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Financial Conduct Authority

Financial Service & Co: Another Dodgy Looking Company

Another reader has sent information on a call they have received from a Mr Fletcher of Financial Services & Co, with the address:

1 Bentley Road, London,N1 4BY

Along with the Company Registration Number LP003793, with no company directors being shown but plenty of documents showing change of partners and addresses. (See link below)

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/LP003793

The call was regarding his dealings with Regency Shores Marketing (EZE Group), according to the call (which has been recorded), there has been a successful outcome against them in recent court proceedings.

This was all confirmed in an email from Andrea Ward with the email address [email protected] yet another gmail address not linked to any website.

Apparently there has been a substantial amount awarded which will be sent by personal cheque or bank transfer, but there is a processing fee to be paid which is around 10% of the awarded amount. This is paid to a third party, and will be held in an Escrow Account, once these fees have been paid to the “Trustee” Financial Services & Co will finalise the claim and all the money will be settled within 5 working days.

The email also goes on to say “We are now giving you not only our company guarantee but that too of our contractual and fiscal arrangements with the Bank of Spain, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and the High Court of Madrid. This means that all Business is backed and covered by these three entities and ourselves.”

All too good to be true I hear you say!

Now, there is a website called AW Financial Services:

http://www.awfinancialservices.com

This is actually the trading name of Mortgages Just4U, registered at Company house with the Company Registration Number 06329975 and the registered address:

18 The Cheveralls, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 3NH

Telephone: 01582 898216

Mobile: 07903 268208

Email: [email protected] which is linked to the website and differs from the one given by Andrea Ward.

On their website they also state they are an appointed representative of Personal Touch Financial Services Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Company number 03406454 with the address:

2nd Floor Gateway 2 Holgate Park Drive, York, England, YO26 4GB

and have been registered since 21 July 1997. They are also in the FCA register as authorised with the FCA Reference number: 187834.

So what do we have so far, a company registered at company house with no details apart from in the filing history showing several changes of address and partners, using a name for their email address similar to another registered company and using a gmail account, with no website of their own.

Contacting clients who have dealt with Regency Shores Marketing (EZE Group), with details of membership numbers, what they purchased, for how much and when, all very very suspicious indeed.

Inside Timeshare is not aware of any recent court proceedings against Regency Shores Marketing in Spain or the UK, we are however aware of the case against the directors of EZE Group Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly, but that has not yet been resolved.

So from what we know this does have all the hallmarks of another very elaborate scam, fairly well put together and pretty convincing. Although from the recording the caller Mr Fletcher is not that convincing, skirting over all the questions and repeating himself constantly with all “the scam companies are operating out of Spain and Portugal”. Well that is not quite how we see it, they are also operating out of the UK under dubious companies registered at Company House for a small fee, or just taking over another companies name.

This is the recording of the call our reader sent in, it has been edited to remove our readers personal details.

This really does go to show how careful you have to be, if our reader had not been a regular to Inside Timeshare, he may have just been taken in.

Remember

THE GOLDEN RULE

CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN, DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If you need help in doing this then contact Inside Timeshare, we will be more than happy to help.

Press Release from CLA, Plus a Quick Look at the Biggest Timeshare Fraud in History

As August is very much the summer holiday month, there is not a lot of news from the courts in Spain, but it is a month when some of the new names and old ones will be making a comeback on the scam front. We will be keeping a watch on these and will start reporting them as and when they do become active.

Following on from Start the Week on Monday, we reported the news from the Royal Courts of Justice regarding the case of the Financial Conduct Authority and the validation order issued to Barclay Partner Finance:

http://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-13/

We have been given the following press release from Canarian Legal Alliance.

On 19 June 2018, a representative from Canarian Legal Alliance attended the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Division, to represent the interests of one of our clients.

These clients had been sold timeshare in Malta by Azure Resorts and were financed by loan agreements with Barclay Partner Finance. It transpires that these loan agreements were brokered by an unauthorised agent Azure Services Ltd. As such these agreements breached the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

This affected 1,444 credit agreements with a total value of £47 million, in the period between 1 April 2014 and 24 April 2016.

This made the agreements unenforceable, which entitled the borrowers to recover their money and have the agreements cancelled. Therefore BPF applied to the Financial Conduct Authority in May 2017 to have a validation order issued to rectify this. The FCA on the evidence and information at the time issued the order to validate the loan agreements in February 2018.

This validation would then entitle BPF to retain money paid to them under the agreements, also allowing BPF to enforce payments by any consumer who defaulted.

