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Finn Law Group

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker looks at “Special Assessments”, in this case the Americano Beach Resort, this extra charge is something that we are familiar with on Inside Timeshare.

Over the years many owners / members have been handed these “extra bills” for various reasons, we even saw this with Diversified Resorts a couple of years back. That was because they had a huge tax bill owing, even those members that did not own with them at the time the tax should have been paid were given a bill. If they did not pay it within 30 days their membership would be suspended, blackmail or what!

Now for today’s article.

Americano Beach Resort

A Timeshare Resort in Dispute Hoping for a Dialog

By Irene Parker

June 19, 2018

Americano owners have been the recipient of a ‘special assessments’ to repair the Americano, which according to ABR/ARC is to the tune of around $15 MILLION!  

Hurricane season just launched, so as we brace for what is predicted to be a robust hurricane season, we look back to damage from which some resorts have still not recovered. When disaster strikes, dialog is important to restore not just the building, but the relationship between members and the developer. At the end of the article, I’ve included Tom Tubbs’ article about special assessments. Tom is with Island Consulting Realty and has 33 years industry experience. Tom is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.  

Americano Beach Resort, a/k/a The Suites at Americano Beach, now managed by ARC Resorts, LLC, has been shut down since a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017. The reconstruction of the Americano Beach Resort is a complicated timeshare issue, and one that will take a series of articles to understand, given the complexity of the problems and the concerns of those who have owned at this timeshare for a couple of decades. Six Americano timeshare members have reached out to Inside Timeshare, expressing their frustration.  

As reported in Perspective Magazine, the plan before hurricane Matthew hit:    

In February (2016), ARC Resorts (ARC) acquired the rights to The Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association Inc. to uniformly redevelop and manage the 198 timeshare units located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Their objective is to redevelop and revitalize the property without burdening the timeshare unit owners with special assessments.

At The Suites at Americano Beach, the (hurricane Matthew) storm surge overwhelmed the Beachside Tiki Bar and the surrounding maintenance area beneath the pool deck. A large portion of the Sea Wall was washed away. The CAT 3 Wind forced significant water intrusion in the units, and compromised the window systems. The wind also compromised all the roofing systems. The resort ran on partial power for several days, which affected several major systems, such as the elevators and the cooling tower.

http://perspectivemagazine.com/081220165656/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew

Prior to the natural disaster however, ARC assessed the newly attained property in a thorough Insurance Review. They were able to upgrade the insurance coverage while lowering annual premiums. One feature in the upgrade was Business Interruption as a line item of additional hazard insurance coverage. This due diligence established security for ARC as an investor and shielded timeshare owners from excessive assessments.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2016/12/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew/

I reached out to R. Scott MacGregor, ARC President, and a 30-year resort industry veteran with executive experience in project planning, development, marketing, management, and finance. Scott understands the frustration long time owners feel.  

Like many resorts in the US, the Association had chronically underfunded reserves to keep assessments down, and had allowed a majority of the intervals to fall into default. Most boards of volunteer owners just aren’t prepared to deal with those issues, especially when a 60-year-old building requires the level of re-investment that the Americano does.

Americano members are asking for answers they feel have not been forthcoming in informational updates and meetings. Below are the questions Americano members would like answered. Scott MacGregor’s comments and answers to questions are in italics.

ARC had already agreed to post answers to many of the same questions that were presented at the May board meeting on the website, and we will do that and include some of the other questions provided below. Official information will be posted on the Association website only.  

Questions owners posed. Scott MacGregor’s answers are in italics.   

How much damage was claimed from Matthew?

How much has the insurance paid on these claims?

How was the money spent?

Owners state that there are lawsuits against insurers of the Americano.  What is the basis of these suits? I can’t comment publicly on the ongoing insurance litigation, only to say the basis for the lawsuits, for which the Association is the plaintiff, are over differences on the amounts claimed and the amounts paid by the insurers. Inaccurate comments about the litigation or the resort will be detrimental to the Association.

What work has been done on the Americano to date?

Why has it taken so long to get the Americano back open for business?

How much damage has been claimed from Irma?

How many special assessments are Owners expected to receive and what amounts?

The remodeling plan exceeds costs of $15 million.  It was stated that ARC anticipates gathering $10 million from investors.  What is the time frame for that?

Is it reasonable to expect owners to supplement $5 million, especially since it was stated 60% of owners are no longer paying annual maintenance fees?

If 60% of owners are no longer paying regular maintenance fees, how can the remaining 40% supplement the 60% who are not paying? If the 60% is accurate, it will be too costly for anyone to continue as an owner.

What do you estimate the building will be worth after all the renovations are complete?  Property records show the building valued at approximately $14.5 million now. The building was appraised and insured for $22 million, with additional coverage for contents, etc. (One of the members thought Volusia County had the building valued at or near $15 million.)

What kind of ‘exit’ plan do you have for owners who can no longer afford or wish to be part of the timeshare program, particularly long-time owners who are now senior citizens on fixed incomes?

Who owns ARC?

If the damage is more than 60%, should the building be declared totaled?

What compensation has been offered to owners who have not only been unable to use their weeks, or bank the weeks for exchange, but have paid maintenance and/or assessment fees for several years with nothing to show for it?  

