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Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday, so time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a look today’s major news in Europe.

El Diario a prominent Spanish daily newspaper published the following article today (see link for full story).

The article reports on the current legal actions against Anfi and tells of the 1.35 million Euros they have had to repay to consumers, in the execution of around fifty judgements. It also goes on to say that there are over 395 live cases at court with a value of over 27 million Euros, with over 100 having had decisions in favour of the consumers. Some of these are firm decisions with the sentences yet to be executed, others are awaiting confirmation.

With even the Spanish press publishing articles such this, it does make the claim by Anfi that they have not lost or the Supreme Court has got it wrong rather flimsy!

In fact on Tuesday yet another sentence was announced by the Court of First Instance against Anfi, again the clients contract was declared null and void with the judge ordering Anfi to return over £20,000 plus legal interest

(if using google. Right click on the article for a translation to English)

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-condenas-negocio-timesharing_0_739477033.html

The same article has also been published in Canarias7, one of the major Canary Islands Newspapers.

https://www.canarias7.es/economia/turismo/anfi-paga-ya-1-35-millones-por-condenas-YK3590405

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

 

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (first published in three parts)

Timeshare Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund, Foreclosure

Magnify

By Irene Parker

February 16, 2018

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare, but rising maintenance fees, high interest rate loans and higher interest rate developer issued credit cards can spell financial disaster, especially when an individual or family is hit with an unexpected life crisis. Not one of the more than 300 Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us realized the perpetual nature of the timeshare contract (in the US), or that their timeshare had little or no secondary market. It is not uncommon for a family to have spent $100,000 or more on a timeshare.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone, or any firm, money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, like being in the middle of buying a house, may result in a referral to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help the individual or family.   

Our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because we don’t win them all. No one does, not even lawyers. “We can guarantee you release!” boasts the exit timeshare ad. We have had reports of people paying scammers large sums of money for a guaranteed release, only to learn the guarantee came about because of foreclosure or non-payment.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/file-timeshare-complaint-revised/

The goal:  Convert from angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused into empowered. Timeshare Advocacy Group™   has 44 core advocates and 10 technical support advocates to help you. All of our Advocates are unpaid.

The First R: Relinquishment

dont like

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees. It is difficult to determine how many surrenders requests are granted, compared to the number of surrenders requested.

There is nothing wrong with deeding back a timeshare if you have used and enjoyed the timeshare for several years. However, if you find out just days or weeks after purchase that you bought a timeshare not matching what you were promised, walking away from even $5,000 doesn’t seem right.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their 64 members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:

refund

A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund can be achieved.  Inside Timeshare has heard from so many members alleging fraud, we can sometimes guess the name of the repeat offender sales agent before we are told. The fact that some of the same agents are committing the same “fraud for profit” over a period of years is telling.

The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort. Anticipate a knee jerk “you signed a contract’ reaction. Next, begins the filing of regulatory and law enforcement agency complaints. This is where our advocates are ready to assist because just figuring out online forms can be daunting. Check our complaint form for the list of appropriate agencies to contact.

Eron Grant has become our resident ARDA Code of Ethics analyst. In all likelihood, timeshare members are not even aware they are collectively giving $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opts-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member.

Despite our advocates and members forwarding a volume of complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response. Inside Timeshare has learned two of the worst alleged offenders each give $1 million a year to ARDA ROC, surely a disincentive to enforcement.   

Here’s Eron’s article: Why Does ARDA Have a Code of Ethics?

red dress

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including 19 Attorneys General like Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, as reported by Chris Parker.  

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause. However, as we have stated in several previous articles, according to the FBI and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind the fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points.      

The most common deceit and bait and switch complaints

  • The agent said I could sell my points.
  • The agent said my points were an investment, so easily sold, at a profit.
  • I can turn in points to pay maintenance fees but no such program exists
  • The value of airline and other travel awards is zilch. A common complaint is being told you can use a credit card to offset or pay maintenance fees in their entirety, when a member would have to charge $200,000 to pay an annual $2,000 maintenance fee.
  • The interest rate is 18%. They said I could get better financing but I can’t.

The Third R

resolved

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

One amusing complaint was a buyer whose complaint was that they bought a trial program, but they were promised a lifetime membership. I explained, in the case of the timeshare company they bought into, the last thing they wanted was a lifetime membership. I encouraged them to become a Secret Shopper since they were not locked into perpetual maintenance fees.

 foreclosure  Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. Timeshare Advocacy Group has a foreclosure support group, with members offering each other tips on how to withstand the grueling up to 180 days or more of collection calls. Calls are relentless and members have reported many violations of debt collection consumer protection laws.  

We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed on Better Business Bureau reports, Attorneys General Settlements, and Assurances of Discontinuance and lawsuits. There will be a hit to your credit score of course, but if you feel you are a victim of fraudulent timeshare sales practices, provide the rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan or credit card. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process for an article we published previously. Mike’s answers are worth repeating. Some common questions:

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

Remember, “I can’t afford it,” is not a valid reason to cancel a loan for a timeshare any more than it is a reason to be able to cancel your home mortgage loan. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and ask them to cancel your home mortgage because, “I can’t afford it.”

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to evaluate and work together to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

We seek to provide timeshare 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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

fix prob

That’s it for another week, remember if you require any information about any article published or any company that contacts you, Contact Inside Timeshare and we will get the information for you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this week is part 2 of her Timeshare Tips, with some more legal comments from Mike Finn of Finn Law Group. But a few updates from the timeshare world in Europe.

Yesterday’s article focused on the new company Centaurus Mediation SL and the possible links with Silverpoint, well, not long after publishing, news arrived from Madrid and the Supreme Court. Yet two more rulings against Silverpoint.

In the 87th ruling by Spain’s Highest Court, the clients contract with Silverpoint was declared null and void, the court also awarded over £56,000 plus double the deposit amounting to over £69,000. The court also awarded all legal fees and legal interest.

Within minutes of this announcement, the Supreme Court released the 88th sentence, once again it was against Silverpoint.

In this case the contract was once again declared null and void with the client being awarded over £18,000 plus £2,000as double the deposit with legal interest.

As stated in yesterday’s article, a contract being declared null and void by the court means that it should never have existed, does not exist and all has to revert to the state it was in before the contract was signed. So if you do get a call from Centaurus Mediation, with the caller saying the only way to get out is for them to do it, remember it is just another ruse by Silverpoint to fleece you of even more money.

In Gran Canaria, Anfi was on the receiving end of two Court of First Instance sentences, both of these were heard in the court situated in maspalomas.

The first case in court number 2, Anfi was ordered to return over 16,000€ plus legal interest, with the contract declared null and void.

In the second case in court number 1, over £10,000 plus legal interest was returned to the client along with the contract being declared null and void.

With news like this coming out of the courts on an almost daily basis, how can these companies continue to deny any wrongdoing and that they are not losing in the courts?

It just goes to show the arrogance of timeshare companies who for too long have got away with malpractices on a grand scale.

Now on with this weeks article from Irene Parker.

Timeshare Tip #2

Don’t Pay Upfront Money to get you out of Your Timeshare

Define “Upfront Money”

crime buster

By Irene Parker

February 6, 2018

A Williamsburg lawyer guilty of her role in a conspiracy to fraudulently transfer hundreds of timeshare units was sentenced today to 50 months in …

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

Florida statute does not allow anyone to receive upfront money to get you out of your timeshare.   

http://centralflorida.app.bbb.org/newsearch2.asp?ComID=073300175003582)

the State of Florida – the collection of advanced listing fees from Florida residents, regardless of the location of the property, and owners of Florida timeshares is prohibited. Section 721.20(6), Florida Statutes, prohibits the collection of any advance fee for the listing of any timeshare estate or timeshare license, and requires that any seller of a timeshare plan be a licensed real estate broker, broker associate or sales associate as defined in Section 475.01, Florida Statutes.”