On 1 August 2018 Judge Timothy Herrington issued his judgement, in his ruling he stated the FCA should re-examine the original order and take into account “client detriment”, a factor which the FCA had not considered in the original order.

In the case of our client, this “client detriment” is very clear, they were mislead into purchasing the timeshare as an investment with the promise of income rental and then resale, which never materialised. They were pressured into signing the loan agreement after hours of high pressure timeshare sales tactics, even though our client explained they could ill afford the timeshare.

They were not explained the terms and conditions of the agreement or the full extent of the cost, the product they were purchasing was not suitable for their needs and would not fulfill the promises given. They were also mislead as to the length of the loan agreement, being 2 years and not 15 years which it turned out to be.

There were no proper credit checks made with regards to affordability or the ability to afford the repayments, they were not asked to provide any proof of income (bearing in mind they were both in their 70’s and on pensions), or any proof of outgoings.

Once the validation order is overturned by the FCA, this will leave our client able to recover all money paid to BPF and have the loan agreement declared null and void.

This ruling may also have an effect on loan agreement for timeshares purchased via loans even by an authorised broker. As a law firm we have many clients who have gone through the same process, lengthy presentations, high pressure sales and no proper checks regarding the ability to afford the repayments. We believe this may give clients an avenue to have these agreements cancelled and be reimbursed the money paid.

Canarian Legal Alliance

Our thanks to CLA for that information, now a quick look at an old story which was prompted by an item on ITV News, this was an interview by the wife of John “Goldfinger” Palmer who was shot and killed at his Essex home in June 2015.

In the interview she expressed her disbelief at the inability of Essex Police to find her husband’s killer, which the police believe was a professional hit. She also claimed she felt “sorry” for those who lost thousands in the timeshare scam. This is after she started the interview with “It was a wonderful Lifestyle” and “We had everything we possibly could want”. On whose money is the question?

The timeshare scam involved 17,000 victims and was worth over £100 million, it revolved around the multiple selling of timeshare units, resorts that had not been built or ever going to be built and ones without any planning permission.

It has been regarded as the biggest timeshare fraud in history.

Palmer was eventually jailed for 8 years in 2001 in the UK after being convicted for timeshare fraud. He was also ordered to repay around £33 million to his victims, but as the Crown Prosecution Service bungled the paperwork this order was overturned to the consternation of the police. He was released in 2005 and returned to Tenerife.

He was eventually arrested on the runway and bundled into a military transport and taken to Madrid to await trial by the Spanish authorities, he spent 2 years in jail and was then released on bail returning to the UK. The rest as they say is history.

Click on the link below to see the interview and the second link which is a report by Roger Cook made around 2 years ago on the full story of John “Goldfinger” Palmer, from his involvement in the Brinks Mat bullion robbery through to his timeshare frauds.

https://www.facebook.com/ITVWestcountry/videos/2076879189011352/

Join us tomorrow for our Letter from America, this week Irene Parker reports on the Whistleblowers Summit which she attended in Washington DC in July, you will certainly find it a revelation.

 

Start the Week

Summary of the Royal Courts of Justice Tribunal Ruling by Judge Timothy Herrington.

This case was heard on 19 June 2018 and  revolves around a validation order made by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which validates (makes legal) loan agreements taken out by clients of Azure Resorts Malta, using Barclays Partner Finance (BPF).

The loan agreements were made by Azure Service Ltd between 1 April 2014 and 24 April 2016, with this company not being authorised as a licenced broker to arrange or introduce clients to BPF. On finding out that these loan agreements were made by an unauthorised entity, BPF applied to the FCA to have the loans validated or made legal.

This validation order was issued, affecting some 1,444 clients and could cost Barclays around £47 million.

An appeal by the clients and their legal representatives forced the FCA to apply to the Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Division of the Royal Courts of Justice for a hearing on the legal implications and guidance to overturn the validation Order.

On 1 August 2018 Judge Timothy Herrington issued his judgement.

He ruled that the FCA did not take into account “Client Detriment” when they issued the validation order, his ruling was that the FCA re-evaluate that decision and take into account the client detriment.

He stated that the client detriment revolves around the following:

  1. Clients were not given sufficient information as to the terms and conditions of the loan agreement required by law;
  2. There were no major credit checks made as to the affordability of the repayments such as income versus outgoings reports;
  3. The length of the loan agreements were not explained, with client under the impression that they were for two years;
  4. Clients were pressured into signing these agreements;
  5. False representations were made to clients relating to the financial impact of regulated agreements;
  6. Clients were subject to long high pressure sales tactics to purchase the timeshares;
  7. Clients were sold timeshares which were not appropriate for them;
  8. Vulnerable consumers were treated inappropriately;
  9. Concerns about commission arrangements and disclosure thereof.

