themselves, so we have a built in motivation factor. There is also the empathy and understanding that exists when someone knows exactly what it feels like to be victimized.

casa

What is CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates?

(CASA in some states is called Guardian ad litem)

CASA is a nationwide movement that started in 1977 when a Seattle juvenile court judge launched a program by recruiting court appointed volunteers to advocate on behalf of a child or children in state care. Examining an often convoluted family tree to decipher what went wrong and how to prove a child has been abused or neglected is a daunting task. A CASA volunteer is trained to be a detective of sorts, gathering information from all facets of the child’s life.

After gathering information, the volunteer prepares a court report letting the judge and interested parties know what outcome the child wants to see happen and what the CASA feels should happen. One judge told me she almost always takes the opinion of the CASA over the opposing counsels.

The CASA sticks with the child, interacting with the biological parents, foster parents, social services, schools, therapists and even medical doctors until permanency is  achieved by returning the child to his or her biological parents, or termination of parental rights and hopefully adoption.

It’s not hard to imagine how this process could be applied towards the timeshare member victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. Some timeshare members have multiple contracts that have been purchased over a period of years. It has been helpful to have a volunteer walk that timeshare member back to the beginning to determine, when and where, in the life of the member, did their vacation plan go so wrong.

The most successful outcome is returning a previously happy customer back to the state of mind they were in before they were deceived so that the timeshare company keeps the customer and the customer can again use and enjoy their timeshare as they did before.

Bluegreen members support other members on this Facebook

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

Diamond members support other members on this Facebook

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

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.

A sharing of information from all Facebooks and from non-timeshare owning Advocates, like attorneys who tend to not buy timeshare, is posted on the Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook, administered by Irene Allen.

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

It is hoped there will come a day when timeshare developers recognize that a product only sold through deception and a same day sale might be a product nearing the end of a maturing life cycle. Companies like Disney work hard to protect their brand and Hilton is known for a somewhat consumer friendly secondary market, although several Advocates will take exception to this statement arguing that no timeshare has an adequate secondary market.

Probably the most common comment we at Inside Timeshare hear is, “At least I know I am not alone.” Proactive action, working with a volunteer towards timeshare resolution, relinquishment, refund or even foreclosure, takes the problem from the unknown to the known. Consultants and behind-the-scenes Advocates add an additional layer of advice and protection. One very important consideration is that many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed” deed-back firms that often prey on those already victimized. From this standpoint, the developer, the timeshare lobby, and the members are on the same side.      

Once again thank you to all our Contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

not alone

Inside Timeshare cannot stress enough that doing your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company is paramount. If you need help or advice on how to do this just contact us and we will either find out for you (if we don’t have them on file already), or point you in the right direction.

homework

Since posting it has just been brought to our attention that the Litigious Abogados Family do in fact have a new member, Amador Gameca Abogados, which is a very similar name to a previous article published on 1st June, Armando Gareca Abogados. The website is the same layout as all the others, it even show the same logo a Armando Gareca Abogados. The photos of the lawyers are the same one we have seen on previous incarnations, these you will probably find can be downloaded from the web.

This is their website.

http://amadorganeca.com

So it just goes to show that the above picture is spot on. More on this is it comes in.

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.

weekend

 

july 4 17

Best Wishes on July 4th

Today is a very important day for our friends Across The Great Lake, July 4th, is Independence Day.

So Inside Timeshare (Europe) would like to take this opportunity to wish all our friends and contributors a very happy 4th July, we shall certainly be cracking open a bottle to help you celebrate.

c2

Yesterday, the week started off with another court in Tenerife finding against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, with the Court of First Instance declaring the contract null & void. In this case the CLA clients will receive back 23,150€, in this instance that is 7,000€ more than they originally paid. The infractions for this case are the contract being a perpetuity one, deposits taken on the day of signing and the lack of information required by law.

It is clear that the courts in Spain are enforcing the timeshare laws, as laid down and clarified by the Supreme Court. We are seeing more and more cases with some very large payouts, often more than the client originally paid, showing the courts will penalise resorts and their sales departments for infractions of the law. The most common ones are the taking of deposits within the 14 day cooling off period, even by a third party, which the courts are awarding double. In some cases this period is increased to 90 days if there is a lack of information required by law, which would then allow the courts to award double any payment made in this period.

Unfortunately, due to these rulings there are many companies springing up purporting to be law firms, stating they have won so many cases. Many are offering a no win no fee case, then need to have a substantial payment upfront to start the case. If contacted by one of these companies, check how long they have been in operation, check the dates of company registration (if any) and the date of any website registration. Remember many of these court cases have taken 3 years or more to go through, as they have been subject to appeals at the High Court or sent to the Supreme Court, so any company that has only just “popped up” could not have had these successes.

icalp coat of arms

Check who the lawyers are, what their Bar Registration numbers are, you can check these through the Spanish Bar Association Register. We are also seeing fake court documents, these can be verified with courts themselves, if you are in doubt contact Inside Timeshare and we can check them for you.

Another aspect to many claims companies and the no win no fee claims, is that they will need to “relinquish” your membership first, this is usually for several thousands of pounds. The no win no fee claim is then an attempt to claim under section 75 of the credit consumer act. Now the important thing to remember is if you have used your timeshare, then you have received the goods and services paid for, so there is no claim. The credit consumer act sec 75 does not pay out because the contract is illegal under Spanish law. There is only one way to make a claim and that is using a legitimate law firm with experience in this field and going to litigation.

If you are in any doubt about the authenticity of any company you are dealing with, or the offer sounds too good to be true, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will check them out for you. Remember, better safe than sorry.

homework1

Happy Independence Day and have a great party.

jul4

 

 

start the week

Starting The Week.

We ended last week with a new contributor, Justin Morgan from Australia, along with some of the news from the courts in Spain. In those reports it was mention that the court in Tenerife had found once again against Diamond Resorts contracts. We have been reliably informed of many more cases in the pipeline.

If last week is anything to go by, we are expecting many more sentences being announced over the course of this week. Although, these will be among the last before the annual break in August, where Spain basically shuts down for the month.

Just moving away from Diamond for a change, last October we published an article of a class action lawsuit against Marriott. The case is for alleged “racketeering”, a term we usually associate with the old gangster films depicting the escapades of the likes of Al Capone, not large timeshare and hotel companies.

This the Irene Parker’s update on this story.

The Marriott Racketeering Case – An Update

Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)

Moses

By Irene Parker

Some stories tell themselves

July 3, 2017

Timeshare members find themselves with few friends in Florida state legislative and regulatory circles. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. In addition, a Florida law passed in 2015, making it more difficult to get out of a timeshare contract, sparked outrage among timeshare owners and advocates. I’m told $70 billion a year flows into Florida in timeshare dollars. That kind of money certainly could buy a lot of power and influence.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.htm/

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Paul Brinkmann of The Orlando Sentinel first reported on the Marriott Racketeering case back in May of 2016.