So what are “Upfront Fees” and how are they getting around it?

Like timeshare rescission periods, upfront fees can be dodged. Exit companies accomplish this by charging a listing or ad fee, market analysis, a subscription fee, an advertising cost, you name it. Attorneys charge retainers, but not all attorneys are created equal, as mentioned in our opening statement.

I asked Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group about this as, like all lawyers, Finn Law Group charges a retainer. Given the difficulty, few lawyers will accept a timeshare case on contingency. Timeshare developers know this of course, and know the time and money it takes to litigate is cost and time prohibitive.

According to Mike,

There really isn’t a legitimate way around the no upfront fee issue in a legitimate licensed real estate broker scenario. The one exception is when a seller wants to have more advertising in place than is generally offered by a particular broker and the seller authorizes upfront funds to be specifically applied to a third party marketing provider.  This is rare and usually occurs in the commercial market.

The licensing statute (Florida) is F.S. 475.01 Definitions. The salient details include “(a) broker…for another…and for a compensation…sells…offers….negotiate the sale…purchase or rental…any real property or any interest in or concerning the same… holds out to the public…engaged in the business of…buying,selling…real property of others…or who directs or assists in the procuring of sellers, purchasers, … which does, or is calculated to… result in a sale”

In case you’re hung up on the real property aspect of the definition, “The term broker also includes any person or entity who undertakes to list or sell one or more timeshare periods…”

So, to my way of thinking this company (the one we asked about) is not a licensed broker and if the state actually cared about the enforcement of their laws, they would have shut this, and other similarly situated organizations down long ago.

One of my favorite sources of information is NOLO as you can actually chat with a real lawyer! They have useful information and you won’t be bothered by those pesky “Get You out of Your Timeshare!” ads.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/florida-timeshare-foreclosure-right-cancel-laws.html

mice

In a strong arm attempt to make sure we vacation, powerful lobbyists and the industry have worked hard to make it difficult to get out of a timeshare contract. The exception is if there is no loan, in which case the timeshare company will “take back” your points and resell as “recycled inventory” on a “case by case” basis. Most timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare allege they were duped into high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards, sometimes popping out on site like toast from a toaster. In our opinion, the industry refuses to admit they are causing the exit scams by allowing deceit on the front end of the sale and by not allowing a secondary market.

Deceit on the front of the timeshare sale does not discriminate, but often the elderly are victimized, as they tend to have more time and money. Timeshare members over 55 need to reach out to AARP.  

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/

The $70 billion a year flowing into Florida in tourist dollars may contribute to why this deceit has not been exposed. I have interviewed a dozen former sales agents, managers, and even a few executives, who call it “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat.” Nice people.

Social Media is here to stay. Timeshare members like never before can share experiences. They are no longer silenced and isolated. One of our advocates sent this published report to us, posted on TUG Timeshare Users Group. (Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association member Judi Kozlowski has provided commentary for our Inside Timeshare articles)

In the timeshare resale market today, it is pretty much a guarantee that you will encounter an upfront resale scammer if you are attempting to sell or rent your timeshare. Sadly these scams have become so popular, they are regularly listed in the top 10 scams by Attorney Generals offices and the BBB year after year!

Hopefully you have read the TUG Scams and Fairy Tales advice article, but if not and you are the victim of an upfront fee scam, your options are limited but they at least exist!

STEP 1: SEND A LETTER DEMANDING A REFUND

In many cases, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, so if you are persistent in calling and emailing and sending actual letters, you stand a chance of getting a refund!

This sample letter was provided by Judi Kozlowski, a licensed timeshare resale broker who has been in the industry for many years and fights to shut down these scammers with her organization the . Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association

We urge anyone who is the victim of an upfront fee scam to follow all the steps detailed below after sending this sample letter if you do not receive your refund or a reply in a timely fashion!

SAMPLE LETTER TO SEND TO A TIMESHARE UPFRONT FEE SCAMMER:

Dear (Insert Business Name Here),

We will be reporting you to the following people if you do not return our money. What you have done is fraud.

  • The Attorneys General Office in (the State you live in), (the State the timeshare is in) and the( State the Scammer is in).
  • We are also calling the police in (same as above, both locations).
  • We are going to report you to our (VISA/MC/AMEX/Discover) and have them report your fraud to your merchant account.
  • We are going to the following sites to report your scam:
  • Timeshare Users Group Forums
  • ARDA.org
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Ripoffreport.com
  • Every social media page we can find with your name on it (facebook/twitter/linkedin)

We do not want any phone calls from you. All we want is our money returned. You have lied, misled and committed fraud. We demand a refund to our credit card immediately and will be disputing this charge with them immediately.

Note: While TUG certainly cannot guarantee the success or failure of the above letter, it certainly gives you an option in which to attempt to obtain a refund from the company that scammed you out of the upfront fee. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Remember, these companies mislead and lied to you in the first place, if your initial request for a refund goes unanswered or is denied, this letter may be a last resort for you to get your hard earned money back!

This posted by jayjay on RedWeek

2009 – that’s how long this has been going on!

Someone that’s been taken by any upfront fee scam company in the state of Florida needs to copy and paste that statute and then report the scammers to the law ASAP ….. my mission is to put every upfront fee resale/rental timeshare company completely out of business …. this is certainly a good way to start.

Bottom line, never, ever pay a timeshare resale company an upfront fee in the hundreds/thousands of dollars to list your timeshare in a database that no one will ever see …. you’re throwing your money away AND you’ll never hear from them again.

https://www.redweek.com/forums/messages?thread_id=16239

Inside Timeshare received timeshare member complaint number 302 today, 44 since January 1.

If you have a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or one of these US member supported, non-industry influenced Facebooks and websites:

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

sos

Timeshare member Karen Krokosh reached out to Sell My Timeshare Now and here’s what happened to her:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-5/

Thank you Irene and also Mike Finn, thanks also to all who have contributed to this weeks article.

If you have any questions or require any information on this or any article published, please contact Inside Timeshare. We are here to provide the best and informative information possible.

letter-from-america

Friday’s Letter from America

Here we go another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker explains reporting a crime to the FBI, regarding timeshare complaints. To us in Europe this appears a little excessive, especially when we take the situation with timeshares purchased in Spain. But in the US, consumers do not seem to have the same protection as those in Europe.

Now for a round up of European news, once again Anfi have been ordered by the High Court in Las Palmas to return over 36,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest to an ex client. In this case the contract was again declared null and void, the main infringement of the timeshare law is once again the contract duration of over 50 years, or what is known as perpetuity. This point has been the subject of many rulings from the Supreme Court.

Still on the subject of Anfi, a Norwegian journalist and Anfi member is starting to ask questions about the accounts for Puerto, Monte and Gran Anfi. It would seem that they are owed huge amounts from Anfi Sales and Anfi Resorts.

At present Inside Timeshare is looking into this and will publish in the near future, suffice it to say, from the copy of the post received, it looks as though there is a substantial amount outstanding. This journalist also asks the question if this is the reason for the lack of maintenance and upkeep at the resort?

More on this subject as and when we get the confirmed information.

Amador Galeca, one of the “Fake” law firms which springs from the Litigious Abogados family has been active again, with Inside Timeshare receiving many enquiries as to if these are genuine.

Once again, these firms are not genuine law firms, they have in place a very elaborate fraud, designed to fool owners into believing they have cases at court. Search Litigious Abogados in the search box, there you will find the story going back around two years.

The unfortunate aspect of this is the frequency with which they change the names of the law firms and the websites. This makes it very difficult for the authorities to keep up on their investigations. The one thing that does help, is the fact the websites are all the same except for the names.

In the end, it is up to you to check if they are genuine before paying these companies, it is no use after you have made the bank transfer, that money is long gone. This is the reason for creating the urgency, with stories such as the director is pleading guilty and the trial is in 3 weeks, so you need to hurry if you want to be part of this claim!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America.