The FCA must now re-examine the original validation order and take into account the client detriment statements of the borrowers.

With this ruling it makes it almost impossible for the FCA to uphold the original validation order, therefore it must overturn the previous decision and rule that these loan agreements cannot be validated and are thereby unenforceable in law.

This means that all 1,444 clients will be entitled to be repaid all the money plus all interest paid.

Once the FCA issued a cancellation of the original validation order, this will no doubt have an effect on any loan issued by a timeshare company through BPF. Although the company brokering the agreement may be authorised, the points listed above may make it possible for any loan to be contested.

This will be of significant interest to all Silverpoint clients who entered into contracts under the investment weeks scheme.

At present it is not known how long the FCA will take to issue their findings.

Latest news surrounding Tauro Beach.

The scenes witnessed a few weeks ago of the destruction of homes situated on Tauro Beach have been the subject of many news articles, the local people are understandably very angry.

The destruction was carried out by a private demolition company with a not too savoury reputation, Desokupas, who were hired by the Cazorla‘s and Anfi to clear the area which they claim they own.

This was done without any apparent court orders, which leaves us to believe that the destruction may just be illegal, even if the land is owned by the Cazorla’s.

It does leave us to wonder how the members of the Anfi resort must feel about this, that the company they pay high annual maintenance fees can behave in such a manner?

Do they actually understand what is going on?

It also begs the question how the Ambassador for Anfi David Silva, the renowned footballer and local boy must feel about how the company he represents in advertising is treating his own people and neighbours?

Click on the links below.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/sociedad/situacion-vecinos-Desokupas-chabolas-Tauro_2_799340062.html

http://canarias-semanal.org/not/23270/un-comando-de-boxeadores-peninsulares-viaja-a-gran-canaria-para-derribar-chabolas-video-/

https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/politica/Nueva-Canarias-Ayuntamiento-Mogan-Tauro_0_800020281.html

For the full story of the whole project search Tauro Beach in the search box.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this or any other article, or if you need to find out about any company that has contacted you, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Starting the Week

Welcome to our first article for July, we start this week with some news from the Courts in the UK.

On Tuesday 19 June at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Upper Tribunal, Tax and Chancery Division, sat on hearing brought by the Financial Conduct Authority and Barclays Partner Finance. Presiding over the case was Judge Timothy Herrington.

The case centers around a petition to the FCA by Barclays Partner Finance to issue a validation order for finance agreements made between April 2012 and April 2014 for loan agreements involving timeshare sales in Malta.

It transpired that the company which brokered the finance agreements, Azure Resort Services Limited, were not authorised or licenced by Barclay Partner Finance. They approached the FCA to have these validated and claimed that no consumer detriment had been caused by this.

The FCA did issue a validation order on the evidence it had from Barclay Partner Finance, they then received many complaints from many of those affected, this numbered around 1,444 clients.

On investigation it was found that consumer detriment may well have been caused with the new evidence coming to light. But the FCA felt it did not have the authority to reverse the validation orders and the case went before the Tribunal to have the validation orders reversed.

Canarian Legal Alliance along with other law firms representing clients had representatives in court. In the case of the CLA client, the loan agreements was for the purchase of multiple timeshare weeks. These were upgrades to original purchases in the “investment” packs being sold by Azure Resorts, which is the Malta arm of Silverpoint in Tenerife.

These multiple weeks were sold with a promise that a resale program would be put into place, then after two years they would be sold and the “investors” would be able pay off the loans with the money they would make on the sales.

As we know this ploy has been going on for years in Tenerife by Resort Properties / Silverpoint, which are subject to many cases going before the Tenerife Courts and the Supreme Court in Madrid. These sales have never taken place.

The CLA client was given a loan of over £20,000 to finance the purchase, they were misled into believing that the weeks would be sold and the loan agreement would be only for a two year duration. In fact the agreement was for a 15 year repayment term.

It is also known that the clients who were 75 at the time of signing had the loan approved within days of signing. At no time were they asked for any proof of income versus outgoings reports. These clients also signed the purchase agreements and the loan application forms after more than 5 hours of intense high pressure sales. They also felt they had no choice but to make these purchases so as not to lose out on money previously “invested” for weeks which had not been sold. The excuse they were given was what they had previously purchased were not selling as they were not the type of weeks and apartments which people wanted to buy.

