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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, it is another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story involving yet another Veteran Raymond Mori, who is also a Double Purple Heart Recipient, his story is written by his daughter Teresa Laird, who is also a Veteran.

purple heart medal

This story along with others we have been publishing with similar stories from the elderly, seems to point to one thing, these groups are being deliberately targeted by Diamond Sales Agents. It can only be described as totally despicable behaviour, Diamond needs to get their house in order and be rid of these practices with the sales agents losing their licences and jobs.

Diamond is not only to blame in this matter, Barclays is also culpable, after all they are the ones providing the finance through their BarclayCards, which in many cases the clients did not know that one had been taken out in their name, until it is too late.

In Europe we have seen similar problems with Barclays, allowing sales agents to arrange loan agreements on the day with only a cursory credit check. None of the consumers who have contacted Inside Timeshare on this matter have ever had to provide an income and expenditure report, to show that they can actually afford the loan. This is something that would normally be done when taking out any sizable loan.

Usually we report on the week in Europe, suffice it to say it has been rather quiet, with only one court sentence reported this week. It involves the Puerto Calma Group, the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found the contract illegal and declared it null and void, the clients in this case have been awarded 19,000€ with plus a further 3,600€ as a sanction for the illegal taking of a deposit within the cooling off period.

The only other major news was addressed in yesterday’s article about TESS, which has prompted many readers sending messages of support. One reader, even went on to say that Mr Cox is one deranged man and is obviously very ill, well, that is something we can well believe going by what he has been doing over the past months. There will be more to come on that story.

Now for this weeks “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” article.

Another Veteran, Raymond Mori, Alleges Timeshare Fraud

Retired Marine and Purple Hearts Recipient

Supported by Josh Parker, Army Veteran, Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, Air Force Retired, Roy Simmons, Navy Veteran

Exclusive: ILG explores merger with Apollo’s Diamond Resorts Timeshare Math – $3.5 Billion minus $2.2 Billion = $1.2 Billion

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ilg-m-a-diamondresorts-exclusive/exclusive-ilg-explores-merger-with-apollos-diamond-resorts-sources-idUSKBN1GX2XJ

Purple Heart Crest

By Teresa Laird, Raymond and Teresa Mori’s daughter

Friday March 23, 2018

I am writing this article on behalf of my parents, Raymond and Teresa Mori, ages 83 and 79. My dad is a Marine veteran having served 23 years. He is 100% disabled. My dad earned two Purple Hearts. I too am a Veteran, an Army medic.     

Had I not been at the last Diamond Resorts “Update” March 13, 2018, I am convinced my parents, at age 83 and 79, would have purchased 30,000 additional Diamond vacation points for $234,295. This offer required a down payment of $69,993. I kept the paper of these terms under the table because members are not allowed to walk out with handwritten notes. My dad was not feeling well. He falls asleep in his wheelchair and had spent six months in the hospital after a heart attack. The stress over this expense has caused their health to deteriorate further. Thank you to Whistleblowers of America for advocating on behalf of Veterans. Please consider a donation to WoA if you are not drowning in timeshare loan payments, Barclaycard payments and annual timeshare maintenance fees.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

 The sales agent we met with in Las Vegas did not even know how many points my parents already owned. The maintenance fees for 30,000 additional points would have been $4,466 on top of the maintenance fees for the 27,000 points they already owned. I’ve learned my mom’s entire Social Security check goes to pay the Diamond expense. I am beyond angry.

I have joined forces with Angela Simmons Sandstede, Josh and Nichole Parker, Josh a combat veteran, Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, Air Force, battling Diamond.

Angela says her parents were upsold to $2,750 a month in Diamond mortgage payments and are facing bankruptcy because of the up-sells. Angela’s parents live on her dad’s US Postal Service Letter Carrier’s pension.