How to Report a Crime to the FBI

graph

By Irene Parker

January 19, 2018

There has been a change in strategy in reporting to the FBI if timeshare members feel they meet the definition of white-collar crime, financial institution fraud defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.”

I’m still recovering from the comment Anthony Davis posted January 11 in response to one of my articles. Anthony wrote that he recorded a timeshare sales presentation. Anthony is an army vet, 90% disabled after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, someone who works in law enforcement contacted me just after I spoke with Anthony, informing us they wanted to donate a GoPro Hero 5 Session camera. My husband and I picked up the camera and drove to Orlando to meet Anthony and Ashley. They came to Orlando because they said they were required to attend a mandatory timeshare presentation scheduled for January 13th. This was their second required new member orientation and they had to bear the air and Uber expense to travel from Tennessee to Florida for two days, just to attend the orientation. Armed with our new GoPro, we recorded an interview with Anthony and Ashley. We also recorded the recording of the orientation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phUjnrIG3bI

The next morning, alarmed at what I had heard on the recording, I contacted the FBI. It took a while to explain the significance of this recording, because the FBI is not as familiar with timeshare as they are with say, terrorism, but the agent took the time to understand. At the end of our conversation agent #2222 (I did not ask permission to use his real number) concluded timeshare members need to call their local FBI field office and report orally through the FBI public access line, selecting option #4, white-collar crime. I thought he was going to dismiss me by sending members to the Attorneys General Offices! Here are the FBI field offices:

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

Previously, FBI agents had advised me to direct members to the IC3.gov portal. This is the FBI’s online complaint site. Filing at IC3.gov is similar to filing an online AG complaint. Timeshare members who feel they have been a victim of deceit and bait and switch should still file with IC3.gov, in addition to filing orally with your local FBI field office. Here’s the IC3.gov link:

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

From the FBI website (my comments are in italics)

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of Financial Institution Fraud. It is crime characterized by some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission in relation to a mortgage loan which is then relied upon by a lender. A lie that influences a bank’s decision—about whether, for example, to approve a loan, accept a reduced payoff amount, or agree to certain repayment terms—is mortgage fraud.

Inside Timeshare US has received 278 timeshare complaints from readers. Of the 278 complaints, 263 allege that what happened to them meets the definition of white collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” Several timeshare members have reported timeshare sales agents advised them to falsify information, or the agent on their own falsified information, discovered when the member compares what they signed at the time of purchase to the document the timeshare company provides to the member after they asked for a document when pursuing a complaint.

The FBI and other entities charged with investigating mortgage fraud, particularly in the wake of the housing market collapse, have broadened the definition to include frauds targeting distressed homeowners.

This includes distressed timeshare members as a timeshare loan is considered a mortgage and is reported as a foreclosure, the same as a home mortgage foreclosure. However, timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group did sue Bluegreen and managed to get foreclosed knocked down to “charged off” on behalf of 11,000 Bluegreen members and, going forward, Bluegreen no longer reports their timeshare point “take backs” as a foreclosure. Foreclosure is the most damaging hit to a credit report, and according to Mike, timeshare companies tend to pick the most damaging category to report.  

There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud—fraud for profit and fraud for housing.

  • Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

Timeshare member can relate to this definition! We have compiled three repeat offender summary reports. One of the reports describes highest loyalty members being up-sold to buy more points because they will be able to pay maintenance fees or sell points when no such program exists.

The FBI seeks to maximize its impact on the mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud as a whole through collaboration.

For example, the Bureau operates Financial Crimes Task Forces within several field offices throughout the country that act as force multipliers in addressing large scale financial fraud schemes. Comprised of federal, state, and local regulatory and law enforcement agencies who work together on a daily basis, these tasks forces have been an effective way to merge valuable resources of participating agencies.

By leveraging the skills, knowledge, and resources of various government agencies and private industry, the FBI and its partners are able to bring more perpetrators of fraud to justice.    

Common Mortgage Fraud Schemes (I selected those pertinent to timeshare)

  • Foreclosure rescue schemes: The perpetrators identify homeowners who are in foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage loan and then mislead them into believing they can save their homes by transferring the deed or putting the property in the name of an investor. The perpetrators profit by selling the property to an investor or straw borrower, creating equity using a fraudulent appraisal, and stealing the seller proceeds or fees paid by the homeowners. The homeowners are sometimes told they can pay rent for at least a year and repurchase the property once their credit has been reestablished. However, the perpetrators fail to make the mortgage payments and usually the property goes into foreclosure.

The DOJ places timeshare exit scams complaints second only to debt collection complaints. Timeshare exit scams flourish when timeshare companies do not allow a secondary market. This is a 13 page DOJ report on timeshare exit scams:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

One new timeshare term I learned is “Viking Ship” comparing fraudulent timeshare transfers to the term used to describe how Vikings put their dead on a ship, set fire to it, and shipped it out to sea.

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

Loan modification schemes: Similar to foreclosure rescue scams, these schemes involve perpetrators purporting to assist homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgage payments and are on the verge of losing their home by offering to renegotiate the terms of the homeowners’ loan with the lender. The scammers, however, demand large fees up front and often negotiate unfavorable terms for the clients, or do not negotiate at all. Usually, the homeowners ultimately lose their homes.

Foreclosure is a guarantee, but you certainly don’t need to pay anyone to help you foreclose. These scams say foreclosure meets their promise of a guarantee!

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud

Law rights

Thank you to our FBI field offices for even listening to us as no one else is. We appreciate the efforts of Attorneys General but they are limited in their scope. Federal enforcement is needed.

If you need help with a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or contact one of these U.S. advocacy groups we endorse, feeling they are truly member supported, not influenced by industry.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

There we have it, timeshare consumers in the US now have another way of fighting back, things across the Great Lake are a little more complicated for timeshare consumers than in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article published, contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you get the best advice possible.

Have a good weekend.

weekend cat

tues

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the first article of the New Year, as the holidays are just coming to a close there is not a lot of news to bring. This will no doubt change over the next few weeks, when we begin to receive emails and questions on the myriad of companies that will be starting their New Year campaigns.

As usual we warn all our readers to be careful before engaging with any company that contacts you, especially with news that your timeshare resort is being taken to court (with the director pleading guilty) and you can also be part of this for a small fee.

Some basic points on the subject of claims, unless you purchased your timeshare in Spain after January 1999, you will not have a claim in the Spanish courts. If you have been offered a no win no fee claim, beware that it does not entail a large fee to relinquish your timeshare or even the purchase of another product, such as “Lifestyle Credits”. These no win no fee claims are usually the enticer, the promise of large sums to be returned, then it turns out it is a frivolous claim under Section 75 of the Credit consumer Act 1974.

Over the next few weeks we should be receiving the news from the Crown Court in Birmingham on the sentences for Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group. If you remember they pleaded guilty to charges of Aggressive Sales Practices and Coercion, contrary to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Another group of companies are also subject to investigation from Trading Standards and could also be facing criminal charges, these are the companies of Mark Rowe, which include ABC Lawyers. At the beginning of December it was announced that several enterprises had been raided, with employees being questioned and documents seized for further investigation.

We will be keeping an eye out for any news on these and will bring you the news as it comes in.

Now for the first article from Irene Parker for 2018.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Plans for the New Year

By Irene Parker

January 2, 2017

  • Boost our media outreach group
  • Boost our legislative outreach
  • Boost our active duty and retired military outreach group

Inside Timeshare published many Nightmares on Timeshare Street articles in 2017. All were written or submitted by highly educated professional people. In 2018, will timeshare developers continue to hide behind the oral representation clause, or will they instead consider their customers might be telling the truth?

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ ended 2017 with a total of 260 timeshare complaints of which 245 alleged they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. The other 15 could not afford the timeshare. Members contacted us through Inside Timeshare or one of the U.S. self-help, member supported Facebooks posted at the end of this article. Many complain they had responded to unsolicited marketing calls asking if they wanted out of their timeshare only to learn the money they paid was lost.