Irene’s answer: Whether it is a timeshare condo or your personal residence, if a hurricane destroys property to the extent you can’t inhabit the property, it’s never easy. Property taxes and other expenses continue and alternative living arrangements need to be made. The real question the owners are asking – Is the reason the resort is still not open valid? It may be. The developer has every reason to see a closed resort open. If your home is 60% destroyed, it would be hard to find a buyer and more difficult to walk away from.     

Unrelated to the hurricane damage, owners claim that ARC has made significant changes to the way owners have always been able to book/use their timeshare weeks. Some say they have had their weeks changed from prime to non-prime; some have lost the weeks they had always booked for races and Bike Week; some were told they had to buy into a more expensive points system; some were told they had to change from Interval to RCI for exchanges, etc. We will reach out to these owners in a future article.

As was discussed at the May board meeting we can amend the Declaration to change the definition of a week from beginning on a Saturday only to being what suits the owner better. Race Week owners could stay Monday to Monday, for example, so they could enjoy the pre-race activities and stay over the night after the race without having to rent additional time. Bike week owners might prefer to come Sunday to Sunday, and be assured they could come for that event regardless of when the City scheduled it.

Owners reaching out to Inside Timeshare feel they may have been scammed, particularly as some owners paid thousands (as recently as 2017) to buy into a points system as they were told they had to in order to be able to continue to use their timeshare. No owner should have to give up a deed. Before doing so, the deed holder needs to make sure if the reasons a sales agent gives for giving up a deed (at any timeshare) is warranted.

At an Americano Board meeting May 21, 2018 a member reported:

Owners say they received a survey PRIOR to an owners’ meeting in March 2018, giving owners a chance to vote for:

(a) Continuing the timeshare program as is,

(b) Reducing the timeshare program to a few floors while redesigning and selling the rest as private condos, or

(c) Terminating the timeshare program altogether.  

From what owners say they were told at the meeting, over 60% voted to terminate the timeshare program.

Chris Crawford is an Americano owner and admin of a member sponsored Facebook page consisting of 200 owners. Chris did not attend the meeting, but feels the vote was hearsay. He said members who did attend reported no actual numbers were presented. Owners say they are frantic as they believe that they will lose their timeshare that they have put thousands into, many well over 20 years, and get nothing back.

Many want to deed their timeshare back to Americano. According to members, resellers will not even talk to owners about trying to sell as they are saying there is a lawsuit pending, but owners say they are receiving no information about a lawsuit (unrelated to the insurance litigation).  

Chris says complaints have been filed with various State of Florida agencies, certified letters sent to Americano Board of Directors and ARC requesting specific documents as proof of damages claimed, but owners say they have received no responses from Americano or the state agencies.

Scott MacGregor said there have been updates and information posted to members reporting the status.   

I hope the members of the member sponsored Americano Facebook group will heed the advice given to them by the State regulators and timeshare attorney Finn of Finn Law Group:  present evidence of malfeasance to the State Regulators or to a court of competent jurisdiction to be adjudicated, and/or present a plan for consideration by the Association which is better than the one ARC has presented.  

Our plan is pretty simple: we have been consistent from our engagement with the Americano that it will take about $15mm of capital to restore the facility to a current and compliant property after suffering years of under-investment in the reserves required to update all of the common elements when they reached the end of their useful lives. Initially, we intended to do that by generating $40 – 50 million in sales over 5 to 7 years and attributing about 25% of the sales volume (which is standard “product cost” in many US timeshare developments) toward that reconstruction.  Unfortunately, August of 2017 was the first month we attained break-even sales volume at the resort, only to have it shut down by Irma in early September. So, now our plan is to raise through ARC debt or equity $10 – 12mm as rapidly as possible to renovate the entire facility; to reduce the timeshare program to the number of units needed to support the remaining timeshare owners, and modify the use plan to make it more flexible for those owners.

Financially, the costs of ownership should decrease as the significant bad debt burden the owners have increasingly borne over the past 10 – 15 years would be eliminated, and the facility would be significantly upgraded, thereby eliminating the historic underfunded reserve problem the resort has had for the same time.  A facility of that size should have roughly $6 – 8 million in reserves. In the years prior to our involvement, its reserve balance as reported in its audits was closer to $500 – 600 k, less than a tenth of what was required. This is a common problem with too many timeshare resorts, done to keep the maintenance fees artificially low.  2016 was the first year in many that the Association had more than a million dollars in its reserve at year-end. I’ll also point out that 2017 will have been the first year the Association ever (as far as I can tell from past tax returns) the Association received net rental proceeds from the Developer, netting more than $120,000 through the first 8 months of the year.  The remaining units will be restructured as whole-ownership vacation rental units or held for rental, hopefully generating a return of and on the capital ARC is seeking to raise for its reconstruction.

It is the intent to raise capital externally, and not to require any additional assessments of the owners.  Were the remaining owners (including ARC which owns and pays assessments on approximately 1,450 intervals) to be assessed the amount necessary to complete the renovations, because more than 60% of them have stopped paying assessments over the years, the additional bill to each owner would have easily exceeded $5,000 per interval, which is not tenable.  The capital needed to be raises for a project like this isn’t easy; the units are small and don’t have external balconies, so the margins on redevelopment are slim. The funding will come from private investors; most likely those with a present stake in the Daytona market, from some of the specialized US timeshare lenders, or perhaps from a smaller Private Equity firm.  It’s what I spend most of my time working on.