Angela says her parents owned 52,000 DRI points before being pressured into further up-sells we both feel were fraudulent and criminal. We believe our parents. Angela and I have partnered to become advocates helping seniors needing assistance making a YouTube so the public can see what harm we feel is being done to the elderly, although there are many complaints from those younger as well. Mr. Simmons is also a veteran. He served in the Navy. Angela and Mr. Simmons, Josh Parker and Kevin Brenda’s YouTube:

Roy Simmons and Angela Sandstede Simmons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_nca6lMA4U&feature=youtu.be

Kevin and Brenda Hopkins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAkBlfyhVYQ&feature=youtu.be

Josh Parker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezkJ7GlJN4U&feature=youtu.be

Inside Timeshare has been asked to submit an article to a military down trace that will be distributed to 7,000 active duty army, three divisions, a Buyer Beware PSA announcement, given we have now nine active duty Navy, Homeland Security, Air Force, and a member who works for a defense contractor worried about their Security Clearance alleging they were defrauded by timeshare sales agents.

Teresa & Raymond Mori’s Nightmare on Timeshare Street

Like many, my parents used their Monarch Grand Vacation timeshare for years without complaint. In reviewing their documents, I feel there was deception from the moment they encountered Diamond Resorts. Like many, they were told they had to give up their Monarch deed and buy points. I’ve learned they did not have to do that. Since Diamond acquired Monarch, their annual maintenance fees have increased from $2,600 to $4,600. Like Angela’s mom, my mom is also so stressed over this I can’t ask her to participate in a YouTube. I am in college, now facing filing a barrage of regulatory and law enforcement complaints on top of writing my archeology thesis. My parents have not used their Diamond points. They give their points away.     

My mom told me they had purchased an investment, I called Diamond Resorts when my dad said they wanted to sell some points. My dad is so angry he doesn’t want to talk about it. When I asked how to go about selling points, the DRI hospitality agent laughed at me and said you can’t sell back points, but you can use them towards merchandise purchased through Diamond Resorts. When I looked into the value of doing this, it was no help to my parents. This needs to end. The elderly need to be protected.

According to what my parents reported, they have been lied to at each up-sell. They told me they were told they were investing in property. They were not allowed to take the contracts to their room to go over them. The agents would not allow my parents to call me to discuss the transaction. They have described high pressure tactics, constant messages to their room, phone calls, increasing gift values when they said no to “Updates”, any tactic to get them onto the sales floor.  Once they got them there, they were told they would not get their gifts if they left.

Here’s what happened

4,000 Diamond points purchased 3/12/2013 converting from Monarch to DRI

9,300 points were provided as “equity”   

Purchase price: $20,416 now owning 13,300 points

2500 Diamond points were purchased 6/25/2013 at Palm Canyon Resort

Purchase price: $8,325 now owning 15,800 points

2500 Diamond points were purchased 7/29/2013 at Polo Towers Las Vegas

Purchase price: $8,616 now owning 18,300 points

At ages 79 and 75 they were sold a Sampler product. This is a trial program. Why did they need a trial program if they bought points several times?

5000 Sampler points purchased 5/4/2014 in Sedona

Purchase price: $2,995

This was when I realized the predatory nature of timeshare sales. I called Diamond corporate and told them they needed to take back this last Sampler purchase at the very least. They said they would work with us. Instead, they sold my parents 17,000 more points! They said they would attach the Sampler points to another program. I could not believe it. Think how easy it would be to misrepresent or confuse them by selling points by phone. I am infuriated.

17,000 points were purchased at ages 79 and 73, after spending six months in a hospital after a heart attack, now owning 27,000 points

Purchase price: $49,492 told $13,991 was equity from their prior contracts

Amount financed: $47,138

New maintenance fees: $4,780

My mom and dad are good people who worked hard all their lives. My mom worked as an interpreter for the Ontario CA school district. She speaks Spanish. My dad is diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. To think their lives have been ruined by this company, in my opinion, speaks of unspeakable evil. Angela and I vow to stop. We are advocates now.

From what Angela told me, I will be told by a Diamond Resorts Hospitality agent, working for Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, “Sorry, you signed a contract.”