The lawsuit takes aim at Marriott’s points program, which replaced traditional sales of timeshare weeks at specific resorts in 2010. According to the suit, Marriott timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate.

The lawsuit says Marriott timeshare buyers “are being duped into believing they are obtaining title to a real-property interest … when, in fact, they are merely getting a right-to-use license,” the lawsuit says.

Edward Kinney, spokesman for Marriott Vacation Club, said the company will defend itself in court. He said the timeshare industry is highly regulated.

“We sense the people behind this lawsuit have a misunderstanding of how our product works. But we follow every aspect of the state regulatory compliance for vacation ownership sales,” Kinney said. “Everything we do as far as sales are reviewed by the state.”

Fast forward one year later

On May 23, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB-818 which amends Section 721.05(21) of the Timeshare Act by adding a subsection (b) to clarify that, for purposes of a “multisite timeshare plan” (e.g., the MVC Product), an “Interest Holder” does not include any person or entity that has an interest in, or lien on, the underlying condominium or property:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00818/?Tab=BillHistory

Revising the definition of the term “interest holder” to clarify that the term does not include certain parties to a certain multisite timeshare plan; revising requirements for the termination of a timeshare plan; specifying the percentage of votes required to extend the term of a timeshare plan under certain circumstances, etc.

Marriott defendants then submit to the Court

Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS

This Notice is being submitted to alert the Court to a recent amendment (“Amendment”) to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act, Fla. Stat. § 721.01, et seq. (“Timeshare Act”), in further support of the Marriott Defendants’1 and the First American Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss the Complaint (see Doc. Entries 77, 78, and 79, filed September 15, 2016).

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs respond to the request for dismissal (excerpts)

Based on the fact that the FVPTA Amendment (which became effective on May 23, 2017) is so specifically tailored to address a narrow exception pertaining precisely to the particular facts of this case, it is beyond obvious that Defendants (immediately following briefing on the motions to dismiss) railroaded the law through the legislative process.  Defendants’ blatant lobbying effort smacks of impropriety and amounts to an admission that their conduct is not authorized under existing law. Further, it is proof positive that Defendants are willing to use any means possible – including government influence – to mask the unlawfulness of their prior acts.  

Defendants were clever in making sure the FVPTA Amendment was characterized as a remedial “clarification.” Of course, simply calling it a “clarification” does not automatically bestow retroactive application – especially, in this case, where the FVPTA Amendment purports to clarify a long-standing law, enacted over twenty years ago.

An “interest holder” has a legally-binding property interest in the accommodations under the existing law. The definition of accommodation includes timeshare condominiums under the existing law. Fla. Stat. § 721.05(1). Therefore, it would substantively change the existing law to exclude from the definition of encumbrance anything that would be contained in a timeshare condominium declaration.

This makes it clear that the revision was recognized and acknowledged for what it truly is – a substantive change to existing law, creating new categories of exclusions to interest holders and having potential constitutional implications. Nothing in the legislative history, including any staff or committee analysis, provides even marginal support for the conclusion that the legislature intended the FVPTA Amendment to be a mere clarification that would have retroactive application in this case.

Regardless of Legislative Intent, FVPTA Cannot Have Retroactive Application because it will impair Vested Rights in Violation of the Constitution.

scroll

As usual, I contacted timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group for his take on Governor Scott’s legislative prowess. Our Advocacy group of 84 Timeshare Advocates includes 18 attorneys. Timeshare is extremely specialized so we do not suggest any aggrieved timeshare member seek legal advice from any attorney without real estate or timeshare experience. Mike has assisted several timeshare owners needing legal assistance.

According to Mike,

“The constitution of the United States protects US citizens from Ex Post Facto laws, meaning that you cannot take an act and make it criminal after the fact. You can criminalize that action, but you can only do so prospectively because any actor is entitled to notice that this particular act is now a crime. How unfair it would be to be able to punish someone who had no previous warning that a non-criminal act was suddenly and with no advanced warning or notice made criminal?”

“There is no comparable constitutional protection in the civil arena even though the consequences in suddenly and intentionally changing a civil law while a case is pending, and applying the new law retroactively to a set of facts that resulted in extinguishing an existing and viable claim for monetary damages are essentially identical. Imagine how you would feel as the litigant bringing a claim, after hiring an attorney, filing a lawsuit that was meritorious when you filed it, only to have your case dismissed because the rules of the game were changed after you had filed your case?” “How dishonest!”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs continue

On May 16, 2016, the Plaintiffs (represented by Jeffrey Norton and the law firm of Newman Ferrara) filed a class action complaint against Marriott and First American (“Defendants”) that included numerous claims arising out of hundreds of thousands of instances of unlawful conduct, in which Defendants engaged for over seven years, related to the creation and continued sale and operation of the MVC Trust Product.

In December 2016, briefing on Defendants’ motions to dismiss was completed.

On February 9, 2017, SB 818 was introduced. That bill, introduced curiously on the heels of this action and immediately following briefing on the meaning of “interest holder” (a term having a direct impact on Defendants’ racketeering activity), sought to revise the definition of “interest holder” as it applies to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. More specifically, SB 818 aimed to “clarify” that the term “interest holder” excludes certain parties to certain multisite timeshare plans – a uniquely-focused amendment that appears specifically crafted to address claims in this case.

Three months to the day later, SB 818 was presented to Governor Scott for signature.

And, on May 23, 2017, SB 818 was enacted into law (the “FVPTA Amendment”).  Two weeks

later, on June 7, 2017, the Marriott and First American Defendants (the “Defendants”) filed the

Notice to “alert” the court of the FVPTA Amendment and its purported impact on this case.  

It seems obvious that because Defendants could not justify the legality of their conduct under existing law, they endeavored to change the rules. The Notice is tantamount to an admission that Plaintiffs’ claims are meritorious and that Defendants’ conduct violated the laws that actually were in effect during the relevant time period.

This is not the first time Defendants have endeavored to prevent this Court from considering the claims in the Complaint under existing law. Defendants previously filed a borderline frivolous motion seeking to invoke primary jurisdiction in order to refer the matter to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (the “Division”), and a stay of the entire matter pending review by the Division.

(Note from Irene: Maybe that’s because only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints were acted on by the Florida Timeshare Division.)

As argued by Plaintiffs, however, it is abundantly clear that the Division does not have primary jurisdiction over the claims in Complaint (and expressly rejects providing advisory opinions in pending litigation.