Scott answer my questions highlighted in red: Since Inside Timeshare is published in Spain, we are interested in a statement made that ARC has ties to the EU. What are those connections?

When we started putting ARC together in 2015, one of the aspects we sought was ties to European (and South American) companies that we could leverage to send owners on trips abroad, especially to countries of their heritage.  Silverpoint and RCI Europe both expressed an interest in helping to do that, though we have no formal or financial ties to either. We do have a contact with the Holiday Plus discounted European hotel program, to which our ARC Freedom 365 members have access through the “Heritage” program on our website.  We will do an occasional “inventory swap” with Silverpoint, as we do with dozens of other companies. This helps us to place owners in locations they may not be able to get through direct exchange programs like RCI or II. Also, much of the programing staff for our technology partner TimeshareSoft International is based in Bulgaria.  We may also try to market some of the Americano condominiums in the EU and Asian markets through established broker networks in those regions, though we have not yet entered into any agreements to do so. There are no contractual or financial ties between ARC and Silverpoint. If there were, we’d leverage their destinations for marketing purposes on our websites.

Are hedge funds involved in the raising of funds?  

Hedge funds tend to make large, long-term investments in companies and real estate projects, but something as small (from their perspective) as ARC and the Americano redevelopment are not in their wheelhouse. We will raise the development capital from individual investors as noted above, and or from US specialty lenders in the timeshare space, and possibly from smaller Private Equity or VC firms. Due to the risk profile and complexity of the Americano, it will most likely be individual investors with interests in Daytona or other Florida beach markets and/or the US timeshare lenders.

My view is the solution is not to try to take the whole industry down, but to work on making parts of it better with community-based approaches to supporting the stronger, more sustainable resorts and helping those that are failing to do so in a controlled manner preserving as much value as possible and avoiding complete collapse of the Associations. I gave a similar presentation to the Timeshare Board Members Association in Orlando in May.

I don’t think anyone wants to take the whole industry down, but given several lawsuits and Attorneys General settlements, we believe timeshare could improve, especially in the sales and marketing department. Inside Timeshare has heard from 473 angry timeshare members and owners to date. We hope constructive dialog can improve customer relationships. If President Trump and Kim Jong-un can sit down and have a friendly chat, we should too.

Chris said the Canadian Teacher Association originally owned the Americano, developed as a place for teachers to vacation. According to Chris, the single largest shareholder (the old owner) sold it to ARC.  

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

http://www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Special Assessment: What Is It? Why Is It?

Tom Tubbs

Island Consulting Realty

It can happen. You open the mail from your timeshare resort and here’s a letter of explanation of why they are asking you to send them more money. First you have to understand what it is and is not. A special assessment is just that, special. Normally your maintenance fee is covering everything; upkeep of the unit and common area, housekeeping, taxes, utilities, insurance and also reserves. Let’s look at reserves. That’s the part that they collect and set aside for when the big things happen that we all know about; repave the roads and parking lot, new roofs, etc. It’s also called a sinking fund. But sometimes things occur that no one could have planned on and there’s no money in the budget to handle it.

Think of it this way. Every few years you paint your home (reserves). You know it’s coming. You clean the house regularly (housekeeping). You pay your taxes and insurance. But one day you’re outside and notice a crack in your foundation. You didn’t plan on it and didn’t budget for it but guess what, it’s there! You have to pay to get it fixed. That’s the same sort of thing that can happen with any homeowner’s association whether it’s your own neighborhood or vacation condo you own. Same with a timeshare. If it’s something that could not have been predicted, it simply has to be taken care of. The alternative is not making the repair and having the quality of the resort go downhill. That’s worse.

But here’s what you do have to watch out for. If it should ever happen to you, you need to know the real reason for the assessment. Was it something like described above and simply could not have been predicted? If so that’s understandable. BUT, what if they tell you it’s for “refurbishment” or something similar. That’s a red flag and it needs to be looked at. Since any competent management company or homeowner’s association knows that refurbishment is an ongoing expense, it’s normally a part of the reserves. Most resorts refurbish their units about every 5 years or so. It’s planned for.

   So if your letter states the special assessment is for refurbishing, you have to ask yourself, “What happened to the money I’ve been paying them all these years in maintenance fees?” Where is it? Is the Board of the homeowner’s association incompetent or maybe something worse? This is YOUR money they’re working with and they’re supposed to be able to handle it and account for it. If they’re not competent, it’s time to replace the Board of Directors of the homeowner’s association. And if there’s suspicion of theft, it’s time for a lawyer to get involved with a forensic accountant to go over the books.

So if it does happen, how much money should you be paying out? Well obviously that depends on what the problem is. But, again, this is where the beauty of timeshares come into play where you have a lot of people chipping in so no one in particular is going to get really hurt. Look at it this way. Let’s say you have a resort with 200 units. 200 units times 52 weeks per unit is 10,400 owners for the entire resort. If everyone were hit with a $200 special assessment, that’s over $2,000,000 coming in. It would have to be one unreal problem to cost that much money. So if you ever do get hit with an assessment, do a little quick math and make sure it looks like it adds up.