The Judge presiding over the case then adjourned the hearing for deliberation, a verdict is yet to be announced.

If the validation order is reversed by the court, then this leave Barclays Partner Finance in a very difficult position, the upshot is if these agreements are not validated then Barclays Partner Finance cannot pursue the borrowers if they decide not to continue the payments. The lawyer for BPF assured the Court that until the judgement, BPF would not enforce the agreements for those who have defaulted.

This also leaves many other questions regarding finance agreements for timeshares, how many more have been made by unauthorised licenced brokers?

It also poses the question of ability to afford the repayments, especially when these agreements have been approved within days of signing, how many have been granted the loans without showing any proof of income versus outgoings reports?

Shawbrook Bank acknowledged this back in 2016, which we reported in an article in July that year, the CEO also resigned over this matter. (see links below)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/06/28/shawbrook-banks-shares-plunge-on-9m-hit-from-dodgy-lending/

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-3663651/Shares-Shawbrook-drop-challenger-bank-reveals-loan-irregularities-cost-9m-finance-chief-quits.html

Now for some news from the Spanish Courts last week.

The Supreme Court in Madrid issued two more rulings against the timeshare industry, number 123 and 124. These once again involved Silverpoint SL in Tenerife, they also lost in two cases in the Courts of First Instance held in Tenerife.  

In cases held at the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, Anfi were on the receiving end, with contracts being declared null and void and being ordered to repay the clients their purchase price back.

Diamond were also on the receiving end of a Court of First Instance ruling, again the contract was declared illegal and therefore null and void.

With these 7 cases the timeshare industry has been ordered to repay over 160,000€ and in most case legal fees and legal interest.

The lawyers involved in all these cases are the lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this or any other article use our contact page and get in touch.

Been contacted by a company or found one on the internet and you are not sure about them, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

News on Wednesday: More Warnings

We start today with another warning about the “Fake Law Firm”, Abogados Lopez, more readers have contacted Inside Timeshare with information on the calls they have received from Hope Brugge, claiming to be working for Canarian Legal Alliance.

According to our readers, many of whom are existing clients of CLA, the call is to inform them that their case is about to go to court and she needs to confirm some information before submitting the case. This is obviously a fishing call, as if you have a case with a legitimate law firm they would already have those detail and they would have been confirmed at the start.

Within a few day Hope Brugge calls again and informs the client that the case has been won and a substantial amount of money has been awarded. In order to have this money released, (yes you guessed it), Hope Brugge and Abogados Lopez need a fee to release it. The client is given bank details for a named individual to transfer the money.

The telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

If you receive any call of this nature do not be fooled by them, if you are an existing client of any law firm, contact them directly and inform them.

This is a blatant fraud, which the authorities are aware of.

Another reader has also informed us that another company has been contacting owners who purchased with Azure Resorts in Malta, using a Barclay Partner Finance loan agreements. Unfortunately the reader was not able to get the name properly so we will not speculate and guess.

According to the caller they are working with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) to bring a “class action” against Barclay Partner Finance on the 19 June, all rather urgent wouldn’t you say?

There is a case on that date being brought by the FCA, but this has nothing to do with what this company are on about. The case is being heard at the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery) of the Royal Courts of Justice.

The case revolves around a validation order sought by BPF for loan agreements made by Azure Resorts for timeshares in Malta, it turns out that the company brokering and arranging the loans was not authorised or licenced by BPF to do so. BPF turned to the FCA to have these agreements validated. These are only for certain clients who signed these agreements between April 214 and April 2016. If you did not receive any information about this in February 2018, then you are not involved.

The FCA on the evidence made out a validation order to have the loans legally recognised, as no client had suffered the “possibility of any consumer detriment arising from the manner in which the unauthorised broker carried out its activities”.

Unfortunately, the FCA was not aware of the full facts and many clients made complaints, the FCA has now sought to have this validation order overturned in the light of these complaints and new evidence put forward by the clients.

Inside Timeshare will keep you updated as to the outcome of this hearing.

If you have any questions or comments on any this or any other article, then use our contact page and get in touch.

Have you been contacted by any company offering you a claim or stating that a case has been won and there is a substantial amount of money waiting for you at court then contact Inside Timeshare, your information can help others avoid losing thousands.

The 3 R’s of Timeshare: Part 1

Today we start with the first of a three part article on what Irene calls the 3 R’s of Timeshare, although this first part begins with “F”.