There seems to be no regulation, no enforcement and no one cares.

Elder financial abuse is a type of elder abuse in which misappropriation of financial resources or abusive use of financial control, in the context of a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, causes harm to an older person. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_financial_abuse

inspired advocates

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

Thank you Teresa Laird for writing your parents story, also once again a very big thank you to Irene Parker and the army of volunteers who are doing a fantastic job in highlighting and help all those who are turning to Inside Timeshare for help.

If you have been contacted by or are thinking of doing business with any company and are not sure if they are genuine, contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you find the information.

Remember, many of these companies are very professional at getting you to believe what they say, they know what you want to hear and will target that.

So that’s it for this week, another Friday is upon us and the weekend beckons, we hope you have a very relaxing and enjoyable weekend, join us next week for more news and information on the seedy world of timeshare.

friday cat

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

[email protected]

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

Tuesday Review: Clarity

Following on from previous articles on Diamonds Clarity Program, Inside Timeshare welcomes today’s article from Bonita Hill, edited by Irene Parker. Bonita explains her experience of this program which is suppossed to “clean up” the sales process, it does appear to fall rather short.

But first a quick round up from Europe, as we said before August is usually a rather quiet time, especially in Spain, so at present there is little news coming from the courts as they are on vacation.

It would also seem the family of “fake” law firms, Litigious Abogados are continuing to claim they have cases waiting to be heard at court, with thousands in compensation waiting to be claimed. Well we do know there will be no money coming from this little crowd.

Inside Timeshare is also working on another Anfi story, they still seem to be denying that they have lost and are losing in the courts. Is it possible they are that worried of more litigation they are conducting a damage limitation exercise? More on this story when we publish.

Now on with today’s article.

Diamond Resort’s CLARITY™ Program

Battles the Oral Representation Clause

clarity

By Bonita Hill  

August 8,2017  

Diamond members on our member sponsored Advocacy Facebook page are confused about an email all US members received earlier this year describing a new Diamond CLARITY™ program being rolled out nationwide designed to provide members with enhanced transparency, accountability and RESPECT for the customer. Diamond’s CLARITY™ program was launched in response to an Assurance of Discontinuance issued by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Diamond has stated they intend to go beyond the requirements of the AOD.

The response my husband and I received fell short of the CLARITY promise. Basically, the company said it doesn’t matter what the sales agent told us because of the oral representation clause, yet the requirement of the AOD clearly states DRI sales agents shall not deviate from approved sales materials. Instead of CLARITY, the company should just provide a person in advance of a sales presentation the answer we received after we filed our complaint:

“We must advise that it is specified clearly in the contract documentation that if you relied upon any verbal information given during the presentation you must ask for this to be put in writing. Likewise, if anything was said that was of particular importance to you, but which is not contained in the terms and conditions of the membership, this should have been requested to be implemented in the body of contract before documentation was signed.”

Here is what the Assurance of Discontinuance says. The complete AOD can be found linked at the bottom of the press release.

IV Assurances

Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  • Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  • Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

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

We attended a sales presentation in Las Vegas in 2017 after CLARITY had been introduced in Arizona. Our sales agent was Adam Drell. There my husband and I were told by Mr. Drell that because we had so few points we were paying more in maintenance fees and that if we bought more points we would pay less. Mr. Drell also said he was going to add in a Westgate week so that we would be Silver. We did not own a Westgate week.

Mr. Drell said our new maintenance fee would be $1,124. However, I received a bill for $661 for the new points. I had already paid $880 for the old points so the total of $1,541 did not match. Adam did not respond when I tried to contact him.

family

I am 30 years old and my husband is 32. How can we pay for maintenance fees that will go up every year for life? We bought the additional points because we were told it would make our maintenance fees go down. Our loan is financed at 17.15% on top of the maintenance fees. Mr. Drell opened Barclaycards. I was approved initially with a limit of $2,100. Adam offered the Silver plan with a down payment of about $3,400. We did not want to put more money into timeshare that day. He then asked me to call Barclay’s reconsideration line. We were denied due to our high ratio balance on other cards, Diamond’s response tells us nothing prevents a Diamond sales agents from saying anything they can think of to sell vacation points because they know the company can and will fall back on the oral representation clause. This makes it easy and convenient for sales agents to tell falsehoods. I’m sure Mr. Drell’s response would be, “I didn’t say that.”