Parcels of real property do not simply materialize out of thin air by virtue of a statutory definition and nothing in the construction of a timeshare estate’s definition under Fla. Stat. § 721.05(34) supports Defendants’ preposterous construct.

girl

Whew! That was a lot for the average timeshare member to grasp, but more and more timeshare members are coming forward to learn about what goes on behind the scenes of their dream vacation. Inside Timeshare is hearing from timeshare members on a daily basis crying foul. Thank you to all our 18 attorney advocates as we work together to “take back our vacation” from an industry clearly in need of reform.

Once again Irene explains a difficult subject for us mere mortals in a way that is understood.

Over the weekend Inside Timeshare has received many more stories from some very concerned owners. It certainly looks like the articles we publish are hitting home to many owners, if you have any questions concerns or comments about anything published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

                                                       

 

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, today we publish part two from David Franks, Our Diamond Misadventures. But as usual we start with some news from Europe.

Today there is a Special General Meeting of owners from Anfi, they are being asked to vote for one of three resolutions. These are in order to bring Anfi contracts in line with the laws in Spain, which as we all know are being enforced rigorously by the courts, with almost daily announcements of contracts being declared null & void with all monies returned. As we mentioned in a previous article it is a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

After last weeks article was published there were yet more announcements from the courts, the first was against Palm Oasis (Tasolan SL), with the court declaring the contract null & void with the repayment of 31,577€, a very happy ex-owner indeed.

Then on Friday evening we were informed of another decision from the Court of First Instance against none other than Anfi! The amount awarded is a staggering 59,053€.

So far this week there have been another two against Anfi, another against Palm Oasis (Tasolan SL) and two more from the Tenerife courts against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. So it looks like those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance are flying.

The “fake” law firms from the Litigious Abogados family in Tenerife have another name added, a new Procurador going by the name of Daniel Marco Yariz. This Procurador is working on behalf of Abogados Amable & Garcia who we highlighted in Friday’s Letter from America on 12 May. Their documents to those who are not familiar with them do look genuine, especially those from the “courts”. They certainly are growing, the question is how much money have they managed to swindle from unsuspecting owners? (Search Litigious Abogados for all articles).

One of our regular readers has informed us that he has been banned from the forum timeshare talk, because he posted one of our articles about Mr Mark Rowe. Not surprising really, as it is owned by him. So the question is can you trust this forum?

So, now on with this weeks article from David Franks.

Our Diamond Misadventures

Chapter Two: Missouri Loves Company

By David Franks

travel

June 23, 2017

Once back from our two Vegas experiences – the vacation proper and the DRI ordeal as chronicled here:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-5/ –

my lovely wife and I resumed our mundane lives and occasionally perused the Diamond Resorts material in anticipation of our membership’s becoming active in 2016. After ignoring several email and phone offers for a “free” weekend resort stay, and realizing that a resort stay was inevitable, we decided to give a resort a chance and – God help us – we booked a weekend and the obligatory “New Member orientation presentation lasting approximately 90-120 minutes” at the Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. This would not be too long a drive from our hermitage.

We arrived at the Suites at Fall Creek on Saturday, October 17, 2016. After a check-in that included an introduction to the concierge desk, we deciphered the map they provided and found the two bedroom suite they had hidden at the back of the Suites at Fall Creek property. Though it would pass for nice, with a kitchen I might have been able to get used to during a week’s stay, it wasn’t luxurious, and it didn’t alter our conviction that resort staying is not for us. We went out and drove around for a look at Branson, found a satisfactory restaurant, had an adequate evening meal and found our way back to our pied-a-terre.

We arose early for the 8 a.m. breakfast that was part of the presentation. The dismal breakfast buffet should have served ample warning of what was to come. After that unfortunate incident and being chatted up by friendly salespeople, the group dispersed and my lovely wife and I were ushered into the office of M. W. for our individual “orientation”. He was shocked – shocked! – that M. R. in Las Vegas had sold us such a small membership. He proceeded to tell us what we should have been told in Las Vegas: the membership was too small to accomplish what we wanted. But boy, did he have a way to fix that. (Just think! A tag team that works halfway across the country!) In the face of our complete – and reinforced – lack of interest in resorts, M.K. gave us the same assurances as we had received in Las Vegas: that between Diamond and Interval International we would have access to comprehensive travel services, discounted travel and a 20- or 30-cent point redemption value for all DRI and II services. We mentioned our liking for train travel, and he told us that Diamond was working on an agreement with Amtrak.

In addition to a reprise of the Vegas promises, we were offered the incentive of double bonus points with a purchase, which would put us at Gold membership level for two years so we could really put our membership through its paces. If we still didn’t like what they had to offer at the end of the two years, then we could sell our membership. There was no mention of the particular difficulty of reselling DRI memberships in the secondary market. Having looked at the figures for another assortment of membership packages, membership did not appear to be too good to be true; rather, as presented, it seemed a reasonable value: the redemption value of points at 20 cents was approximately equal to the maintenance fees. We selected a membership that brought us to the Silver level. We were told we would have a 30-cent point redemption value for all services for calendar 2016 and 2017, and 20 cents per point after that. The first two years seemed a good value, but the ability to resell was the clincher.

Among the blandishments proffered was a variety of “Dream Vacations” from which we could select one to try out Diamond’s expert travel service. We selected a Miami-and-cruise vacation for 7,500 points.

About fifteen minutes after filling out credit card applications, my lovely wife and I were each miraculously handed a Diamond Resorts-branded MasterCard issued by Barclaycard US. I say “miraculously” because issuance was based on our assertion as to the value of half of our liquid assets – a figure they could not have verified in the time they took (this was on a Sunday), and a formula I’ve never seen used anywhere else. I guess our credit scores helped. And “miraculous” because the two cards covered the entire remaining cost of the new slab of membership.

Desk

M.K. gave us his personal cell phone number, and told us to think of him as our “concierge” if we ever needed anything – the third concierge we acquired that weekend. He also asked us to give him a good rating with Diamond, as he had never received a complaint from a client. With breakfast, “orientation”, selling, credit card applications, additional enticements, contract paperwork, and being left alone in M.K.’s office for awkward periods, the ordeal took over seven hours.

The next morning we were able to flee the premises with little disruption or delay and enjoy a fine drive home.

Important points so far:

meeting

  • Again, the 20- or 30- cent exchange value of points, for all types of travel, was the only value mentioned in the presentation.
  • Again, convenient, discounted travel was emphasized.
  • Again, the availability and advantage of comprehensive travel service through Interval International was emphasized.
  • The last time I talked to Amtrak, they knew of no arrangement with Diamond Resorts.

∙ ∙ ∙

If you are a Diamond member, here is the link to our Advocacy page on Facebook:

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

advocate 1

Thanks to David for your contribution and also to Irene Parker for the editing, we are certainly getting a great team of contributors together. OK, mainly from across the great lake, if you have a story you would like to share, contribution are welcome.