In the US this is Foreclosure, which to those of us in Europe would just be Relinquishment or Surrender. What we have to remember in Europe is that for our American cousins, timeshare tends to be governed by Real Estate Law and financial agreements are usually associated with a mortgage rather than a personal loan or finance agreement. So foreclosure will be similar to repossession of your house for not keeping up with mortgage payments. Failure to keep up payment on a loan does not result in the timeshare being “repossessed”, as the finance is separate from the timeshare.

As for relinquishing or surrendering your timeshare in Europe, this very much depends on who you purchased with, some companies are better than others.

As a very good example of the bad, we only have to look at MacDonald Resorts, this particular company has been the subject of many press articles, including some published here on Inside Timeshare. This company is renowned for not allowing people out of their contracts even after death, so this means the children inherit the timeshare and the subsequent maintenance bills.

A very good case which Inside Timeshare has been working on is that of Mrs B, an 87 year old lady in ill health, who used a company to relinquish her contract. This was done by selling to a third party, MacDonalds refuse to accept this, stating they do not recognise the transfer, even though we have notary documents proving the transfer. Consequently they are pursuing Mrs B for arrears in maintenance, passing the debt onto a debt collecting agency who are threatening court action if it is not paid. Inside Timeshare is now lodging a formal complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority as the debt is “under dispute” and should not be chased by the agency.

This company also “offers” a limited number of members to hand in their timeshares every couple of years, but only on the payment of 4 years maintenance fees.

Another company that is renowned for being very difficult to get out of is Petchey Leisure, now owned by MGM Muthu. As far as they are concerned your contract is in perpetuity and that means never ending, so even your grandchildren will end up with the maintenance bills.

Diamond Resorts in Europe on the other hand seem to be getting their act together, for several years now they have allowed any member over 75 to hand back their membership. They also allow others to hand back in what they term as “exceptional circumstances”. These are the death of a partner, illness and financial difficulties. For those who do not fall into these categories they will allow surrender on payment of upto 3 years maintenance fees.

So now on with Irene’s Article.

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare:

Part I Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure

What will happen when you decide your timeshare decision was a mistake?

Part II: The 3Rs of Timeshare

Part III: 2 More Rs  – Timeshare Rentals and Resales

By Irene Parker March 28 

Contract picture

Except for failure to pay child support, there is no debtor’s prison. Anyone feeling desperate, angry, worried, ashamed or scared about their timeshare situation can rest assured they can put their timeshare troubles behind them through the 3 Rs or F of Timeshare.

The words I used above are how I describe timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare or to me through our Advocacy Facebook Page, burdened by high interest loan payments and rising maintenance fees. Our goal is to convert this owner into an informed and empowered owner.

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

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

Often, life without timeshare can be achieved without legal assistance, but we have a crew of able bodied lawyers there if you need them as a last resort. Advocacy works but has its limitations. All of our Advocates are unpaid, helping individual timeshare owners and members while working towards timeshare reform.

Last week we quoted Mr. Nusbaum’s feelings about the secondary market. Mr. Nusbaum is President and CEO of ARDA, the timeshare developer lobby.

“This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”  June 2014 RedWeek

On the other hand, here is another Nusbaum quote from the same article sounding somewhat contradictory:

“The developer community is not without some dirt under their nails in this. We’ve created a business model that needs recycling. We want to help the secondary market. For self-perpetuity, it’s insane not to have a healthy secondary market.”

But most of all, according to Nusbaum, the long-term outlook is improving because the largest timeshare companies are developing programs that offer exit strategies for their owners. The complete RedWeek article:

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/timeshare-resales-arda-predictions

“Exit strategies” are voluntary surrender programs. Requests are evaluated case by case. It is difficult to determine how many requests are granted compared to the number of requests overall. Are these programs just media window dressing to make it look like the industry is responding?

Michael Kosor has worked with Nevada Senator Becky Harris in an effort to propose legislation that would allow better disclosure as to the limited, or sometimes non-existent, secondary market.  

“Actions by the timeshare industry, regulators, and legislators, are analogies to firefighters rescuing the elderly trapped in a burning building. Until the cause of the fire is identified, consumers will continue to be lured into these burning (defective) timeshare products that are not supported by a secondary market. While I applaud the rescue, we should not allow the industry and those responsible for consumer protection to hide behind said rescue efforts while they inexplicably fan the flames. Ambulance chasing fraudulent transfer agents is a back-ended solution – a Band-Aid reaction.”

Treating symptoms without studying the cause can be problematic for medicine or timeshare. The cause in the case of timeshare is the active destruction of the resale market for the benefit of immediate developer profits.