On our DRI Advocacy Facebook I learned of several others who posted that they were told things by the Diamond sales agent that weren’t true. Marjorie Menacker previously published an Inside Timeshare article.

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

Marjorie Menacker’s letter to Mr. Michael Flaskey, Diamond CEO (excerpt)

I just listened to your podcast No Vacancy with Glenn Hausmann. We were told in Virginia by Brian Humphries that if we purchased more points on the day we were there, we would not have to pay maintenance fees again.  Why does Diamond allow their sales agents to say anything, no matter how outlandish, to sell points?  Since the Diamond contract is in perpetuity, the repercussions are even more disastrous.

When we explained this (our medical bills) to Mr. Humphries, he told us about a one day opportunity that day that would allow us to trade our points to pay off maintenance fees.  When we attempted to use the program he described to us, we learned no such program existed.

I was a satisfied Timeshare owner for over 15 years until, in our opinion, we were deceitfully up-sold at our last update. Instead of poisoning another Diamond customer, isn’t it best to do what is right by standing up for the customer instead of advocating for the sales agent? Another Diamond member not only posted an identical complaint, it was against Brian Humphries, the same sales agent.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Menacker

Marjorie had been hit by a construction truck while walking. The family was struggling to pay maintenance fees due to this and other medical issues. Diamond refused to cancel their loan and refund because of their allegations of deceit, but offered a voluntary surrender for medical hardship. However, more and more timeshare members like Marjorie and I are standing up to timeshare companies offering to take back their points in exchange for nothing when the member feels they were sold based on promises not delivered. There are so many complaints. It has to stop.

conference

Diamond’s Advocacy Department has helped several members resolve their complaints. Out of 80 complaints filed, 29 have reported a positive outcome. Out of 80 complaints, 71 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. Several of our member Advocates belong to this Facebook page.  

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

Members are concerned CLARITY is nothing more than a window dressing for the media.

Through social media timeshare members are finally able to get together to share experiences. This has produced a pattern of complaints that is compelling and compounding. It is hoped all timeshare companies will recognize the need to sell their product professionally and honestly rather than punish the buyer for life stuck in an unending contract with no secondary market often sold based on false promises.

fair trade

Through Inside Timeshare and our Advocacy facebook pages we have been asked about costs for legal services, we reached out to Mike Finn of Finn Law Group and this is his reply.

Hello all, thanks for your interest in our services.

We do try to charge a fixed fee because that provides a lot of certainty for the client as these cases sometimes take quite some time for resolution.

A couple of factors that we consider in setting the fee, is the date of the purchase, as that has statute of limitation ramifications, and also the amount owed to the resort and perhaps other third-party credit providers. Another factor is whether or not there is more than one active contract.

If I have this information I can provide a fixed fee and even offer terms in some cases.

Mike Finn

Thanks Mike, that has certainly made things clear, a lot more clearer than Clarity!

Remember, Inside Timeshare is here to give sound and accurate information, these are your stories, they are from owners experiences, the industry will eventually take note.

It just remains for Inside Timeshare to thank all those who contribute and help with the proof reading.

 

Another Nightmare on Timeshare Street: Client Experience with Diamond.

Today we publish the story of Marjorie Menacker, another Diamond member who contacted Irene Parker for help. This is her story of how they feel about Diamond, it would seem that “Clarity” is out of the window. We let you decide for yourselves.

Will Diamond Resorts ever listen?