When we have some news from the Special General Meeting being held by Anfi, we will share that with you. In the meantime have a great weekend.

fridaycat

debt 1

Timeshare Debt: A Growing Problem

Many people have found themselves in financial difficulty due to huge finance agreements sold to them by the timeshare sales staff and the ever increasing maintenance payments. Usually this is down to a change in circumstances, either from illness, loss of a job or a change in jobs resulting in a severe cut in wages.

Some who are in arrears in maintenance have to this stage because they have listened to bad advice, “Just don’t bother paying they won’t do anything, that’s what I did”. Others because they believed their timeshare had been transferred by a company they paid, only to find that either the timeshare resort does not recognise the transfer or it was never done.

Those who were taken in by Incentive Leisure Group and Designer Way Vacation Club are all too familiar with this scenario.

Timeshare companies will sell the debt to a collecting agency, they will hound you and threaten court action, which is why many end up paying it.

In this article from Irene Parker she explains the problems in the US, it may just sound very familiar to our readers in the UK.

Timeshare Debt Collection

Life after Foreclosure

foreclosure

By Irene Parker

May 30, 2017

The flood of Inside Timeshare reader responses concerning timeshares and what to do when your resort denies your release, request for refund, or loan cancellation has been eye-opening. We have heard from a surprising number of timeshare members in their 60s and 70s with high US credit scores around 800 considering foreclosure for the first time in their life.

Out of 58 formal complaints and request for relinquishments filed in the US and EU, 42 allege they were victims of deceit and bait and switch. The remaining 16 requested relinquishment. Voluntary surrenders or “take back” programs are evaluated case by case. Some of the 42 members were offered surrenders but could not tolerate the non-disclosure agreement, especially the clause that states the member cannot say anything negative about the company. They wanted refunds if they felt they were deceived or a victim of a bait and switch.

We should not harp on the elderly being targeted. At least a third of the approximately 80 timeshare members who have contacted Inside Timeshare are 40 years old or younger. The youngest was 19 and pregnant when she signed a timeshare contract after a six hour presentation.

Continuing on after the 3Rs or F of timeshare we previously reported on –

Resolution

Relinquishment

Refund

Foreclosure

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

We move on to the cheerful calls from the debt collectors and what happens during the foreclosure period. The shortest timeshare debt collection period seems to be 60 to 90 days and the longest 180 days. If a timeshare company is worried about reporting a high default rate to the investment community, one way to lower that statistic is by lengthening the debt collection period.

It’s been surprising to learn how many of those in timeshare trouble are financing a vacation at a 12% to 19% interest rate. The emphasis in a sales presentation is on the low monthly payment. If someone does think to ask, “At what interest rate?” typically the answer is, as in the sales presentation I attended, “Don’t worry, when you get home you can get a home equity loan.”

An instant credit card is often used to finance the timeshare down payment. When you buy a house, there’s a reason why banks won’t let you borrow the down payment. That reason doesn’t go away when you buy a timeshare for $20,000 to sometimes over $100,000, but credit card companies and lending laws have helpfully aided and abetted timeshare lending.

I have come to the conclusion placing credit card applications in the hands of a thousand timeshare sales agents is like sending a thousand three years olds into Toys R Us unsupervised. Inside Timeshare has published several timeshare lending “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles. There have been so many it has turned into something of a series authored by our readers.

Once again, I turned to the Finn Law Group Learning Center to better understand timeshare debt collection.

Timeshare attorney Mike Finn agreed with my assessment concerning overzealous timeshare lending cramming third party loans into the deal. “An additional point to be made in this regard is that their efforts are contrary to Federal law (Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which requires the new debtor to receive in writing PRIOR to the loan being funded a written summary disclosure statement summarizing the deal points. This procedure is never ever followed by the timeshare industry and why the practice is permitted is beyond my grasp.”

        http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/can-a-timeshare-hurt-my-credit-score

“Timeshare buyers need to think beyond the down payment and loan payments. “Maintenance fee rates may far exceed the annualized cost of inflation,” Mike added.

“To make matters worse, resorts sometimes categorize timeshare loans as “mortgages”.” What this means is that if you stop making payments on your loan, it may be reported to the credit bureaus as a mortgage foreclosure. Many resorts try to pick the category that does the most damage to the consumer.

Finn Law Group helped timeshare owners settle a class action lawsuit against Bluegreen Corporation. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and Equifax Information Services, LLC in Best and Snapp, et al. v. Bluegreen Corp., et al.

The plaintiffs alleged that when they were delinquent, Bluegreen sent a series of letters advising them that they were terminated from the Bluegreen Vacation Club and the status of their accounts may be reported as foreclosures to the credit agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida debt collection laws. While the companies did not admit liability, the more harmful “foreclosure” category was deleted from over 11,000 individuals’ credit reports, replaced with the less damaging “settled for less”.

First and foremost, avoid timeshare transfer agents offering a “guaranteed” release in exchange for an upfront fee which can easily run into the thousands. Our previous interview interviewing an HOA Collection agent tells why.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

Consumers need to be wary of television celebrities like popular financial expert Dave Ramsey, paid to endorse timeshare transfer companies with lofty sounding names. Some of these transfer agents may be legitimate, but heed the warning of our HOA collection agent above. Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, also explains why:

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

According to Mike Finn, bankruptcy is a worst case solution.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/mortgage-after-bankruptcy-timeshare

“Timeshare consumers can face a steep financial burden which can lead to a ruined credit score, and, in some cases, the need to file for bankruptcy. For more on the complexities of what happens to your timeshare and timeshare debt in bankruptcy, we encourage you to read on over at NOLO or The Bankruptcy Site,” said Mike.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/can-timeshare-be-foreclosed-nonpayment-fees-assessments.html

“Failure to pay timeshare loans before bankruptcy can be reported to credit bureaus as delinquencies or even foreclosures, both of which can negatively impact your credit and make it extremely difficult to secure the 580 credit score that the FHA requires for its low down payment advantage.”

So if you are in this situation, what’s next? What can I do to save my credit score?

chains

Sun Trust Bank offers these words of hope and encouragement

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/real-estate/debt-collector-demands-huge-fees-on-past-due-time-share.aspx

“Now, if you were deceived or otherwise legally abused in the purchase, you can file a complaint against the seller. Each state has a different process so you’ll have to contact your state’s attorney general to determine the jurisdiction. Have a narrative of your complaint and a copy of your contract when filing. The agency will contact you if it finds a valid violation of real estate statutes (or sometimes banking statutes), especially if it involves deceptive sales practices. Collectors must legally back off in such under-dispute cases, though many don’t.”