“Where are the association Boards we elected to represent our timeshare interests”?

“Owners clearly would like to see more done to advance and advocate for an improved resale market,” continues Michael. “Why is it our advocacy group is the only voice in this discussion? With the exception of a few legacy associations, virtually none of the industry affiliated associations have an active resale program available to owners to assist in exit and preclude foreclosure, if a voluntary surrender is denied”.

I approached my association a few years ago, the Wyndham Grand Desert, and was told “this was not their responsibility.” Instead, my (and most all) associations’ leaders throw owners wishing to exit (which we all do eventually) to the wolves of the current resale environment or transfer agents. They then enter into very lucrative repurchase contracts with and for the developers. These repurchase contracts provide the association pennies on the dollar of outstanding assessments, then give the developer very low cost inventory to sell as new to the next owner.

The real issue is not merely failing to fix the resale market. Worse, the industry is actively working to build the recycle model which requires the intentional undermining of the resale market. Advocate owners and members understand the cause and the fact the industry has no desire to fix the problem. It’s sad that we as advocates have to educate and walk the elderly, the ill and those burdened financially, through the foreclosure process when all else fails.

The developers consider themselves benevolent when they allow the surrender of a $25,000 to over $100,000 vacation plan in exchange for a surrender of zero value. As long as the vacation points or weeks stay in the hands of the developer, there is no free market system. Lenin would be proud.

Back to the 3Rs or F of Timeshare

We want to avoid the F for foreclosure, but for some owners there is no choice.

Let’s get this last and most unpleasant option out of the way so we can focus on more positive outcomes.

Where do we start? Pull out all those documents and start digging!

Magnify

I hear a lot of “I think” or “I’m not sure” when I ask the following questions:

  • When did you first buy your timeshare?
  • Where did you buy your timeshare?
  • How many points do you own?
  • What was the sales agent’s name?
  • What interest rate are you paying if you have a loan?
  • What do you want to happen?

We begin at the end – Foreclosure

If a member has an otherwise unblemished credit score, he or she can work to have the reason for foreclosure added to a credit report.  I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process.  We use one unnamed resort as an example, but the procedure is similar to all timeshare companies. A common question is:

Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can or will members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Do they place the lien just on the timeshare? In other words, does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never.

Is it advisable to just stop paying fees without the aid of an attorney?

Mike: It really does depend on your ability to endure collection calls, letters threats, and a foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about 5 years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

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

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

According to Charles Thomas, here is how it works in Europe

This resort employs a debt collection agency, one they use is called Daniels Silverman, the debt is passed on to them (usually sold), they now own the debt and will threaten court action – whether they will is another matter. If this does occur, then yes credit rating will be affected as it will then be a County Court Judgement and failure to pay will result with the court bailiffs being sent in to recover either cash or goods to the value. Only they have the right of entry into the home.

As for a loan, if it is with a third party i.e. Barclays Partner Finance, any failure to keep up payments will result in County Court action as above and credit blacklisting.

It is advisable to seek advice from an attorney before just stopping any payments, as by doing this the debt cannot be passed on to an agency as under the Financial Conduct Authority regulations. The debt can be classified as “under dispute”.

According to the Canarian Legal Alliance CLA, when the firm takes on a relinquishment with a loan attached, they also try to have the loan agreement cancelled.

It is advisable to completely check any company that offers relinquishment services, as this is an area which is fraught with con artists.

Below is our Inside Timeshare article on debt collection with links to various authorities, it also includes a list of those resorts who employ debt collectors and a list of those who have taken people to court.

As Charles Thomas reported, Europe maintains a thriving timeshare foreclosure and collection industry as well.

http://insidetimeshare.com/maintenance-arrears-debt-collectors/

Our Advocates, relying on their experience and expertise, are here to evaluate and work together, each bringing a piece of the puzzle to help you find your answer.

Conference table

Next week we continue with Part II – The 3Rs of Timeshare:

Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund

Part III – The 2Rs of Timeshare – Rentals and Resales

Contact us today if you would like to share your story or work with us by becoming a Timeshare Advocate.

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-letter-america/

Thanks to Irene, Mike Finn and Michael Kosor for their contribution.

As you already know as owners of timeshare, whether in Europe or across the “Great Lake” in the US, once you purchase timeshare, getting out of it is fraught with obstacles. It does depend on who you own with, some are better than others. In Europe, Spain is leading the way with timeshare law, it is giving “consumers” more protection, making it easier to get out.