Timeshare developers are beginning to listen. Wyndham now offers a surrender program called Ovation and Diamond Resorts announced just last week a surrender program called Transitions. Inside Timeshare has already received several questions from readers about Diamond’s Transitions program. We will be reporting on our readers’ transitions experience in 2018.

Legacy resorts are those that are sold out, free standing, deeded weeks. Liberté Management Group of the Pinellas Islands, Inc. announced TARS, a “limited deed, limited fun” exit plan will be operated as a subsidiary of Liberté and will be jointly headquartered in Treasure Island, Florida. We will continue to follow TARS in 2018.

TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC EXPANDS SERVICES FOR LEGACY RESORTS AND OWNERS

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are saddled with high interest rate loans, thus not eligible for a voluntary surrender program. It’s important to remember transferring to a lower interest rate loan through a third party lender is not advised, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. When transferring to a third party lender, the money in questions is no longer between you and the timeshare company. According to Mike,

Another tremendous and informative article! I think the one major, major admonition I have for anyone, client or not, who has purchased a timeshare with developer financing and may want to reconsider the merits of the purchase (and, of course, assuming the rescission period has passed), do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances, attempt to re-finance the purchase via a home equity line or a transfer to a lower interest credit card, or, for that matter any other methodology that has as its objective, re-paying the developer with other third party money.

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-2/

Also, anyone buying a timeshare should look to see if their contract contains an arbitration clause. We advise timeshare members exercise their right to opt out of arbitration within the allotted time available to opt out.

To start 2018 off on a positive note, this is an article Inside Timeshare published back in July about a company we firmly endorse, ruled by a bunch of little critters.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

What does Disney Vacation Club do other developers don’t that almost eliminates complaints? The reasons are detailed in the article, but in my opinion, it is mainly because Mickey allows and supports a secondary market.

Think about it. What if the primary residential housing market decided you could not sell your personal residence. Inside Timeshare has received complaints involving amounts up to, and on occasion exceeding, $500,000. This is easily the cost of a home. Timeshare companies tell us to think of our vacation points as a second home and they always greet us when we arrive, “Welcome Home!” Not being allowed to sell your home would devastate the housing market, and in our opinion, is destroying timeshare today. Out of 260 reader responses, not one knew when they purchased their timeshare, the limited or sometimes lack of a secondary market.

We have forged remarkable relationships with many of our readers, some who have moved on, having signed a non-disclosure agreement agreeing not to say anything negative about their resort, or were subjected to an arbitration ruling that was private and binding. In this way Inside Timeshare provides a voice for the voiceless when victims of white collar crime, financial institution fraud, are effectively silenced and isolated.

It’s easy to get discouraged, but Inside Timeshare and advocacy groups have made remarkable progress. So we soldier on into the New Year.

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these U.S. member supported self-help groups if you have a timeshare concern. We’re here to listen and act, going a step beyond helpful posts.   

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

If you have any questions or comments on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare, if we don’t know the answer we will find out for you. If you require any information about any company that you may be thinking of doing business with, but need to find out about them first, get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.

 

alone

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this week’s Tuesday slot Irene Parker looks at another military family who have fallen foul of deceptive sales practices. As usual Irene sent a draft of the article to Bluegreen for comment, at the eleventh hour, Bluegreen responded.

They have offered to cancel the loan, so fair play to them, Inside Timeshare thanks Bluegreen for taking note. The article has been changed in light of this, but is being published as a warning to other consumers to be aware and do their due diligence. Irene will also be writing a follow up article on Bluegreen’s response to the BBB.

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

Terry and Linda Carter

soldier

By Irene Parker

December 12

Terry Carter served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was discharged for medical reasons. Burdened with caregiving, Linda Carter reached out to Inside Timeshare for help. The family alleges they were sold a Bluegreen timeshare by deceit and a “bait and switch” told the timeshare would be easy to sell for a profit.

After filing a Better Business Bureau complaint, Linda was informed December 11, 2017, their loan would be cancelled, but they would not receive a refund. One reason listed was because they had used their points. What does use of the points you had been paying for, have to do with being told you bought the timeshare on the promise that the points would be easy to sell? This is one of the most common complaints voiced by our readers.

The oral representation clause included in all timeshare contracts states: “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” This translates to “Never believe anything a timeshare sales agent says.” The family tells their story hoping to warn others to think twice before buying any product that can’t be sold, or if sold, brings only pennies on the dollar.  

Linda was initially upset because she thought a loan cancellation would only stop the phone calls, but the hit on their credit would prevent them from obtaining a loan through the VA to buy a house. The representative ended their conversation saying she would love to help them book a vacation though! Linda was astonished. Terry has been diagnosed with blood cancer common among vets living near a burn pit.

I told Linda about the class action lawsuit Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group initiated that resulted in over 11,000 Bluegreen members getting foreclosed changed to “charged off” on their credit report.   

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” as Mike explained in our Marriott article about the racketeering lawsuit filed against Marriott Vacation Club alleging Marriott charges closing costs and other fees associated with real estate, when the product is a right to use product, like a gym membership.

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

A lifetime is a long time to bet nothing will happen to make the timeshare unaffordable. Inside Timeshare has heard from 237 angry and desperate timeshare buyers of which 222 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch. Almost all allege they were told their points would be easy to sell.

Terry’s story

After 9/11 Terry volunteered to go to Iraq. He was close to retirement so he felt it was the last thing he would be able to do for his country. After he got in country, he again volunteered with six other guys to be on a team deployed to Basra where the British had a FOB.

A forward operating base (FOB) is any secured forward military position, commonly a military base, used to support tactical operations. (Wikipedia)

Terry was the lead man for the C-RAM program.

C-RAM: Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, abbreviated C-RAM or Counter-RAM, is a set of systems used to detect and/or destroy incoming artillery, rockets and mortar rounds in the air before they hit their ground targets, or simply provide early warning. (Wikipedia)

He and his guys would monitor incoming fire. Basra was one of those places where they were the only Americans so it was hard to get medicine and supplies. Terry and the guys lived in tents next to burn pits where the British burned anything that could be burned. He received a letter stating that he lived next to the pits.

Then there was Afghan. Terry was there for eighteen months until he was sent home after a diagnosis of blood cancer. He also served twenty years in the National Guard. Terry is 55 years old.

I really don’t know what else to say – he lived army ‘til he couldn’t anymore.

thankyou

Terry and Linda

There are two more words to say.

Linda and Terry’s complaint sent to Bluegreen November 16, 2017

We were told in Gatlinburg at a group presentation that Bluegreen points were an investment and could be sold for a profit. My husband was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2014. We can no longer afford the timeshare and now know the agent lied about being able to sell Bluegreen points. We are not concerned that we cannot make a profit as the agent claimed, but have learned Bluegreen points are virtually worthless should a member need to sell. Bluegreen agents should not sell points based on the points being an investment. There were several in the room who heard this claim as it was made in the group presentation and in our individual meeting. Also, Cammie said all we had to do is when we got back home was go to our bank as we wouldn’t have a problem getting a lower interest rate. This was not true. Banks will not finance timeshare. Please help us.

Linda Carter

Thank you to Linda and Terry for sharing their story. Our advocates feel that until deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the timeshare sale is acknowledged and addressed, nothing will change.  

Business etiquette advice for customer service representatives (Article link not included as the article had “We Buy Timeshares” ads all over it)  

  1. Return calls promptly. Respond to messages as soon as possible, especially if the issue is time-sensitive. If the phone message relates to a complex issue that will take time to assess, have the courtesy to touch base with the person, acknowledge receipt of the call and let them know you are working on gathering the specific information. When possible, provide a timeline for when you will get back to the caller. For example, “I received your message inquiring about when our next shipment will be available. I have several phone calls in to our distributors, and I anticipate hearing back from them at the first of the week.”

customerphone

Inside Timeshare does return phone calls and emails promptly. Contact Inside timeshare or a member supported self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or would like to share your story.