Marj

By Marjorie Menacker

May 15, 2017

We, Elle and I, are two more Diamond members asking the company to own up to misrepresentations and deception in Diamond’s quest to upsell current Diamond members. We know we were victims of a “bait and switch”. We were told buying more points would eliminate maintenance fees that had become burdensome due to my brain injury. Our 14 year old son Sam, diagnosed with FSGS, an autoimmune kidney disease in 2015, has added to our burden. Sam has required hospitalization.

I contacted Diamond Consumer Advocacy before seeking legal assistance or filing complaints with the Arizona, Virginia and Nevada Attorneys General, the FBI, the FTC and ARDA for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department should be named Diamond’s Advocacy Department because their job is to advocate for Diamond, as evidenced by the company’s response, refusing to acknowledge a Diamond sales agent would not be truthful.

In Arizona, Diamond’s new Clarity program does not allow sales agents to deviate from written sales materials. The oral representation clause still exists in the Arizona contract, but the Arizona Attorney General’sAssurance of Discontinuance” forbids sales agents from deviating from the sales agent’s official script. I was hoping Diamond Resorts would honor Clarity’s principles of fair and honest business practices even though we purchased in Virginia. Clarity is about Accountability, Transparency and RESPECT for the customer!

Diamond often offers to “take back” points, for a fee, ignoring the deceit, concealment, violation of trust and “bait and switch” so many from our Advocacy group have complained about, as defined by the FBI as White Collar Crime. Diamond even charges a fee to surrender points while requiring the member to still make any remaining credit card payments. This keeps the “hamster wheel” running as Diamond will merely take back our points and resell them for full value.

We are telling the truth. Since Diamond will not believe us, these Diamond sales agents must be telling unsuspecting consumers day in and day out, any story they can come up with to sell points.

Here’s what happened

Elle and I purchased a week at the Powhatan Virginia resort in the 1980s. Our deeded Powhatan week was given up in July 2007 while staying at Sedona Arizona when we purchased 10,000 points for $21,585. We purchased an additional 6000 points December 26, 2015 for $23,210 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. 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. A total of $23,170 was charged to two Barclaycards. The finance rate is 25.74%.

I suffered a concussion November 9 2015, about six weeks before our sales presentation, after being hit by a construction truck while I was walking in downtown Richmond.  At the time of our presentation, we had not yet realized the full extent of my injuries. Over the course of first quarter 2016 I realized I needed concussion and rehab specialists and quite a bit of therapy to initiate and sustain a slow recovery. I am still being treated for the brain injury and physical injuries from the accident.

The Powhotan 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 after the 2016 calendar year. He said 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 to extend the offer only for the day (12/26/2015). Jeff confirmed what Brian offered.

We were told that we would no longer have to pay for annual maintenance fees, having qualified to participate in the special program that was not publicly available.  Brian illustrated in chart form on paper how this program would save us money by trading in part of total points each year. He said the remaining points would actually get “treated as double points.”

We should have been suspicious when he would not let us keep a copy of the paperwork with the calculations he made or even let us hold it to view in a private conversation.  Brian brought Jeff in, and they recreated the chart and both reassured us it was all above board, though warned us not to mention the specifics to anyone when time to sign the contract.

We trusted that Diamond Resorts was a publicly traded company (at the time) with a good reputation, and our expectation was that we would be properly treated and not misled.  They both explained we would receive a phone call annually in December right after our maintenance fee bill arrived and would be guided to trade in the proper number of points to write off the entire maintenance fee each year.

This past December 2016, when the call never came, we reached out to the Quality Assurance Officer whose card we were given. She was unavailable so referred us to Susan Schnibbe who put us in touch with the salesmen around December 20, 2016.  Both Brian and Jeff denied ever telling us this type of program existed, but we were promised a call back the same day as to “what was possible.”

We were in fine shape with the 10,000 points we already owned in the US Collection, and were able to manage to pay the annual maintenance fees. At this time we must pay down a loan instead of planning our vacation.