“By the way, consumer complaints about abusive debt collectors have nearly tripled in less than a decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re exceeded only by identity-theft cases, says the FTC, which has sued about 200 collection companies since 2010. Many have been banned from doing business. “

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this helpful advice concerning what a debt collector can and cannot do.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/329/are-there-laws-that-limit-what-debt-collectors-can-say-or-do.html

consumer

Our Advocates are here for you if you are concerned about your timeshare. By accumulating a volume of timeshare accountings, we can better recognize patterns of deceptive and predatory lending practices. The following Facebook was launched by Diamond Resorts members working with the company to resolve member issues.

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

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

Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for this insight into the problems of debt and also Mike Finn if the Finn Law Group for his legal contribution.

As for the goings on at Los Claveles, there is at present no confirmed news about Carol Parkinson the Owners Committee President, when we get confirmation of what is happening we will publish here.

If you have any comments about any article published we would like to hear from you, your contributions are welcome. Also if you require any information about any company that you have had contact with, but are unsure how to check them, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

Angel & Devil

TATOC: The Fallen Angel of Timeshare.

TESS has published the court judgement in the case they brought against TATOC and Harry Taylor, this follows the publication by TATOC remarks made about TESS.

tess

Judgement against TATOC

TATOC accused TESS of running a cold call campaign and calling them a “scam” company, this verdict is very damaging for Harry Taylor and TATOC, which we know has now gone into administration.

tatoc logo

The trial took place at the Liverpool Civil and Family Court on 15 May 2017, the defendant Harry Taylor did not attend.

The court were satisfied that liability was established and that s1 Defamation Act 2013 test had been met. The court ordered the following:

  1. Judgement be entered for the Claimant.
  2. The Claimant is awarded:
  1. £75,000 by way of general damages to be payable forthwith;
  2. £100,000 by way of special damages to be payable forthwith;

The Defendant shall pay the claimant’s costs of and occasioned by the claim summarily assessed in the sum of £100,000 forthwith.

The court also stated that if the defendant disobeys the order they would be held in contempt of court and may be fined or have their assets seized.

So a very expensive day for TATOC. Well they did ask for it.

On Tuesday 16 May TATOC posted on FacebookTimeshare Association (Timeshare Owners and Committees) (“TATOC”) and its Chief Executive, Harry Taylor, have been subjected to many unfounded allegations in the social media and elsewhere to which neither TATOC nor Harry Taylor have responded, concentrating on the core business of TATOC which is to represent and protect the interests of timeshares and committees”.

Harry Taylor
HARRY TAYLOR

https://www.facebook.com/TheTimeshareAssociationTATOC/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

This author posted several comments, which began a string of other comments, for some reason it is no longer on there, the only comment is from someone who say they met Harry and found him a gentleman, with Harry thanking him for his kind words!

This author stated that Harry Taylor was a former Director at Diamond Resorts European Collection Limited, his reply was he was never a director. Well according to company house records there was a Henry Taylor, along with the same birthday as Harry, could it be a twin brother? I think not, after all Prince Henry Windsor, is known as Prince Harry!

Henry Taylor
His Twin Brother HENRY TAYLOR

Then when we look at the director records of company house it lists Harry Taylor’s directorships, lo and behold Diamond Resorts European Collection Limited is listed along with his others including TATOC.

So apart from duping The House of Lords, Parliament, the EU, Citizens Advice and others into believing that he and TATOC are or rather were, the VOX POPULI of timeshare owners he denies the recorded fact he is listed as a Diamond director.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/MRMXHV_gMruFstqlmrHwElEOnj0/appointments

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/02930567/officers

So who do you believe?

The author also asked if Harry Taylor was such a champion of timeshare owners, why did he back MacDonald Resorts to the hilt when they “forced” fixed week owners into their points system, saying that it was the best thing they good do and it would be better for them?

Well we all know about MacDonald’s, this company has not been a member of the RDO since 2005, yet were a staunch supporter of Harry Taylor and TATOC. I leave it to you to decide why?

MacDonalds are one of the downright ugly as the late Sandy Grey would say in his piece “The good, the bad and the ugly of timeshare”.

Ugly is not really a word I would use, despicable is more like it with a few profanities thrown in. After all Inside Timeshare has been highlighting a case of an 87 year old lady who is house bound and being chased for maintenance she does not owe. This has been passed to debt collecting agency, Network Credit Services in Scotland and they are threatening to take her to court.

So that is that, if they don’t pay what the court has ordered, which given their present financial difficulties, could we see Harry and the other directors losing their personal assets?

siezed

Inside Timeshare looks forward to the next episode of TATOC: The Fallen Angel of Timeshare.

We welcome your views and comments, so do get in touch and share with the rest of the timeshare community who have been misled over the years.

 

birthday

Welcome to Monday and a Happy Birthday to the National Timeshare Owners Association

Welcome to our Monday article, we start with some news from Europe, Canarian Legal Alliance has been at it again. More news from the courts in Tenerife finding for CLA clients against Silverpoint.

On 2 May, the judge presiding over The Court of First Instance No 5, ruled the contract these clients had contained several infringements and declared the contract null & void. The judge also ruled they should be awarded over £25,957.79 plus the return of their legal fees and legal interest. In this case the main infringement was the floating weeks. The Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98 was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court, a timeshare contract must include a specific date, location and period.

The following day, the same court declared yet another contract from Silverpoint illegal under law 42/98, this infringed the length of the contract. The Supreme Court on numerous occasions have stated that under the law no contract can be over 50 years. The judge in this case again declared the contract null & void, ordering Silverpoint to return over £8,856.71 plus legal fees and legal interest to the client.

Canarian Legal Alliance also received a visit from the Kavli Family, who had their Anfi contract declared null & void awarded back over 39,413€ plus legal interest. Their visit while enjoying a relaxing holiday was to thank the entire team at CLA for all the work they put in to resolve their situation.

Kavli

On another note, this weekend saw the awards presentation of the Canary News Business Awards. Canarian Legal Alliance won the the award in the Service Category, with the Head of Operations, Csilla Nazali being awarded Business Person of the year, this was accepted on behalf of the entire CLA Team. So congratulations to them.