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

 

If you have any comments about this or any other article published, or you are looking for help and advice on any timeshare related matter, contact Inside Timeshare. We are here to give you the truth and the best advice possible.

  

 

capone

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker: Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, in this article Irene Parker looks at the Marriott Vacation Club and the law suit for racketeering.

First some recent news fro the Supreme Court in Madrid which came in this morning, this is the 73rd ruling by Spain’s Highest Court.

Another Silverpoint contract has been declared null and void with the British clients set to receive over £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

No details are yet available, but as with other cases the main infringement is likely to be a contract over 50 years. The one important factor is that these contract contravene the Spanish Timeshare law 42/98.

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

Part I – The Manhattan Club and the possible dismantling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker/

Part I describes how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club timeshare members after a battle that lasted almost three years. ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, seemed to be on the side of the TMC developers. In today’s article we look at ARDA’s involvement in the Marriott Racketeering lawsuit filed May 2016. Timeshare members should research ARDA ROC before making their voluntary donation which appears as an “opt in” or “opt out” donation on their maintenance fee invoice.

In the Marriott racketeering lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Anthony and Beth Lennen, challenged Marriott’s points based system. Once again ARDA’s lobbyists are at the forefront.

“This was bigger than a lawsuit,” Hunter says. A negative ruling “could have a consequence of being devastating, conceivably, to the industry.” Florida Trend

I can imagine slave traders and slave owners making the same argument ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter makes in opposition to the challenge to the points based timeshare product.The legal structure of the points based timeshare product is complex. It seems the points based programs are not products that should be associated with real estate. It would be as if a country club charged me closing costs for joining their right to use program. Bluegreen seems to employ a similar model. As usual, I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group if he agrees with me.

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” Mike explained

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

Is timeshare deemed real estate when it comes to charging buyers fees associated with actual real estate, but not real estate in matters having any control over the property? Is this a case of having your cake and eating it too?

I asked timeshare member and economics professor Michael Nuwer to review the amended Marriott lawsuit complaint filed October 25, 2017 by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Newman Ferrara LLP. The complaint suggests suspicious legislative maneuvering intended to circumvent the lawsuit. The amended complaint addresses the Marriott-forced law changes in 2013 and 2017. The recent (2017) amendment to the Florida Timeshare Act purports to exclude pre-existing weekly owners as “interest holders” and pre-existing Condo Declarations as “encumbrances” with regard to sales of multisite timeshare plans that use pre-existing timeshare estates. According to the complaint,

“It allows massive profit-making – including administrative fees, closing costs, recording fees, transfer taxes, maintenance, assessments, and title insurance premiums.” Amended Marriott complaint 6:16-cv-00855-CEM-TBS

“As far as I know, none of the trust fund based timeshare systems “convey real property interest,” said Michael. “Ownership is a “beneficial interest” in the trust fund, although a recent ruling in Canada found the Diamond Resort Embarc members don’t even have that.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

“If Florida law requires a real property conveyance, then I think there could be a problem,” Michael added.

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and timeshare advocate, circulated a similar argument at the last two Nevada legislative sessions, proposing greater disclosure, but again ARDA’s lawyers fought against the members. The legislation proposed would have allowed better disclosure as to the lack of or limited secondary market and the fact that timeshare today has nothing to do with real estate. Timeshare agents typically inform buyers during their presentations that they are real estate agents, further enhancing a false security that the buyer is protected by real estate rules and regulations.  Even the name reflects the change. Fixed week timeshare buyers were “owners”. Points based buyers are “members.”

I have been researching timeshare since attending an astonishingly deceptive sales presentation July 2015. Like peeling an onion, I discovered at timeshare’s core, the points based system provides a recipe for deceit. As the Lennen complaint describes, point programs began in 2008 when timeshare developers did not know what to do with aging, foreclosed or repurchased inventory.

Inside Timeshare has received 216 US timeshare complaints from our readers, the majority concerning points. Not one of the 216 members understood, at the time of purchase, the difficulty selling their timeshare. Of the 216 complaints, 201 allege deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. Of the 216 complaints, only two came from a Marriott member. It saddens me to see Marriott singled out when the entire industry may be guilty of selling a product that is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

The Marriott racketeering lawsuit was first reported by Paul Brinkmann May 2016 at the Orlando Sentinel

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

According to the suit, Marriott (NYSE: VAC) timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate. Despite not actually being real estate owners, the lawsuit says, buyers are still paying closing costs, recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

Marriott has argued, in its motion to dismiss the case, that “plaintiffs have misread the statutes that they assert have been violated” and “the allegations are without merit and the MVC Plan fully complies with applicable law.”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-rico-20160524-story.html

Except it seemingly did not fully comply with applicable law, so ARDA lobbyists and industry executives forged ahead to initiate legislative changes that would change the definition of “beneficial interest” so that Marriott would comply.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-comptroller-marriott-rico-20170113-story.html

The following excerpts are from a November 23, 2017 Florida Trend article. The full article is linked below. In bold is my emphasis.

“Engineering the Law” Politico

However, Marriott began fighting the suit on another front. The company turned to the Florida Legislature, acting through the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry. At the time, ARDA’s chairman was Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacations’ president and CEO.

In both provisions, the lobbyist, Gary Hunter, of Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee, included extra sentences saying the changes were meant as “a clarification of existing law” — an effort to ensure Marriott could use them as a retroactive defense in the Lennen lawsuit.

ARDA sent more than talking points and issue briefs. A few days after Hunter sent in the additions to the bill, the organization gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and another $25,000 to a committee controlled by Senate Republican leaders. In April — on the same day that both the House and Senate scheduled the legislation for floor votes — ARDA gave another $10,000 to the state Republican Party. (ARDA, which represents a heavily regulated industry and works on legislation every year, is a reliable source of money for the state GOP, which controls all levers of state government. The organization gives more than $100,000 to the party and its affiliates every year.)

The legislation passed both chambers in late April, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law a month later. After the legislation passed, ARDA gave another $50,000 to the fund controlled by Republican Senate leaders.

Two weeks to the day after the bill became law, Marriott went back in court in Orlando, alerting Judge Mendoza to the new Florida law whose provisions “go to the very heart” of the case. “These clarifications of existing law … decimate much of the complaint,” Marriott’s attorneys wrote.

A spokesman for Marriott declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the legislation. But Hunter, the lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association who worked the bill, says the goal of the legislation isn’t just to help Marriott defend itself. It is, he says, meant to protect the entire timeshare industry from similar attacks in the future, should a judge, who is unlikely to be familiar with the history and intricacies of timeshare law, interpret state statutes in a way that no one in the industry ever intended.

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23307/engineering-the-law-marriotts-class-action-timeshare-battle

Florida Republican Representative Mike La Rosa, Oceola County was one of the lawmakers behind the amendment along with Republican Senator Travis Hutson, St. Johns County. Representative La Rosa is a member of ALEC. Senator Nan Orrock of Georgia has described ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.”

https://www.alec.org/person/mike-la-rosa/

After the legislative amendment was made, Mr. Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel once again picked up the thread:

A third-party observer, Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the timeshare law changes are suspect.

“It has the appearance of unethical influence, the appearance anyway,” Wilcox said. “The question would be, does it represent misuse of office or conflict of interest? Is it meant only to benefit those corporations and change the rules of the game?”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-legislation-20170719-story.html

Legal Dept
It’s not unusual for Florida to spearhead legislation that ultimately gets rolled out nationwide. Like the 2017 Florida amendment, in 2015 Florida passed a bill that alarmed advocacy groups. Advocacy groups felt the 2015 bill made it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts. This new amended 2017 bill is also expected to be rolled out nationwide. ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter is instructing Senator Hutson to remove language from the proposed 2017 Amendment that provided that the law applied only to Florida properties. He called the language “non-substantive” clearly intending to broaden the reach of the amendment to cover properties from single-site timeshare plans outside of Florida (which make up the bulk of MVC Trust properties).