We told Brian and Jeff about our son’s condition, the ongoing expense and that I was dealing with post-concussion syndrome.  We also have medical expenses resulting from our older daughter’s Medical College of Virginia Pediatric ER for a serious head and back injury from a fall.  Realizing we were duped, our trust of Diamond Resorts has been shattered.  We feel that we were taken advantage of, misled and lied to. We have struggled to provide for our children as well as maintain our good credit rating. This breech of ethics by Diamond Resorts representatives jeopardizes Diamond too.

We would have been happy with the valued level status we had prior to the December 2016 sales-pitch.

Irene at computer

Our Diamond Resorts member sponsored Advocacy Group has been overwhelmed assisting Diamond members who feel they were victimized by sales agents making promises that fall far afield from reality.

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/

A Diamond representative said there was no misrepresentation.

Original letter sent to David Palmer January 7, 2017

At the time of our purchase, former Diamond CEO David Palmer had just made over $173 million on the Apollo buyout and over $26 million in executive compensation. That could be why he did not answer the letter we sent him.
7 January 2017

David F. Palmer, CEO

Diamond Resort International

10600 West Charleston Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89153-1260

Dear Mr. Palmer,

In December of 2015, we attended a very high pressure sales and “owner update” in Williamsburg at GreenSprings plantation sales office. The salesman, Brian and his manager Jeff were very demanding of our time even though we told them we had 3 middle-school-aged children waiting for us back at our condo. I had suffered from a serious concussion about 6 weeks earlier after being hit by a construction truck while I was walking in downtown Richmond.  We had not yet realized the full extent of my injuries at the time. I am still being treated for the brain injury and physical injuries from the accident well over a year later. We repeatedly stated that we could not afford anything that would require a loan and the growing maintenance fees. Brian assured us that if we took advantage of the promotion offered that day, we would not have to worry about any maintenance fees after the 2016 calendar year. We were told this promotion was something that would have been offered to us had we participated in dinner meeting offers over the previous year.  Brian obtained special permission, out of our sight, to extend the offer to us that day (12/26/2015), and that day only.

The bottom line is we were told that we would no longer have to pay for annual maintenance fees, having qualified to participate in the special program that was not publicly available.  Brian illustrated in chart form on a paper how this program would save us money by trading in part of our total points each year but the remaining points would actually get “treated as double points.”  We should have been suspicious when he would not let us keep a copy of the paperwork with the calculations he made or even let us hold it to view in a private conversation.  Brian brought Jeff in, and they recreated the chart and both assured us it was all above board, though warned us not to mention the specifics to anyone when time to sign the contract. They both explained we would receive a phone call (annually) in December right after our maintenance fee bill arrived, and we would be guided to trade in the proper number of points to write off the entire maintenance fees each year.  This December, when the call never came, we reached out to the Quality Assurance Officer whose card we were given.  She put us in touch with the salesmen around December 20, 2016.  Both denied ever telling us this type of program existed, but we were promised a call back the same day as to “what was possible.”   We have received no return calls.  As baby boomers, raised by parents from the depression era, we do not like to borrow money for anything. Both Brian and Jeff were told of our son’s condition, the ongoing expenses and that I was dealing with post-concussion syndrome.

With the enlightenment that we were duped into a loan and will also experience increasing annual fees, we feel that we are in severe debt and our trust of Diamond Resorts has been shattered.  We feel we were taken advantage of, misled and lied to, frankly. We have repeatedly asked for an avenue to appeal for a reversal and revoke the contract from last year. Actual ownership, it seems, is not an advantage, considering the expense we pay for the maintenance of these resorts.  We would like to return to the status prior to the December 2015 sales-pitch.

I do hope that you take our situation seriously, and, regardless of the internal consequences to the salespersons who so poorly and unethically represented Diamond Resorts, you and I begin an authentic dialogue about making this right.  My partner and I are quite willing to work this out efficiently and honestly, directly with your office or a representative to whom you would direct us.

Thank you for your time.  We look forward to hearing from you by traditional mail or email as how we may begin this dialogue.

Most Sincerely,

Marjorie S. Menacker

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Marjorie for giving us Her story so we could share it with you, this is important as it shows that you are not alone.