Thank you Irene, it really makes you wonder what the annual maintenance charges are actually used for?

That’s it for today, the next article will not be published now until Thursday, Inside Timeshare is travelling.

Friday’s Letter from America

In this weeks Letter from America we welcome another new contributor, Robin Law, with a “Buyer Beware Warning” about Bluegreen. This is a story that is not unfamiliar with us at Inside Timeshare, the only difference is the name of the developer.

But first we issue a warning about another company that is cold calling owners in Europe, we have been informed by a UK resident and Diamond member who received a call from this company, Claim Your Claim.

In the call our reader was informed that since Apollo had taken over Diamond, there were only four resorts that they could go to in the whole of Europe!

Now that is very strange, according to the Diamond website they have many more than that, I can personally name at least a dozen.

Our reader was also informed about how they were mis-sold their timeshare and had a valid claim, which this company could help and retrieve their money back! Sounds great, until you start to look at this company.

Their website https://claimyourclaim.com shows no company registration or any other details apart from the address and telephone number on the contact page:

Calle San Francisco Javier, 22d, 38001 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (which is an aprtment block).

Tel: 0845 621 3233

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Calle+San+Francisco+Javier,+22,+38001+Santa+Cruz+de+Tenerife/@28.4709569,-16.2494615,3a,60y,45.65h,109.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9YYai_iGjgQcg65WwTBsNg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0xc41cb7e58580589:0x9e73f0cfdf824dfe!8m2!3d28.4709875!4d-16.2493926

The Home page gives very little information apart from they are “Specialists” in “Claiming your Claim”, “Peace of Mind” and “Customer Care”.

In the Services section they have four categories, Financial Management, which tells about claiming, Holidays, showing three hotels at rather high prices, Deals, which are low cost resorts and Other Services such as airline tickets, car hire and places to visit.

The About Us section is rather interesting, they state Claim Your Claim work alongside a company formed in 2003 as a subsidiary of an Anglo/Polish Travel Agency based in Krakow Poland. They “boast” 7 offices in the Canary Islands, with their main operation based in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Under the heading Our Clients they give the following statement:

Claim your Claim and its associated companies are proud to announce as of 31.12.2017 their customer base exceeded the 70,000 mark, 86% of all their bookings made between 01.01.2013 – 31.12.2017 were for holidays to the Canary Islands, 89% of these were to Tenerife.

Well nothing there about “Claims”, just a load of figures for “Holidays”.

They also give the “Locations” of their offices:

Krakow, Poland, Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Mogan, Gran Canaria, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Tazacorte, La Palma.

They also show several “Client Reviews”, this is just one of them, copied and pasted direct from their website:

John Burton

South Sheilds

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Thank You

Excellent job Claim Your Claim just received the £20,642 This happened within 60 days as promised from meeting consultant to money paid into our account.

Very well done and many thanks

Not bad is it, from seeing the consultant to getting back over £20,000 all in “60 DAYS”, miracle workers or what!

The only other problem is the website was only registered on 18 January 2018, yet all the client reviews are dated well before that date. So can you actually believe these reviews?

The owner of the website is also hidden by privacy protection, so this along with no company registration numbers, either Spanish, UK or Polish, leaves us in no doubt that this outfit are not what they say they are. A typical “SCAM!”

Now for this weeks Letter from America

A Bluegreen Timeshare Buyer Beware Warning

By Robin Law

May 4, 2018

I believe the timeshare industry has been riddled with deceit, commonplace since before Social Media, but Social Media now allows those who feel they have been defrauded to share experiences. We believe what happened to us, purchasing Bluegreen vacation points, meets the FBI definition of white collar crime, “deceit concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” We check all of the above.

We live and bought in Florida where regulators seem to be in partnership with the timeshare industry, dismissing timeshare buyers who feel they have been preyed upon with, “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” The NY, TN, MO, AZ, and CO Attorneys General have launched timeshare investigations that resulted in settlements.  

We will file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, but according to Social Media reports, the Florida AG will respond in support of the timeshare developer. Below is the response from the Florida Timeshare Division to one timeshare owner.

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations.  Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

We have reached out to Inside Timeshare and will reach out to other Florida media outlets because the public needs to be warned, to not to believe anything a timeshare sales agent says. Florida probably sells more timeshare products than any other state, yet seems to offer the least enforcement. The last Florida investigation I could find was a Bluegreen investigation in 2012

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/EC_Edoc.nsf/0/1702C8F78E74E8B285257B0B005747D2/$file/Bluegreen+Corp.pdf

Before I share our Bluegreen experience, I found the following results for Bluegreen as reported by Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. Clearly, we are not alone in our grievance. Bluegreen seems to never admit a problem with sales agent deception, yet there are a flood of complaints to be found on the internet. In comparison, there are few Disney Vacation Club complaints.