Timeshare, in my opinion, is virtually an unregulated industry. There is no federal enforcement, and some Attorneys General may be influenced by lobby dollars. Florida is a timeshare Mecca with billions of tourist dollars flowing into the state. As mentioned in Part I, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014.   

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

How will it end? I fear big money will get its way at the expense of middle class timeshare buyers, even it means labeling a duck a goose.

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member sponsored self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share.

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175

Thank you Irene and all who helped with this article, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group for his legal views, this will certainly be of interest not just to those across the Great Lake, but also those owners in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments on this article or any other timeshare matter, please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to help.

 

vulture

The Tuesday Slot: An American Perspective and Comparison.

I can’t speak for Americans, but I imagine EU timeshare members, and even lawyers are not aware of the impact vulture lending by hedge funds has on impoverished Puerto Ricans and timeshare members. Not familiar with the term, my research uncovered the term private equity used to be called in the 80s venture capital and a venture capitalist was called a vulture capitalist due to targeting extraordinary returns for their investors. Fast forward 20 years and “Vulture” Funding in Puerto Rico is being talked about in American Financial news.   

puerto rico

It took me a while to “connect the dots” as Irene says in her article. The majority of complaints Inside Timeshare received concern rising maintenance fees. Legacy owners are particularly affected. Legacy owners are timeshare owners who have not given up their deed to convert to the points based program.

Diamond Resorts does not build new properties. Their strategy is to buy existing properties. Members tell us they are told they have to give up their deeded weeks and convert to points. This is not true. Some contacting Inside Timeshare report maintenance fees doubling or tripling after their resort is acquired. While Diamond will insist to owners, such maintenance fees increases are necessary to bring the resort up to standards, investor conference calls told a different story, explaining that 15% is added onto every budget line item after acquisition, affording investors a guaranteed and immediate 15% profit.

The Finn Law Group questioned the increases in this lawsuit filed against Diamond owned Bali Condominiums.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

Not everyone has a background in private equity like Justin Morgan, economics like Michael Nuwer or an MBA like Irene Parker. Justin and Michael expressed their concerns about private equity and what is necessary for investors to achieve a 30% or better return.

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

While explosive returns are often achieved in starting up a company like Apple or Amazon, expecting 30% or better returns out of timeshare may require tactics like those expressed by our readers, claiming they are being crushed by high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

Let us know if Irene’s connecting of the dots makes sense to you.  Now to Irene’s article.

What does Puerto Rico’s Debt and Timeshare Debt have in Common?

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide. (Hedgeclippers)

Witch

Part I – Puerto Rico and Timeshare Debt

Is Apollo Global Management involved with both?

By Irene Parker

Part II Friday November 17  

The Effect of Debt and Inventory Evaluations on Timeshare

By Contributors Justin Morgan, Australia and Michael Nuwer, US

November 14

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown, which aired November 6, described how Puerto Ricans are being crushed under the weight of debt orchestrated by hedge or “Vulture Funds”. Similarly, many timeshare members struggle with high interest rate timeshare loans and higher interest rate credit cards. It’s not surprising to find out hedge funds are involved with both Puerto Rico and timeshare debt.  

http://www.foodandwine.com/news/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-puerto-rico

FOX Business reporter Maria Bartiromo interviewed Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey April 2017.  The Milken Institute was prominently displayed during the interview. Connecting the dots, Michael Milken, formerly known as the “King of Junk” in the 80s because of his role in a junk bond scandal, worked at the brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. According to Wikipedia, Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black founded Apollo Global Management after DBL declared bankruptcy, having incurred $650 million in fines. Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo, is managed by an affiliate of affiliate of funds.

Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American private equity firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Leon Black. The firm specializes in leveraged buyout transactions and purchases of distressed securities involving corporate restructuring, special situations, and industry consolidations. (Wikipedia)

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-drexel-burnham-oral-history/

Debt and Michael Milken are as synonymous as debt and timeshare.

While Mr. Milken is known for his generosity, he is also known to have served 22 months in jail for securities fraud. Mr. Black emerged from the DBL bankruptcy unscathed, today worth $5.1 billion according to Hedgeclippers, $6.3 billion according to Forbes 2017 ranking (Hedgeclippers footnote link 85)   

Only Bloomberg subscribers can read the article linked below, but the headlines speak volumes.

Munis Meet Milken as Hedge Funds Dictate Puerto Rico Terms

Laura J. Keller

June 29, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT Updated on June 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

Puerto Rico is getting a thorough introduction to Michael Milken’s junk-bond world as it increasingly relies on some of the financial industry’s most aggressive players to solve its crippling financial troubles.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-29/munis-meet-milken-as-hedge-funds-dictate-puerto-rico-debt-terms

Vulture activity in Puerto Rico: Excerpts from Hedgeclippers

http://hedgeclippers.org/hedgepapers-no-17-hedge-fund-billionaires-in-puerto-rico/

Hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have swooped into Puerto Rico during a fast-moving economic crisis to prey on the vulnerable island. Several groups of hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts, pushed the island to borrow more, and are driving towards devastating austerity measures.

Known as “vulture funds,” these investors have followed a similar game plan in other debt crises, in countries such as Greece and Argentina.

argentina

The spoils they ultimately seek are not just bond payments, but structural reforms and privatization schemes that give them extraordinary wealth and power – at the expense of everyone else.

The payouts they seek are potentially enormous – running into the billions of dollars, with predatory rates of return – if other vulture debt plays are any guide.

Apollo Global Management, the third largest US-based private equity firm, has not yet been reported to be a member of the Ad Hoc Group looking to collectively pressure the Puerto Rican government, but press reports have indicated that Apollo, along with Fortress Investment Group and Aurelius Capital, are looking to take on a “more activist role” as the debt restructuring continues.

I think we can add timeshare to the list after Greece and Argentina given our reader responses and Diamond’s increased loan loss provision. Moody’s has placed Diamond on a downgrade watch after the company raised its loan loss provision to 18.4% March 31, 2017, from 12.9% the prior year.

The review for downgrade is a result of Diamond Resorts’ high leverage — Moody’s adjusted debt/EBITDA was about 7.0x for the last 12 month period ended March 31, 2017 — and increasing loan loss reserves which will make it difficult for the company to reduce leverage. Diamond Resorts, and other timeshare companies, has increased its loan loss reserve over the past year as a result of an increase in timeshare owner defaults, which to a large degree have been initiated by third party activities. Diamond Resorts’ loan loss provision increased to 18.4% of gross Vacation Interests sales at March 31, 2017, from 12.9% in the prior year. Should the loan loss reserve trend not improve, the company will have difficulty lowering its leverage below our trigger for a downgrade (below 6.5x).

https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-places-Diamond-Resorts-ratings-on-review-for-downgrade-including–PR_370606

Of note is the blame placed on third party activities, which includes fraudulent transfer companies and resale agents, some posting ads above our Inside Timeshare articles as soon as we publish. Ignored is deceit on the front end of the sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits too numerous to mention, as well as the severely limited or sometimes non-existent secondary market. Without a secondary market, a timeshare contract is worth nothing the moment the contract is signed and it is not uncommon for a timeshare to cost over $100,000.

Timeshare members struggling to meet loan and credit card payments can relate to those suffering in Puerto Rico. Inside Timeshare has heard from 192 of our readers of which 183 are from Diamond Resort members. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch, locked into loans and credit card debt they can’t afford, owning a perpetual vacation product they can’t sell.