It would also appear that our “Fake Law Firm” the Litigious Abogados family have a new member, Abogados Amable & Garcia. The website is very much like all the others, accept they have a few new photo’s of “Lawyers” with some new names: Juan Hernandez Amable, Armando Ignacio Garcia and Ramon Quemon Cremul. These have not been traced on any Bar Association register. Even the logo on the website is a rehash of the Abel Garcia one. More on this as the information starts to come in.

abogadosamablegarcia-amable-garcia-logo

So on we go with the NTOA article, this follows the news that TATOC, the association that is supposed to represent owners committees, is going into administration. As you will see from the article, there is a difference between the two organisations. The NTOA is independent of the industry, whereas TATOC was funded and run by the industry for the benefit of the industry and not you the owner’s / members. After all we know that Harry Taylor took up his position with TATOC while still a senior figure with Diamond Resorts Europe. We also know he supported MacDonald Resorts to the hilt against owners, when MacDonald’s decided to remove all fixed week owners and replace them with a points system, legal action on this is still ongoing. Somehow we think that is a conflict of interest and not conducive to being “independent”.

stop press 1
Just before publishing today’s article, ARDA once again unleashed its powerful propaganda arm in retaliation against Don and Irene’s FOX Property Man interview with Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi. This was Don and Irene’s attempt to warn the public about Diamond Resorts points not being able to be listed with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. A timeshare member can list any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts with any of the 64 members of the LTRBA. The members feel the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points are more onerous than any of the major timeshares they do list.  

You decide the merit and purpose of this interview. The industry continues to ignore the secondary market preferring to promote surrender programs. While the elderly are often mentioned, many young families who feel they were defrauded on the front end of the timeshare purchase have reached out to Inside Timeshare to let their voices be heard.

http://wjla.com/features/7-on-your-side/7-on-your-side-uncovers-the-smart-way-to-break-away-from-your-timeshare

One of the many Diamond Advocates has reached out to the ABC reporter to offer a 101 in Truth. Why Diamond will not loosen its restrictions so that a member can actually sell their timeshare is a mystery.

Our National Timeshare Owners Association 20th Anniversary

NTOA – A Timeshare Member’s Only Voice

Lobbying

By Charles Thomas and Irene Parker

May 8, 2017

European timeshare member lobby efforts are in a state of upheaval due to the bankruptcy of TATOC. It is not always easy to determine if an organization is on the side of the timeshare member or on the side of the developer. One thing is clear. The timeshare developer is not on the side of the member when the interest of the member is at odds with the developer.

The National Timeshare Owners Association in the US is one timeshare member/owner organization unquestionably on the side of the owner or member. As the industry moves towards points, timeshare buyers don’t “buy” or “own” anything. I will use “member” from now on when referring to timeshare purchases.

Timeshares today are mostly a “right-to-use” program. Buyers “join” the program. Unlike a country club that charges a nominal initiation fee upon joining, a timeshare purchased directly from a developer usually involves an initial outlay of $25,000 to over $100,000. Unlike a country club, you can’t cancel at whim.

Signing a perpetual contract without a secondary market, or a limited secondary market at best, has given rise to a robust transfer agent scam industry and has been a boon for timeshare lawyers assisting those sold by “deceit, concealment or bait and switch”, defined by the FBI as White Collar Crime. There have been numerous lawsuits.

Timeshare developers have been unwilling to address the need for a secondary market, preferring to focus on voluntary surrender programs, which are not guaranteed. Often members must grovel before the developer seeking release from a timeshare they no longer need or want.

This unwillingness to allow a legitimate secondary market could lead to the industry’s demise. As one member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association told me, “Many of the calls to our office begin with – my parents got roped into this timeshare.”

Timeshare has had its share of ups and downs over the years. My husband and I bought our first timeshare in 1984, so we have ridden the waves. Never have I seen such an upswing in predatory lending and aggressive strong arm selling tactics. Never before has there been such a need for an organization that truly and purely is on the side of the timeshare member.

I asked Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association to describe the organization in a nutshell.

NTOA is a source of real and unbiased information and education. Over the organization’s 20 year history in the timeshare community, we have seen many ownership programs develop and later change. For example, developers have been converting to points programs from deeded intervals for several years. There are other major changes happening in vacation ownership and often owners are not keeping up with those changes. Our role is to help educate those owners (our NTOA members), assisting them to better understand their current ownership benefits”.

“Advocacy is another area we focus a lot of attention on in the United States, Canada and now Mexico. We work with law enforcement, regulators, legislators and attorneys, assisting in consumer protection and again educating all stakeholders on various threats to consumers that exist in the marketplace”.

“Finally we do everything we can to encourage owners to get the most beneficial interest out of their Vacation Ownership. As timeshare owners ourselves, we feel these are the three areas that owners typically seek knowledge and support from us.”

gregcrist600
Greg Crist: CEO NTOA

Inside Timeshare previously published an article about NTOA’s efforts chasing fraudulent timeshare transfer agents caused by the limited secondary market. This is one area the NTOA and the timeshare developer lobby organization ARDA share a common interest. As NTOA works so much behind the scenes, many timeshare members are not even aware of the organization’s existence.

We hope that will change as we launch a membership drive.

Here is one example of how NTOA worked with Eagle Crest in Oregon to stop this particular timeshare transfer fraud.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

As to the demise of TATOC in Europe, Greg expressed some dismay over the demise of this organization.

“The NTOA has worked with TATOC in identifying a number of rogue resale and secondary market companies over the past several years. To that end, our staff has shared intelligence and best practices for consumers and for foreign purchasers of timeshare intervals. We have always considered TATOC a partner in the war on resale fraud.”

I posed the following questions to Greg:

What can a timeshare member do to promote legislative changes to reduce the volume of complaints about aggressive selling and predatory lending?

Greg: The various state legislative processes are often fast moving and difficult to keep up with. Having success in this area requires a grassroots effort in states where owners reside. The optics that many legislators have is that our owners/members are not voters in the states where industry lobbying is prominent. We have to change that perspective so that elected officials are more receptive to the voices of owners.

What is NTOA’s three to five year plan?

Greg: NTOA is in the final leg of its expansion plan in North America. We have been working in Canada for the last three years and began working in Mexico in 2016. This year, we are participating in two industry conferences in Mexico and intend to have a consistent presence there going forward.

To accomplish this part of our mission, we rely on close relationships with other associations in those countries. This includes the CVOA, CARE, ASUDESTICO and ACLUVAQ. In working with partners, we can not only better assist our members/owners but also promote regional tourism as well.

Is there anything NTOA can do to promote a legitimate secondary market?

Greg: The secondary market is a very complicated problem and no one-size fits all solution will work. The NTOA is working with the C.A.R.E. resale task force to develop a better understanding of the barriers, challenges and opportunities for owners and HOA’s.

When you support the NTOA, you are supporting the only recognized independent association in North America supporting timeshare owners.

ntoa-logo

Timeshare Advocacy needs more member voices. We look forward to hearing from you. For more information about how to join NTOA, here is their website.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

NTOA has assisted many of our Inside Timeshare readers through member supported advocacy groups. We have several upcoming articles contributed by timeshare members reaching out to the general public and to current members by sharing their story hoping to promote increased awareness.

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy is one Advocacy Group Inside Timeshare supports. We hope other timeshare member groups join the cause.

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

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

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.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Greg Crist, CEO of the NTOA for his contribution to this article, as usual Irene has done a superb job of conducting the interview.