Bluegreen Consumer Affairs Score 1 ½ stars out of 5

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/bluegreen.html

Better Business Bureau Rating C+

129 customer review

12 Positive

4 Neutral

113 Negative

807 Complaints

2.48 out of 5 Stars based on reviews

https://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/vacation-clubs/bluegreen-vacations-unlimited-in-boca-raton-fl-8195/reviews-and-complaints

4/18/18 a recent Better Business Bureau complaint

This company offers falsehoods and half-truths. We have sunk thousands of dollars into this company, and are repeatedly told that nothing is available at the places or times that we want to utilize our points at one of their resorts. However, if you use Travelocity.com, or other vacation booking websites, the places they claim are not available, are available. We have been told we could sell back our deed at any time. When we contacted the company to do just that, because we are tired for paying for something that is never available, we were told that is not an option. We have been told we can use our points to pay for maintenance fees. When we tried to do that, we were told there is a minimum point requirement to do that, and we did not have enough. We have had nothing but problems and lies from this company. They continue to try and solicit you to purchase more points, yet fail to meet simple requests. In over two years, and thousands of dollars invested, we have been able to use our points one time, and it wasn’t even where we wanted to. We had to settle for what was “available.” The room we had was in a horrible spot (at the back of the resort, with a view of other buildings and parking lots, and noise and filth from construction), and when I asked to move to a different room, was told no other rooms were available, even though I walked by rooms that stood vacant during our entire stay. Guess they had to keep those available to sell on Travelocity. Why make it available to an “owner?” I would never recommend this company to anyone. They care about nothing but lining their pockets. They have zero concern for the happiness of their customer, and are unwilling to make even the smallest accommodations.

Comments

Comment from the Business:

Dear Ms. *** Thank you for taking the time to share your experience! We sincerely apologize to hear of all the difficulties you have experienced in getting on vacation using your ownership, as well as for any misunderstanding surrounding the resale process or use of other benefits. We would be more than happy to help address any of these concerns! So that we can assist you, please send an email to ***@bluegreenvacations.com referencing your BBB review, and making sure to include the names, phone number, and email address associated with your Bluegreen account. We look forward to assisting you further! ~Bluegreen Customer Care

by Business on Apr. 19, 2018

Bluegreen has a long history of consumer complaints

On April 5, 2013, Bluegreen Corporation responded to BBB’s concerns. Bluegreen Corporation does not believe they fail to grant cancellations and refunds where they are factually and legally appropriate. Bluegreen states their company does provide timely cancellations and refunds to those consumers who properly rescind their timeshare purchases within the rescission period. Occasionally, a consumer does not follow the properly prescribed cancellation method contained in the timeshare sales documents. Nevertheless, once the appropriate business area within Bluegreen becomes aware of the request, even when not properly given by the consumer, diligent efforts are made to process the cancellation and refund as promptly as possible. With respect to the purchase of a vacation package, such purchases are accompanied by details of participation which advise a purchaser how to cancel their vacation package and the amount of time they have to do so. Also, in some instances, the consumer may have purchased the vacation package from a third party provider or vendor, and not directly from Bluegreen Corporation.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on July 12, 2013, again on December 11, 2015, and again on August 18, 2016 and found that the pattern of complaints identified by BBB continues.

BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again on September 5, 2017 and found that the issues regarding the cancellation policy have decreased. However, the issues regarding high pressure sales practices, availability, and refund issues still exist.

BBB will continue to monitor the complaint activity of the company and update the Business Review as needed.

Our Bluegreen complaint

My husband and I work long hours in very high demanding jobs. We cannot discuss personal matters during work hours, which made it virtually impossible to talk to anyone at Bluegreen about our dispute. I work as a project assistant at a large engineering firm, and my husband works as a project manager for a general contracting firm in Florida. I cannot take personal calls during the day.   

Bluegreen customer care agent Kimberly arranged to speak with us after hours. The first telephone appointment was arranged, but Kimberly did not call or otherwise notify us that she was unable to make the scheduled call. We felt Bluegreen did not care and that we were not important, but we feel considerable attention is placed on selling points and collecting money not paid. Kimberly eventually contacted me again by email, but just advised that the actions of the Bluegreen agents we experienced are not the way Bluegreen sells. She refused to consider a refund or cancellation. I requested to speak to a manager and was put in touch with Autumn Fechner. All Ms. Fechner offered was a one-time day use pass for Tradewinds, which was in essence, no response.  

The deception we experienced:

We bought 10,000 every other year points at Tradewinds July 7, 2012 in St. Petersburg

Our purchase price:  $13,150

Loan 1: Amount Financed: $11,456 @ 16.99%

We were told Bluegreen would be purchasing the land next door by the end of 2013. They told us that if we purchased Bluegreen points we would have day use privileges because Bluegreen was buying Tradewinds. Since we live not far from Tradewinds, this sounded like the perfect vacation plan. We were told we could use bonus points to rent rooms for $69 or $79, not needing to use our Bluegreen points.  When I tried to book around August 2012 there was no availability. I was told I must have been mistaken about the day use privilege and bonus time privilege when I contacted customer services. There was no mistake. My husband was with me. We know what we were told.

We can’t even read the signature of the sales agent on our contract. The sales agent said they were not allowed to give out personal business cards, which is odd. A sales agent is not allowed to give out business cards?

Tradewinds gave me the name of Barret Shank, Director of Field Administration, Bluegreen Tradewinds Preview Center I. I contacted Mr. Shank via email.  Mr. Shank emailed in response saying Tradewinds is not available for bonus points, only for $99 for promotional purposes. He also said day use is only listed on the back of our charter for very specific places, but not Tradewinds.