Inside Timeshare hopes these articles are of benefit to you the owners, that only through coming together and sharing information can we hope for any change in the industry.

If you have any questions or want to share your experience contact Inside Timeshare or join the Advocacy FB page.

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

Chicken soup is used as a remedy whenever anyone is ill, I remember as a kid if I was under the weather mum or gran would ensure I had a bowl of hot chicken soup. Whether it did any medical good is not clear, but it did make me feel better.

The chicken soup for timeshare is a cacophony of abbreviated names, which many of us cannot work out what they stand for. I will not go for the ones on mainland Europe, for one simple reason, I don’t speak the myriad of languages we have. So here are the ones we have in the UK if you have a timeshare or consumer problem.

Firstly the timeshare ones: we have the RDO, Resorts Development Organisation, this is the trade body for the industry and represents only the industry not the consumer.

TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, this is supposed to represent you the owners, but as we know they are funded by the industry for the industry. Also they are in deep trouble as we saw in yesterday’s article.

Non timeshare organisations:

BIS, Business Innovation and Skills, this is a government department, in the past they are the ones who closed down several “dodgy” holiday clubs.

They also work very closely with TS, this is Trading Standards. Each county council has their own trading standards office, again they have been instrumental in closing down rogue companies.

CAB, this is the Citizens Advice Bureaux, this is an agency run mainly by volunteers who offer advice and information on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately when it comes to timeshare they will refer you to TATOC.

FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority, they deal with anything within the finance world, it is they who lay down the regulations for how businesses such as debt collecting agencies operate.

FOS, The Financial Ombudsman Service,this is a government body who is the last resort in any dispute on financial matters. For instance problems with loan agreement, credit card refunds, including complaints against debt collecting agencies.

There are plenty more but my soup pot is only small, so I cannot fit anymore in, Irene in the her article today explains the numerous ones in the US, this will be of specific interest to those in Europe who have bought in the US. You also have the right to lodge complaints there, even if you live in Europe.

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/surveying-administrative-remedies-for-timeshare-consumers-seeking-relief

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

Who are they? How can AGs, CFPB, FTC, or the BBB Help Us?

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

Many timeshare owners have little or no understanding as to how to go about fostering change when business practices have degenerated to the point such practices become harmful to consumers. This article takes some of the mystery out of governmental and nongovernmental agencies offering a blueprint for consumers to follow.

Given recent actions taken by such agencies, and in light of today’s timeshare climate, we look at what’s happening and examine where we can go from here.

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.bqeQAdL7#.whk6BDr5

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

Clearly, timeshare needs to change, so I reached out to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group in an effort to understand how regulatory agencies work. Mr. Finn describes his writing style as “lawyerly”.  In order for me to understand an article found on the Finn Law Group “Learning Center”, I have to rewrite it. This serves as some source of consternation to Mr. Finn, but he on occasion graciously allows me to redact one of his papers so that my fellow peasants can understand the topic.

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

The Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914 to prevent unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, but provides information about the next steps a consumer may take to resolve an issue.

The FTC looks at fact patterns in an industry. Several (the key word is always several) complaints may indicate a pattern of fraud and abuse which may lead the FTC to investigate and eliminate those unfair practices.

We begin with the FTC, because many states have enacted a portion of this federal act into state law.

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

If a consumer encounters a rogue sales agent in the timeshare industry, the experience can be described as a vicious cycle or circle that begins with the oral representation clause used and abused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. Consumer complaints beginning with “the salesman said” are sadly told the timeshare developer is protected by the oral representation clause.

In some cases, as in the case of Ralph Marble, maintenance fees escalate so fast the timeshare owner can no longer afford the fee. Mr. Marble was never able to use his vacation plan because of being diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase. His maintenance fees increased from $200 to $684 over eight years.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Voluntary Surrenders are on a case by case basis. If a timeshare owner is denied a voluntary surrender, they are often driven into the nets of timeshare “listing” or transfer agents. Some transfer agents are bogus which means the owner thinks they have unloaded their timeshare but have not. If the transfer agent is “legitimate”, the surrendered contracts are bundled 50 to 100 contracts and sold back to the timeshare developer, who in turn resells for full price. Thus the circle is complete.

After a four to seven hour timeshare sales presentation, the beleaguered buyer is poorly equipped to read the mile high stack of documents they are about to sign.

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is one of the newest government agencies created in July 2010 partly in response to the mortgage crisis in the late 2000s. The goal of the CFPB is to watch out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. The timeshare industry utilizes various financing tools in its sales practices and presentations.