We would also welcome any views or comments on any article published, it is your voice, use it.

your voice

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Another week over and another Friday Letter From America from our intrepid travelling writer Irene Parker.

Before we go to Irene’s article, a little news from Europe, we begin with the never ending successes of the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, we begin with an announcement  which came in after publishing last friday’s letter. The Court of First Instance N1 in Arona Tenerife found for the CLA client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void, this was on the basis it was for floating weeks.

CLA Logo

These contracts according to the Supreme Court are illegal, under law 42/98, the contract must specify a week, date and location. The judge in the case at Arona awarded the client the return of 26,000€ plus legal interest.

On Tuesday 25 April Anfi was on the receiving end of another judgement at the Court of First Instance N5 in San Bartelomé de Tirajana. In this ruling the Judge found for the clients on two infringements of the timeshare law:

  • Contract is over 50 years in duration (perpetuity);
  • It contained floating weeks.

Again the contract was declared null and void and the client will receive 39,413€ plus legal interest.

On Wednesday 26 April the Court of First Instance N5 in Arona found once again for the client against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this case the client has been awarded over £25,957 plus legal interest, for a contract which was for a duration of over 50 years (perpetuity).

Yesterday Thursday 27 April, CLA announce another First Instance ruling against Anfi, for a contract over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of a deposit within the stipulated 14 cooling off period. Over £37,913 plus legal interest was awarded back to this client along with the contract being declared null and void.

It is certainly a case of the lower courts adhering to the ruling laid down by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, it leaves no doubt as to the illegality of many of these contracts with case after case being won, leaving many happy ex-owners timeshare free and reimbursed with money paid.

Inside Timeshare again this week published the latest in the saga of the “fake law firm” in Tenerife, Abel Garcia Abogados, one of the many in the Litigious Abogados family. This time one lucky gentleman decided to do an internet search of this “firm”, he came across our previous articles and contacted Inside Timeshare for clarification. This has saved him from losing thousands of pounds, he also provided Inside Timeshare with the letters documents and emails he received, these have been passed to our lawyers to be included in the denuncia to the Guardia Civil.

Another “firm” was also highlighted, FHA Marketing. Very little is known about this one as there are no entries at company house and their website registrant is hiding behind a privacy service, so it is not known who is behind them. One thing is for certain they haven’t got all their facts right.

So now onto the “Travelling Writers” article.

A Reader’s Response to Nancy Callahan and our Experience at Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links

guitar

By Irene Parker

April 28, 2017

One of our readers emailed us with a sophisticated comment in response to our article about Nancy Callahan’s extraordinary experience, unaware she and her husband had acquired a $143,000 loan to purchase 50,000 Diamond vacation points. Our reader’s comment is kind of heavy, so I’ll start by sharing our more light-hearted Friday, end of the work week comment about our Diamond Resorts, Scottsdale Links experience, post Clarity.

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

We checked into Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links in Arizona a few nights ago. Our unit is spacious and clean. We found good value using our Diamond points in that we used 6000 points to stay two weeks at a Sedona Diamond property as well. It’s surprising how many timeshare members don’t think about timeshare math, converting maintenance fees dollars into equivalent real dollars in order to make a comparison as to whether it would be less expensive to book online.

Sometimes it is more expensive to use points, but in this case, $.23 per point in maintenance fees times 6000 points equates $1,380 for two weeks or $98 per night. Online the cost was $112 per night for a one bedroom unit, but there was also a $13 per night fee and a 13% tax so we are way ahead. Of course, the initial amount we spent purchasing our points is not factored in. The older you are the less advantage buying a timeshare, as there is less time to make up that initial outlay.

We are not asked to attend sales presentations. It takes some convincing, but you can request that your name be taken off the prospect list.

Diamond’s new Clarity program is about accountability and transparency and respect for the customer. The program was recently launched in response to the Arizona Attorney General issuing an “Assurance of Discontinuance” which includes a toning down of the aggressive nature of the sales presentation and, most importantly, requires the sales agent not to deviate from printed sales material.

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resort/

Diamond is certainly not alone among their industry peers in needing to improve the integrity and honesty of a timeshare sales presentation. In the case of Nancy Callahan, the agent went pretty far afield of actual policy, as explained by our reader.

I found only one lapse in transparency at Scottsdale Links. Of all places, it occurred at the activity center! I had asked activity representative Brandy if there were any good activities this week. “You’re in luck!” said Brandy. “We have a cowboy guitarist and singer tonight”.

The cowboy singer was Wally Bornmann. Wally started his performance singing Cowboy songs by composers no one, out east anyway, would ever recognize and worked his way up to Gene Autry. He peppered his songs with cowboy stories like when Gene Autry paid $5 for the lyrics of a song when he was traveling cross country that became famous. “It may not sound like a lot, but at $1.67 a mile, it wasn’t bad pay at the time,” explained Wally.

“Do cowboys use Facebook?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Wally.

“Aren’t you a cowboy?”

“No”, said Wally. “I know a lot of cowboys, but I would be at best a cowboy looking in. I have great respect for the work a cowboy does. Only Diamond Resorts calls me a cowboy.”

As a Diamond Resorts member Advocate, I reported this lapse in transparency to Brandy.

“Wally isn’t a cowboy,” I explained. “There’s no need to call Wally a cowboy”. What Wally is, is a gifted “Cowboy Song Artist and Exceptional Storyteller.” Wally played a song he wrote that made me cry, ‘Till Morning Comes Again”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XBdDT-GiU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVzayDyZo4

Fishin’ for Chickens was written by Hobo Jim, the Official Hobo of Alaska!

We have a lot of European readers. Arizona is a real special state that is now more Diamond member friendly thanks to Clarity. Next time our overseas friends hop over the pond, consider Scottsdale Links in Scottsdale and then head up to Red Rock Country in Sedona just south of the Grand Canyon. It’s our favorite place to hike.

The moral of my story is that Diamond has a product and if sales agents would stop overstating availability, understating maintenance fees and loosen the restrictions on secondary points so an owner could sell the darn thing if they had to, through a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, members would stop complaining so much.

Now on to our Reader’s Response

group table

It is very disconcerting to see that the unfair, unethical and misleading business practices described by these Diamond members’ experiences are not isolated incidents. It is clear that it has become endemic of the entire accepted Diamond sales process, as well as with other timeshare companies.

The misrepresentation of the ‘Legacy’ program as a ‘resale’ option when it is merely a way to ‘share’ a block of points with other family members, the embellishment of the value of points earned through the Barclay Credit Card, including how many points are actually earned, what they may be redeemed for (for example, NONE of the down payment for the purchase qualifies) and the false representation of the amount that may be applied to the maintenance fee.