We were baited and switched.  Nothing the sales agent advised was correct or ethical.  Timeshare sales deceit and bait and switch is supported by the response of Mr. Shank, and all others involved in the sale and customer care follow up, in response to our complaint. In my opinion, timeshare point sales are a minefield of deceit waiting to happen.

We bought a second time at Tradewinds November 29, 2013. It took a year to find availability for this stay. We were told we had to do an update because the program we purchased one year earlier in 2012 was worthless. We did not want additional points, but attended and purchased fearing what we had purchased was worthless.

We purchased 10,000 additional every other year points November 29, 2013

Purchase price: $10,950

Loan 2: Amount financed $9326.17

I kept saying through the entire sales pitch, we did not want two loans. The sales agent said to complete this sale and then we could combine both loans through Bluegreen.  She said we would just need to call the mortgage department after the sale was completed. When I called the Bluegreen mortgage division as advised, I was told I must have misunderstood because they could not combine the two sales.

I was advised to go to my bank or credit union because they would know how to refinance and that Bluegreen has dealt with multiple customers who refinance because Bluegreen is property. Bluegreen is a right to use product that has nothing to do with real estate. The company should not assume all Bluegreen buyers will be able to refinance. My bank said timeshare is not considered real estate and could not be refinanced. We were stuck with two loans at a high interest rate and what we were told was a real estate investment is not considered property. Bluegreen also told us we owned deeded property. Bluegreen points sold today are not deeded and a lawyer told us our Bluegreen deeds are worthless and not really deeds in the traditional sense.

Florida Timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group settled a class action with Bluegreen and credit reporting agencies, forcing Bluegreen to not report the failure to pay a Bluegreen loan as a foreclosure. Foreclosures are now reported as settled for less.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151222006023/en/Finn-Law-Group-Settles-Consumer-Class-Action

The third time we purchased Bluegreen points was at The Fountains in Orlando August 24, 2014. We were again told it was mandatory to attend an update. It lasted 10 AM to 7 PM. We were told that because we were such loyal Bluegreen customers, they were giving us a special price on all additional Bluegreen investments. We were told Bluegreen points are an investment. They said we would own a coveted property in Dennisport, Massachusetts. After hours of repeated “no”, and multiple sales agents offering additional perks, we purchased once again. All the documents said Bluegreen, but when we received our first bill, it was with a completely different company and had a higher interest rate.   

We purchased 10,000 annual points upgrading to Silver

Purchase price $15,000

Amount financed $13,425

At every sales meeting, we were told it would be easy to refinance a Bluegreen loan and we were also told that we could sell points back to Bluegreen. Every sales person that we dealt with at Tradewinds and The Fountains in Orlando had an almost identical sales script. All sales presentations lasted five hours or longer, with increasingly aggressive sales agents and managers.

Bluegreen’s decision not to grant a refund or cancel our contracts was based on our using the timeshare that we paid for and because we have owned it for so long. We have paid $30,000 for Bluegreen points. Supervisor Autumn Felcher stated she could provide evidence of our deeds. On April 12, 2018 she produced three documents she stated were property deeds. After a review by a lawyer, I was advised that these were NOT real property deeds. I quote, “Resort Title clearly identifies the interest as beneficial interest in the trust. The Cibola deed transfers the interest via a deed but not to you, but to the trust. The Sounding deed does the same. I stand by my earlier opinion that you folks are not deed holders.” Thus, Bluegreen again made untrue statements. In my opinion Bluegreen’s intentions are not to support the customer, whether it is in a response to the BBB, an Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, or the FBI.

The following are self-help groups for timeshare members. This is our attempt to warn the public: Don’t believe anything a timeshare sales agent says!

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/

Thank you Robin and once again thanks to Irene Parker for her editing, again this is a story that Inside Timeshare is very used to hearing, it goes well with today’s lead about Claim Your Claim.

The timeshare industry is full of rogues, from the timeshare developers right down to the scam companies the industry is responsible for developing. The only way to stay safe and keep your money is to check and check and check again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

So Friday is here, the weekend beckons, time to relax and enjoy the company of friends, have a good one and we will see you next week with more stories of “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, in this article by Irene Parker with a contribution from Mike Finn of Finn Law Group, we look at the Timeshare Tax Trap.

The Orlando Sentinel has also published an article about Diamond and Orange Lake Resorts sueing Mike Finn, they accuse him of using  “false and misleading” claims in his ads. The article also mentions that Mike is cited by many publications as a successful cancellation attorney who along with other groups monitor timeshare companies, they go on to name the National Timeshare Owners Association and also Inside Timeshare. Mike is a regular contributor and offers valuable insights into the law for Inside Timeshare For the full article click on the link below.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-orange-lake-timeshare-finn-20180404-story.html

But first a new warning from Europe, one of our long standing regulars has been contacted by a new “law Firm”, yes you guessed it, another new name in the Litigious Abogados family from Tenerife.

legalidades-abogados-logo

The new name is Legalidades Abogados, using the same address we have seen before:

4, Calle de S. Francisco, Santa Cruz, 38002, Tenerife

Freephone: 0800 862 0995

Tenerife Tel: 0034 822 250 502

email: [email protected]

email: [email protected]

Once again the address is genuine and shows 2 lawyers plaques on the wall, neither are this one. The email addresses are also not linked to the website, but are ones you can register for free at consultant.com.