Holding timeshare members hostage is a short term profit plus for Apollo’s investors, but is squeezing money out of middle class families at 12% to 24% sustainable? Not one of our readers was aware of the difficulty selling points due to lack of buyers. Contract language doesn’t help because the contract states “you can sell your points” but the part about secondary market restrictions and lack of buyers is not included, at least not in the contract I signed. Timeshare companies will either take back points or foreclose, reselling the same points over and over, described as a hamster wheel by one former Diamond sales agent.

money man

They say history repeats itself, but I would have never imagined, as a former Drexel Burnham Lambert client, the subsequent Apollo firm would buy my vacation plan twenty years later. This, in addition to reading so many online complaints posted by timeshare members who seemed to have nowhere to turn, motivated me to join Charles Thomas and Inside Timeshare in an effort to provide factual timeshare information and to warn the general public to do due diligence before buying any timeshare. I felt there was a need to go a step beyond helpful Facebook posts to warn members away from fraudulent listing and transfer agents, steering them towards regulatory and law enforcement agencies, if they feel they were a victim of a bait and switch.    

On Friday Inside Timeshare Contributors Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer will explain in Part II their take on the role private equity plays in timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has already heard from Diamond members worried about special assessments after this season’s catastrophic hurricanes, especially St. Maarten. They fear a repeat of the Poipu water damage assessments that resulted in a class action lawsuit.

http://advantagevacation.com/the-point-at-poipu-angry-owners-file-lawsuit-against-diamond-resorts/

As timeshare members brace for 2018 maintenance fees, Inside Timeshare will be here to help those who have questions, given the perpetual contract that still exists in the US, along with member sponsored Advocacy Facebooks.

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/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

not alone

I don’t know about you the readers, but my head is spinning after this, finance and economics have never been my strong point, but it does look a little clearer now, so thank you Irene.

If you need any help or advice about any timeshare matter, or just about any company you may be thinking of doing business with or that has contacted you, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

 

class action

The Tuesday Slot with Mike Finn

Today we publish the article by Mike Finn, which was postponed from last Friday’s Letter from America, it is the second in his series on Class Action Litigation, Part 1 looked at Arbitration. Tomorrow we publish a rather interesting article which compares two different industries, but surprisingly they operate in a very similar way.

Well it is that time of the year, the sound of envelopes containing your maintenance bills dropping on the mat. How much will they have gone up by this year, we hear you asking?

To be honest, one question we often ask, is what the hell do they spend this money on, after all our resort hasn’t had a facelift in decades. The tiles round the pool are still damaged, the bed covers are the same as when we bought 30 years ago. Even the sofa bed is still falling apart!

It would seem that they don’t spend it on maintenance, it goes on their profit line, so what can you do about it? Not a lot, you’re tied into perpetuity contracts, there is no resale or secondary market, yes, you are stuck in a rut with no way out.

Well not quite, things are changing, back in June Business Wire, published news of a lawsuit filed by Finn Law Group against Diamond Resorts. The suit was about maintenance fee practices and alleges maintenance billing practices were fiduciary duty violations and breach of contract. Follow the link below.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170629005705/en/Finn-Law-Group-Files-Suit-Timeshare-Maintenance

In Spain at least, owners do have a way out, many of the contracts are illegal under Spanish timeshare law, so those owners can take their case to court. Not only do they get their money back, but more importantly their contracts are declared null & void, leaving them timeshare and maintenance free!

So, on with today’s article.

CLASS ACTION LITIGATION

Misunderstood by Timeshare Consumers

post it

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

October 31, 2017

Part I – Arbitration – The Question Timeshare Buyers Never Ask

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

We all know a little bit about class action lawsuits, many of us have even received a letter or postcard advising us that we may be potential class members. Many sense that our individual recovery may not be worth the effort.

A timeshare purchase could be a horse of a different color. The beauty of a class action is that, as a class member, you wouldn’t have to actually hire the lawyer – he or she would be paid from the proceeds of the case assuming it is successful. As a lawyer with some class action experience, who has primarily represented consumer timeshare owners over a considerable period of time, I can report to you that class actions do play a role in consumer timeshare practice. That role, however, is more limited than we would like it to be.

The explanation lies with the kinds of cases that can be effective class action cases, especially if they are timeshare related. Most of our clients tell us that they were deceived during their initial timeshare presentation. They relied upon the veracity of the sales staff and only later, when they attempted to utilize their timeshare, did they learn the truth of their purchase. Of course, this realization did not come during the rescission period provided by law, which varies state to state. Instead, the hapless owner came to realize too late that the resort would not help them, and that the purchase contract they signed is legally binding, and that, in the absence of a viable resale market, there is no exit scenario built into the contract.

Essentially, they committed themselves to a lifelong obligation!

The above scenario, repeated over and over with some variation on the theme, is the “staple” fraud-in-the-inducement file we see at Finn Law Group on a daily basis. Per our own internal analysis, these matters occur with amazing frequency, mainly because of the manner that the timeshare product is marketed.

In nearly all instances, the salesperson assigned to the prospective customer is purely commission based. Top sales staff can make a very good living, but they must maintain a high closing rate to do so. This methodology puts the salesperson into a conflict, with ethical considerations competing against their own financial needs. With direct compensation incentives providing temptation, sales staff may well significantly embellish the advantages of timeshare ownership over the course of the three to five hours they often spend with their sales prospects. After this long sales process, the interested prospects are then immediately ushered into the closing aspect of the transaction, attended by different members of the sales team known internally as “closers.” These closer’s shepherd the prospect into and through the closing process. No prospects are ever given the opportunity to take the presented documentation with them for review or consultation with an attorney pre-execution. It’s all completed on the same day and that is by careful design. Given the mountain of paperwork processed at a timeshare closing and the relatively short amount of time a consumer has (or takes) to read and understand the finer points of the transaction, it is no small wonder that what one legally agrees to via their signature, compared to what they were told they were contracting for, are often diametrically different from one another.

A buyer spend hours with a sales person who is motivated to tell you, “yes,” your purchase does include that feature only to discover later that nowhere within those mounds of paperwork you signed and initialed is there any reference to the feature or features your salesperson assured you were included. To add insult to injury, one of the contractual clauses that was not pointed out to you was a clause that states that the purchasers did not rely on any oral representations when making their timeshare purchase decision.

Imagine a salesman knowing that clause exists resisting the temptation to increase his or her income!

magic box

I call that provision the “salesman’s license-to-lie” clause and I can say with pride that I was so quoted in the New York Times! So, we have now isolated one of the more frequent legal issues with the typical timeshare purchase, and we have identified the possible legal cause of action that applies, which lawyers call “fraud in the inducement.”  

From this, a remedy becomes readily apparent: The contract should be rescinded, because the purchasers didn’t buy what they were told they were purchasing by the sellers. Herein lays the rub, however. Should fraud in the inducement be raised in litigation, the developer will undoubtedly counter by claiming no such acts ever occurred, as it’s unlikely that the salesperson, if called as a witness, will admit they promised items not contained within the preprinted contract.

When combined with the salesman’s “license-to-lie” clause, this makes the plaintiff consumer’s case far more difficult to win – recall that the burden of proof rests with the party bringing the action. As the consequences of losing the case may mean the loser pays the winner’s attorney fees and costs, the wisdom of pursuing such a case for any one client becomes questionable, especially if the odds are no better than 50-50.

It’s tempting for a lawyer to look into the possibility of filing class action litigation for fraud-in-the-inducement claims for an entire class of timeshare buyers who have purchased a timeshare interest under the false impression that more attributes were being purchased than what were actually acquired. Surely, if everyone reports a similar purchase experience, the court will conclude that all of these purchasers couldn’t be wrong; and therefore, that the developer must be knowingly encouraging its staff to make false assertions to increase sales?

At this point we must pause and examine the state of the law to understand the legal conclusion that most courts have reached on this matter, with the sad fact being that, for the most part, courts have not considered fraud to be the type of case that belongs in a class action scenario.