In addition, the common representation that points have a “Currency Redemption Value” is being made by every ‘successful’ Diamond Sales Agent and is expected by the managers of the business unit. Basically, the actual benefit described in the Member Directory allows a member to redeem “up to 30%” of annual points towards, “up to 30%” discount on travel rewards.

Specific rewards have their own restrictions, limitations, terms and conditions however; what the sales reps are telling customers is that they may redeem their points for .30¢ per point. They tell customers that using this formula that with 50,000 points they can get $15,000 back EVERY YEAR! They use this to upsell, as with these unsuspecting customers in this article; that they will be able to pay ALL their maintenance fees and costs and that actually buying more will cost them less.

It would be bad enough if this were a case of a few outlaw sales reps pitching heat, however; this is encouraged by the industry. Sales agents are coached and compelled to present the product this way and reprimanded, ostracized and eventually terminated for NOT ‘going along with the program’.

Accurately presenting the product leads to lies being discovered by the customers that they were ‘pitching this heat’. It is absolutely disgusting to me that a product that promises to deliver quality family vacation experiences is sold with such reprehensible disdain for honesty and integrity.

Inside Timeshare wants to thank our industry insider for explaining what the Legacy program is and what it is not. Sometimes we hear so many versions of a program we don’t know what to believe.

honest

If you have a question or concerns about Diamond Resorts or any timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

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/

So there we are, another week over and more news from the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any comments or question about any of the articles published or have been contacted by any company highlighted, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and to Irene, enjoy your vacation.

weekend02

 

globe flags 2

Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure

Inside Timeshare today publishes another article by Irene Parker our US writer, she today highlights the plight of a Filipino family who have had a bad experience with pressure sales tactics. It is not an uncommon story, we have seen this all too often, the falsehoods told by some sales agents just to secure a sale, “you need to buy more points or lose what you have”.

This particular story is being translated into Tagalog, the Philippine language to be submitted for publication in the Philippines, also for publication in the Californian Filipino Press. We are also waiting for a contributor from Australia to submit his comments on timeshare “down under” to Irene, this is taking Inside Timeshare onto a worldwide stage.

As one of our regular US readers told Irene, Inside Timeshare is probably the first international timeshare publication that he has ever known. We know from some of the emails received, we are read all over the world, the news and views we publish are relevant and of interest to all timeshare owners, wherever they are.

According to certain sources, DRI think that Inside Timeshare is not being fair on them, oh dear! Does that mean we are doing it right?

What we at Inside Timeshare have called for in past articles is dialogue, recognition of that facts that the product has been sold aggressively, that certain groups especially the elderly have been targeted with these tactics and to change the way the product is sold.

For timeshare to become the product it was at first envisioned to be, resorts and developers need to change how they perceive the owners / members. They are not “cash cows” to be milked at every opportunity, but the cornerstone of the business. Without them there is no business.

So now on with today’s article, we hope it helps you the reader to understand what is going on.

Anatomy of a Timeshare Foreclosure

Part I: The 3Rs or F of Timeshare

The 3 R’s of Timeshare: Part 1

Part II: The 3Rs of Timeshare

Part II: The Three Rs of Timeshare

Part III next week: Two more Rs – Rentals and Resale

By a Diamond Resorts Filipino owner and Irene Parker

Betty and Rolf Burmeister

Two Diamond Resort members share their story

April 12, 2017

debt

 William, age 70, and his wife Mary, age 71, are a Filipino couple and residents of California. The family has asked not to be identified. William said the family has maintained a good credit score until now and are horrified that at age 70 they must face foreclosure. Mary was working just to pay for their loan and annual maintenance fees, but can no longer work due to complications from diabetes. They are worried about the lien Diamond will place on their assets and the burden they will be leaving their children.  

Mary worked as a hand therapist and William worked as a physical therapist. Nurses are the #1 export out of the Philippines, according to William. William and Mary are especially angry because, like so many Diamond Monarch owners alleging deception, they feel they were forced to buy points or lose Monarch “equity”.

The family owns 60,000 Diamond points. Historically, according to information culled from lawsuits, points have sold for $2 to $4 so we can estimate at least $180,000 spent on a vacation plan over time.

Diamond Resort’s non-deeded vacation points cannot be listed with any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association, so families find themselves forced to foreclose if they are not eligible for a voluntary surrender due to a loan outstanding. Diamond Resorts is the only major timeshare that cannot be listed with an LTRBA member due to restrictions the members feel are more onerous than other timeshare companies.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

William and Mary’s complaint is similar to this complaint posted on Trip Advisor from the same Diamond Cancun Resort in Las Vegas. We have heard from five other families with similar complaints from Diamond’s Las Vegas Resorts. This was the first complaint reported:

I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.

William and Mary’s story in their own words:

  • William and Mary own 60,000 Diamond points
  • Mortgage balance:  $85,968.25 financed by Diamond at 13.1%
  • Monthly mortgage payment:  $1,375
  • 2017 Maintenance Assessment Fee – $9,034.05

filipino family

In Las Vegas at Diamond’s Cancun Resort in 2013, we were told we should have received an invitation to attend a dinner to discuss the transition of Monarch MGV to Diamond. The sales agent asked us to write a letter stating that we did not receive the dinner invitation and therefore should be given the same benefits and price per points similar to those who attended the dinner. He said he would fax our letter to another Diamond office in Las Vegas.

In hindsight:

  • I should have asked for a copy of the FAX transmission.
  • I succumbed to the fear factor. The agent stated that due to Monarch’s bankruptcy we will lose our EQUITY if we do not purchase additional Diamond vacation points.

The concierge stated that this meeting will be only for one hour. We were held in that meeting room for close to five hours. We eventually broke and signed a contract to buy more points.

We constantly get telephone calls inviting us to attend more updates and we generally turn them down. We had a telephone sales encounter one time from the same Diamond Las Vegas Cancun Resort office trying to sell us more points. This telephone encounter lasted for over three hours. It is very difficult to get away from them once you get sucked in.

Next, we made a fatal mistake by attending a “free” dinner meeting in Pomona, California July 2015. At that meeting, the sales pitch was, we need to completely get rid of our Monarch points by buying more Diamond points in order to prevent the increase in maintenance fees due to less and less people owning Monarch.

The example they gave was the hurricane in Cabo San Lucas that damaged the Cabo Azul property. The sales representative said that if we still own Monarch, we will be assessed increased maintenance fees to pay for the repair of the Cabo property.

Another example he gave was the water damage at The Point at Poipu, a Diamond acquired property in Hawaii. He said owners were charged for special assessment to repair the property.

http://www.tstoday.com/members/magazine/issue123/7-poipu%20point.pdf

Like the previous meetings, this meeting lasted for over five hours. We went home close to midnight. Your focus, decision making and judgement falters if you are kept that long. The increase in maintenance fees after this purchase started our financial struggles.

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