According to their website http://legalidades-abogados.com/ they were founded by  Alberto Kalimro Galvera, on Monday 19th July 1990. Again this date in 1990 was actually a Thursday, so once again not very much attention to detail there. They also still insist they have over 15 years presence on the internet, not bad since the website was only registered on 15 March 2018 with the registrant hidden by a privacy company.

After the initial call they send an email which is signed by Angelica Imolintos Lesterno from Departmento Legal. Also attached is a letter of 3 pages with many official looking logos, it is signed by another new name Pablo Ibernas Cavosa.

Here are the new lawyers names and photos, once again probably downloaded from the internet, without the knowledge of the actual persons.

alberto-kalimro-galvera  luciano-emanca-domeras  pedro-arenolde-verandel  gabriel-lindeno-miraldo-203x300  pablo-Ibernas-cavosa-legalidades-abogados-300x201

From left to right: Alberto Kalimro GalverLuciano Emanca DomerasPedro Arenolde VerandelPablo Ibernas Cavosa.

 

In this long winded letter, they go on to say that it is a “no win no fee” arrangement, but as we know from past experience the next stage will be a fee is required for the Procurador. After this there will be a fee to pay “tax” to release the money from the court.

Once again we remind you to be very wary on companies that make these wonderful claims, especially with a “no win no fee” arrangement. Do your homework, you know it makes sense.

Now for this week’s Letter from America.

The Timeshare Tax Trap – A 1099 Loan Forgiveness Tax Liability

$170,000 Diamond Timeshare Points Purchased for no Reason

Timeshare Attorney Mike Finn, a former C.P.A., weighs in

Tax Time

By Irene Parker

April 6, 2018

Two Inside Timeshare readers contacted us alarmed, because they received an IRS 1099 form, informing them of a timeshare tax liability. For one family, this meant possibly an additional $170,000 in income. This would have been bad enough, but the already Platinum Diamond Resort member said they purchased the points to participate in a program that did not exist.

Timeshare members have learned there is little to no timeshare enforcement of timeshare regulations in some states, so by relying on the oral representation clause, timeshare sales agents are allowed to say anything to sell vacation points. The Nevada Real Estate Division has routinely replied to timeshare buyers, “You have no proof,” according to member reports. Today’s family is one of eleven families complaining about the same sales Las Vegas sales agent.

A reminder no one should pay upfront money without checking with us or one of the advocacy self-help Facebooks and websites listed below. Lack of a secondary market for timeshare points gives rise to a flourishing community of scam artists.

This former Diamond member says DRI sales agent Rick Casper, working out of Polo Towers in Las Vegas, told him to buy more Diamond vacation points to eliminate maintenance fees. He and his wife wanted to talk to someone at DRI because they were struggling to pay maintenance fees on the 50,000 DRI points they already owned. This member is a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, having been exposed to Agent Orange. The former member did not contact us to complain about Diamond Resorts. He wanted to know if there was anything that could be done about the 1099. I did ask why he purchased additional timeshare points from Rick Casper, given Inside Timeshare has received 11 identical complaints about the same Las Vegas sales agent over an 18 month period.    

In 2016 we went to Las Vegas and stayed at Diamond’s Cancun resort and met with Rick Casper. Mr. Casper said if we upgraded, we would be able to cover maintenance fees. However, maintenance fees increased after the upgrade to $16,000 a year. After five hours, my blood sugar was at 400. I was recovering from congestive heart failure. Rick Casper said it would cost us $198,000, $2500 a month in payments for the next 10 years but after ten years we would have no maintenance fees and no loan payment. Rick Casper said, “Then the little people will be paying for your vacation.” He said it would take a year to a year and a half to set up but he would personally handle it. He said since we were only paying $3, he had a guy that could sell points for much more than that and the proceeds would pay for the maintenance fees. I ended up paying a company in Branson MO $1500 to get out of this; but now the IRS has issued us a 1099 which has to be claimed as income. It’s for around $170,000. I’m now 71 years old. I would have been better off foreclosing.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 114 Diamond Resorts members since January 1. By publishing these accounts we hope to inform new timeshare buyers, and existing members upgrading, that the timeshare contract is perpetual, maintenance fees increase, and in most cases there is little or no secondary market.

Buyer Beware Active Duty military and law enforcements are especially affected by a bad timeshare purchase. We are assisting seven in fear of losing their Security Clearance. The ages and branch of military service of the 11 Rick Casper customers, who report being financially devastated as a result of their Polo Tower purchase, include:

  1. Age 69, Army, retired, 21 years
  2. Age 70, 100% disabled, Army, Agent Orange
  3. Age 68, Coast Guard veteran
  4. A stage 4 cancer patient, age 40s
  5. Age 60
  6. Age 69, Gulf War veteran, on 25 meds
  7. Age 61
  8. Age 66
  9. Age 56
  10. Mary Pfeifer, age 72, new complaint not unresolved
  11. Denise Hodgkins, age 56, new complaint, unresolved

I asked my CPA about the 1099. She said they would have referred the tax filer to a tax attorney, so the problem is not that simple. As usual, we went to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. Mike provided an article about this important topic on his Learning Center.