The CFPB told me consumers should choose the mortgage option when filing a timeshare complaint, even if there is no mortgage. Timeshare is somewhat new to the CFPB. If the owner does not want to file a formal complaint, there is an option to “Tell Your Story”. I tell the CFPB stories almost every week.

The CFPB does publish the subject and data of the complaint, feeding its Consumer Complaint Database. Most importantly, the CFPB will report to Congress with the purpose of enforcing federal consumer financial laws and writing better rules and regulations.

As more credit card transactions involving timeshare purchases are generated, the credit card financing aspect should not be overlooked for consumers seeking a monetary resolution to their timeshare purchase issues, assuming a credit card was utilized. Diamond Resorts offers a six month 0% interest rate “Barclaycard” offer if the credit card is used to purchase a timeshare. More and more timeshare developers are acting as new credit card originators for third party financial provides such as Bill Me Later (a division of PayPal) Barclay Bank, Bank of America, and a couple of credit unions.

Unlike other regulatory agencies, companies must reply to the CFPB’s complaints or inquiries. Consumers should file their complaints with the CFPB, but expect only a modest resolution and an opportunity to be heard. However, the more complaints the CFPB receives regarding a company, practice, or industry – the more likely those complaints will be presented to Congress. Congress has the power to create new rules and regulations that can improve the market for consumers when Congress reviews and enacts new laws.

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

An Attorney General (AG) is a publicly elected position. Every state in the US has one. The AG is charged as the chief legal officer for their respective state. The AG’s Office proclaims to protect “timeshare owners by investigating business practices” relating to the sale and resale of timeshare interests.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division has the civil enforcement authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division is additionally responsible for the enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act,(“RICO”), which punishes businesses and “enterprises” conducting patterns of illegal activities within a state.

Notably, the AG by law cannot represent private citizens in legal disputes. When a complaint is filed by a consumer, and the AG investigates the alleged misconduct, the AG does not represent the consumer on an individualized basis, but rather the interest of consumers in their state as a whole.

As in the case of the $800000 settlement the Arizona AG reached with Diamond Resorts, if the Division investigates and is successful in prosecuting or settling the action, there is a potential for recovery.

Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) state regulatory agency – Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”)

Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The DBPR is an extension of the executive branch of the Governor, and is charged with licensing and regulating all businesses and professionals within the state. The DBPR subdivision relating to timeshares is known as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”). The Florida Timeshares Division licenses and regulates timeshares through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.

The Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of this division represents the interests of Florida residents and does not represent individual complainants. In most cases the Department, even with successful prosecution, does not typically recover money that a consumer has lost. Many consumers rightfully wonder what the likelihood of success would be if they take the time to file a complaint.

Statistically speaking, from April, 2014 through April, 2016, the Florida Timeshares Division received 2,360 complaints. Of those complaints, only 110 resulted in action by the Florida Timeshare Division – less than 5%!

The Better Business Bureau BBB

The Better Business Bureau is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues.

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

The National Timeshare Owners Association is a social purpose organization dedicated to educating, advocating and protecting ownership interests. For nearly 20 years, the NTOA has worked to ensure owners have access to resources available to them. As the oldest and largest member based association, NTOA works closely with other industry associations and stakeholders such as CRDA, TBMA, TATOC, CARE and FTOG. NTOA’s extended relationships include 12 domestic and international developers, HOA‘s and management companies. The NTOA seeks to find solutions to some of the industry’s most complex issues.

Summary and Conclusion

What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 to $100,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 14% to 19% annual interest rate accompanied by a lifetime and beyond maintenance fee obligation? A thriving resale scam industry exists due to the limited and sometimes nonexistent secondary market.  

It’s not until long after the contract is signed, or if the family experiences a life crisis, they learn that the purchase contract often contains no way out. In all likelihood, the perpetual contract was signed in a same day sale, after a sales presentation that lasted for hours. The elderly are targeted, according to several lawsuit allegations.

success

Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.  

GET INVOLVED!

To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well-organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment.  Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more about organized efforts to reform an industry badly in need of reform. Thank you to timeshare companies working towards a safer and owner friendly timeshare industry.

We would like to thank all contributors to this article especially Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group.

Inside Timeshare is here to bring you the latest news on what is happening in the world of timeshare, at present we are very much focused on Europe and the US. We are however working on collaborating with writers in Australia, this will bring you the news on a worldwide scale. We would also like to hear from any owners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can contact Inside Timeshare through our comments section or email direct to [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you.

Globe flags