The best explanation I can provide as to why the courts have adopted this position is that the elements of fraud – the actual deceit perpetuated with the intent to deceive – are all very individualized factors. The underlying facts of which will, by definition, vary with every individual timeshare presentation and by each individual timeshare salesperson. Therefore, each separate sales experience constitutes a new and separate set of facts to be evaluated. Courts are loathe to combine individualized sets of experiences, wherein every class member theoretically would have suffered the same level and severity of deceit and conclude that all members equally relied upon these separate individualized deceptive statements to their detriment.

In short, these fraud-based claims in the timeshare arena are not, in the foreseeable future, going to become actionable timeshare-based class actions. Of course, individual actions are still possible and we are aware of recent individual litigation that ended quite successfully for the consumers. Again, however, any owner considering individual litigation based upon a theory of fraud had better be aware that their battle will be costly and the ultimate results unpredictable.

So, is class action litigation just another pretty face with no significant place in the timeshare arena?

Decidedly not! Finn Law Group has successfully initiated multiple class action litigations against timeshare resort developers. In one concluded case, more than 11,000 former timeshare owners saw foreclosure entries on their credit reports purged, and more than two thousand others received extended vacations at no cost.

Other class cases are currently pending. View:

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/active-litigation

In conclusion, class action litigation isn’t going to, on its own, repair the underlying problems with timeshare ownership, but it will make a dent. More importantly, it will continue to serve notice to the timeshare development community that someone out there is paying very close attention to them, and that can’t be a bad thing.

law book

Thank you Mike, this certainly explains class actions for us, in Europe this type of litigation is not common, most cases are done on an individual basis. We have seen some class actions, most notably against Barclays Partner Finance, who provided loans for illegal timeshares. Another of note was the RCI class action, which ended up at the High Court London. This was a bit of a shambles to be honest, although the court agreed that RCI had used banked weeks for rental, the members did not lose out financially, so no compensation was awarded. Unfortunately those who took part in the “No Win, No Fee” action, may now be left with all of RCI’s legal costs. The decision from the court is still to be announced.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other article, contact Inside Timeshare, we will be pleased to help.

 

questions

The Tuesday Slot: Arbitration

Today we feature excerpts from  Chris Parker, a writer from City Pages and his article called The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection

Continuing on yesterdays topic of “Bogus” claims companies and “Fake” law firms, Mindtimeshare  has also highlighted another company, European Liquidations.

Again this company uses the @consultants.com email address, which as we have said previously it is just a free email provider just like gmail and yahoo.

europeanliquidationsltd@consultant.com

The telephone numbers provided are:

0203 384 3999 and Fax – 0872 751 6998

Unfortunately, Mindtimeshare has very little information and we have been unable trace any company with this name at company house. But it is important to inform readers of all companies that crop up along with telephone numbers and their email address, after all to be forewarned is to be forearmed!

As this article was being prepared Canarian Legal Alliance issued another court ruling, this was from the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas against Palm Oasis (Tasolan). In this judgement the court ordered the return of over 15,000€ plus all maintenance fees and legal interest, the contract was also declared null and void.

The court ruled that the contract infringed Law 42/98 in that it was for a period exceeding 50 years, Contract to be valid must be for a period of between 3 and 50 years, this should also be specified in the contract and explained to the client before the contract is signed. It is clear the Supreme Court rulings are having a severe impact on all contracts that do not follow the stipulated laws.

Now on with today’s article.

Part I – Questions a Timeshare Buyer Never Asks

Does this timeshare contract contain an arbitration clause?

arbitration

By Irene Parker

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

Friday’s Letter from America

Tuesday October 24

Excerpts from “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

By Chris Parker

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….” “Though arbitration may sound preferable to the expense and anguish of court, it hands a major advantage to companies. The costs savings aren’t much: Arbitrators usually charge $300-$400 per hour minimum, and some bill into the thousands of dollars. But arbitration clauses typically bar the consumer from joining class-action suits. The strategy has emboldened fraud on a massive scale.” “In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruled that arbitration clauses can’t bar consumers from joining class-action suits. The GOP Congress intends to repeal the rule.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told the Wall Street Journal that such clauses are “a windfall for the companies, in terms of how you settle their cheating.”

“Even when someone does challenge them, arbitration rulings are usually private, with no appeals and little documentation. Like a tree falling in a vast forest, Wells Fargo’s customers didn’t hear the millions of other victims, and the press remained none the wiser.”

“With consumer protection increasingly whittled away by keen lobbyists and cunning corporate lawyers, the idea was to build an agency whose sole mission was protecting consumers.”

cfpb1

“During its brief life, the bureau has established itself as the only Washington agency more responsive to consumers than to lobbyists. Since 2011, it’s handled 1.2 million complaints, returning over $12 billion to consumers.”

The CFPB and Timeshares

By Irene Parker

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has also been the first line of defense for timeshare buyers alleging they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch. Given the staggering number of reports of deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the timeshare sale, if the CFPB is regulated out of existence, widely predicted, many timeshare members feel the only court that will be left available to them is the court of public opinion, warning unsuspecting consumers as to the minefield of ways the evolution of right to use timeshare points has opened the doors for unscrupulous timeshare sales.

Our standard disclosure is that not all timeshare sales agents are deceptive and not all timeshare companies are predatory.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

I asked ever assessable timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group which timeshare developers have an arbitration clause. Diamond Resorts is the only major developer that I’m aware of that has the arbitration clause,” explains Mike. I spoke with other attorneys who say the same.

Banks and other lenders can pick arbitrators. As Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson expressed –

shark

“We heard from arbitrators that were blackballed and essentially told, ‘You’re not going to be an arbitrator anymore because you’re ruling for the consumer,’” she says. “That’s one of the problems with arbitration. The court system is paid by the taxpayers. Judges are neutral and their funding comes from the public.” City Pages “The Plot to Kill Consumer Protection”

A common comment on complaint sites and from 170 Inside Timeshare readers reaching out to us for assistance is, “Let’s get a class action going!?” Timeshare members typically confuse the term and substance of a class action. We’re all used to class action ads on television say, for example, a medical device failure. The difference with timeshare is that damages are not uniform, which is necessary for a class action. Some lawyers may call a lawsuit a class action on behalf of only one or two plaintiff class representatives but they are more like individual lawsuits. Real Class Actions involve hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs. More later,

Part II – Class Action Lawsuits – Misunderstood by Timeshare Members

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group this Friday’s Letter from America

Why will timeshare developers not acknowledge the flawed business model?

Out of 170 complaints received, 155 of our readers allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. The contract is perpetual, accompanied by rising maintenance fees. With some of the more gestapo orientated companies, the member cannot sell or give back their timeshare. The problem is magnified when the buyers succumbed to high interest rate loans and higher interest rate credit cards.

We believe Social Media and media outreach is the tortoise chasing the hare. Timeshare default rates are rising and original buyers (like me) are not getting any younger. Inside Timeshare continues to be there for members and advocacy Facebook pages and websites are on the rise – helping members through the 3Rs or F of Timeshare – resolution, when possibly the member just did not understand how to use the program, refund, relinquishment or foreclosure. In America, there is no debtors’ prison, except in the case of refusing to pay child support.

We ask timeshare developers – What would happen to the primary residential home market if home buyers could not sell their property?

think about

Self-help Facebooks

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and Chris, also a big thank you to Tammy for proof reading and editing these articles.

As always if you have any comments or would like to share your experiences, Inside Timeshare welcomes them, contact us through our contact page.

If you need help or advice on any timeshare matter do get in touch and we will point you in the right direction. Remember before engaging with any company do your due diligence and your homework, it will save you a lot of bother in the end.

diligence

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.

All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.

The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.

The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time Andrew Cooper was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola, so Andrew Cooper had nothing to do with it all.

On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.

We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.

Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.

Do right to use point programs offer more protection?

In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.

I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.

Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?

Finn

Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
  • Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
  • Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)

This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.

  • Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

Finn-Law--Main-Logo

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.

As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.

There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –

  • How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
  • Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.

To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.

The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”

Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).

With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.

Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.

Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.

Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.

That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

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