Inside Timeshare and the Facebook Advocacy page have been receiving many stories just like this, if you wish to share your experiences of these presentations you can contact Inside Timeshare or the Advocacy page.

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

 

My Thought Today: End of October

So here we are the end of another month, we started October with news of a Supreme Court ruling which stated that “Fractional” was indeed timeshare. In this instance Puerto Calma, Holiday Club Finland was ordered to repay over £235,542.00 as they had sold it as an investment.

Then Inside Timeshare reported the news of the first prosecution in the ongoing Anfi Tauro Beach Project.  The former head of the Canarian Coastal Authority José Maria Hernandez has been charged with administrative malfeasance (wrongdoing in public office) and forgery of official documents. The prosecutor Javier Ródenas considers that Hernandez verbally authorised the works despite warnings of serious breaches then committed an act of forgery by drafting a document which was then signed by him in April. This document gave the impression that it was written in February when the work actually commenced.

Local residents build defences to protect their homes

We then published an article from Gran Canaria Info which explained recent developments into the goings on at Anfi.

http://gran-canaria-info.com/content/timeshare-law/anfi-del-mar-and-the-future-of-gran-canaria-timeshare-in-2017

This online publication is a great source of information to the expat community and visitors in Gran Canaria, it often publishes in English, news from the Spanish press.

letter from america

Moving on from timeshare matters in Europe we published a piece by Greg Crist, the CEO of NTOA (National Timeshare Owners Association) in the USA. He explained about a timeshare donation scheme which had recently been slammed by a US Federal Judge. In this scheme, owners donated their timeshares, which were valued at high amounts and then received tax relief as charitable donations. The scheme has cost the tax man around $19.4 million.

http://insidetimeshare.com/u-s-federal-judge-slams-timeshare-donation-scheme/

Greg again sent over information on what was happening across the pond, with the article about combating fraud. It was very much a month of information from the USA with articles from the Orlando Sentinel and Irene Parker on Marriott facing charges of “Racketeering”.

Irene Parker submitted another article, this time on how Barclaycards are being issued by timeshare sales staff. Irene was comparing this to the scandal of finance being arranged by sales staff in Europe without the normal due diligence being carried out. We finished the US theme with Irene´s article on timeshare and politics and how it is split between the two political camps.

The Anfi Tauro Beach project again hit the headlines with the news that the current Mayor of Mogan, Onalia Bueno has been place under investigation for licences and permissions for the project. This followed on from the first prosecution and is still underway.

Also published was an article on Trustees in the timeshare industry and whether they are independent or not. This article was prompted by several enquiries from readers, with some of the content supplied by them. legal clipart

So to finish the month, Canarian Legal Alliance announced another two Supreme Court victories on behalf of their clients. In the first to be announced on 26 October, their client will receive 11,806€ and their contract declared null and void. Again the court reaffirmed its position that floating weeks are illegal, this case was against Anfi.

In the second announcement made on Thursday 27 October,another Supreme Court ruling, again against Anfi. In this ruling the client has been awarded 19,000€ and again the judgement was about floating weeks. The contract was also declared null and void. This now brings the total of rulings from the Supreme Court in respect of timeshare contracts to a staggering 27, with more still waiting to be heard, so there is more of this to come.

Just as we were about to publish news came in of yet another victory at the Supreme Court in Madrid, this brings the total number of rulings from the highest court in Spain to a phenomenal 28, you can’t argue that this particular law firm is not doing what is says.

The latest ruling this time involves another resort, Palm Oasis / Tasolan, the court ruled the client was not provided with all the information required by law, this resulted in the court ruling that the contract was flawed. In this instance the contract was declared null & void with the client being awarded 10,608€ plus legal interest. It would seem the courts in Spain at least, are on the side of the consumer, it only now needs other countries to follow that example.

It now remains to see what November will bring, if it is like this month it certainly will keep Inside Timeshare Busy. Have a good Halloween night and enjoy the party.

haloween