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/tax-time-contract-cancellation-timeshare-developer

An excerpt from Mike’s article:

Loan forgiveness

The 1099 form is referencing a large amount which may very well be taxable income! Unlike a mortgage balance forgiven, which would have been spread out over the life of the loan, this possibly taxable sum has been reported to the IRS in one lump sum! Say the amount reported is about $25,000. Say further that your tax bracket is 20%. Your new added tax bill is $5,000, and it’s due April 15th!

So, does this tax form receipt mean that the recipient is stuck with the tax bill for the so-called income? Well, possibly.

Consult with a tax professional before you assume that your receipt of a 1099 form from a timeshare developer automatically means you’re staring down significant tax liability. Understand we are not providing tax advice, merely a possible position that we believe is quite tenable and worth exploring with your own tax advisor. Although it’s accurate for me to state that I was a Certified Public Accountant, it is much more important to note that my C.P.A. licensure has long ago lapsed (because I didn’t choose to keep up with the annual professional education courses necessary to retain my certification). Please take your tax preparation advice solely from your own qualified tax return preparer.

Every tax filer is unique, with differing facts and circumstances. I am not offering, nor should you interpret my comments, as tax advice.

Historically, over the past half dozen years or so, hundreds and hundreds of Finn Law Group clients have received IRS 1099 forms, both 1099A’s and 1099C’s.  The receipt of these forms creates confusion.

I point you to IRS form #982. This is the form that the IRS advises should be filed along with the income tax return itself as a form of supporting schedule, which provides notification to the IRS that the amount presented to them via a 1099 is being acknowledged, but further, that the amount listed should be excluded from the taxpayer’s gross income. The myriad of possible reasons provided on the 982 Form are in and of themselves confusing and difficult to understand. I’m therefore providing my readers what I suggest may be appropriate reasoning in concluding that, in many cases, there should be no “income tax penalty” imposed after successfully negotiating a release of contract with your timeshare resort.

Allow me to provide my argument as to why some forms of debt forgiveness may well be construed as taxable income, and then differentiate the negotiated act of cancelling a timeshare contract and why this transaction therefore logically should be treated differently.

Since “income” generally means a measure of accretion of wealth or value added to your worth, then the cancellation of a debt, when that debt was incurred when you received something of value, should be counted as income because the elimination of the debt liability plus the retention of the item acquired when the debt was incurred increases your net worth. Under this definition of added wealth, the taxing of same would be quite logical.

Applying this argument to the cancellation of a timeshare contractual obligation and its related underlying indebtedness, it’s immediately evident that the cancelled owner has retained absolutely nothing of value. They’ve surrendered their interest in exchange for a debt and/or contract cancellation, but after the transaction they have absolutely no accretion of net worth.

Indeed, they’ve lost anything previously paid on an ‘asset’ they no longer own, so any argument that they’ve achieved and retained income or anything of value because of the contract cancellation is simply not accurate.

In terms of taxpayer reporting requirements, the issue becomes murkier when you apply it to timeshare transactions. Whether or not the industry will ever acknowledge that the resale value of a timeshare interest is minimal at best, what we can establish is that it would be extremely unusual for anyone other than the resort developer to acquire the timeshare interest at foreclosure, and therefore the liquidated basis of the interest will nearly always be zero, or at best a nominal value at foreclosure. Also making the timeshare transaction more complex in terms of following the instructions of either IRS form 982 and/or publication 4681 relating to this issue is determining whether the underlying debt should be viewed as “recourse” or “non-recourse,” given the propensity of the developers to utilize non-recourse based non-judicial foreclosures to recover the interest the greatest majority of the time.

I’ve attempted to avoid becoming overly technical in terms of specifically advising of taxpayer reporting other than to suggest very generally that the filing of the IRS form 982 will most probably be required. Lastly, I do strongly recommend utilizing a professional tax return preparer, as these forms are not at all intuitive.

I earnestly wish that I could offer something less complex to help provide absolute answers to this prominent issue, but I do feel that this is important because the financial ramifications are potentially high.

Respectfully provided,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

Michael-D-Finn2

Thank you, Mike, for the timeshare accounting lesson. One question I had is,

What is the difference between a 1099 A and a 1099 C?

http://www.koontzassociates.com/pages/know-the-difference-between-a-1099-a-and-1099-c/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you have a timeshare nightmare. We know there are many that use and enjoy their timeshare, some having not faced a need to sell it, or were lucky to purchase from a sales agent that sold the product as the product is intended.

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/

Deceptive

Elder Abuse:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/elder-fraud-charges-announced

All of the schemes have one goal: to trick and deceive senior citizens into turning over their hard-earned savings. Last year, the FBI opened more than 200 financial crime cases that involved elderly victims, Bowdich said. The investigations covered a range of crimes, from investment frauds to reverse mortgage scams.

Thank you Irene for this weeks article and also a very big thank you to Mike Finn for his contribution.

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments on this or any article published, also if you need any information about your ownership or any company that has contacted you or you are thinking of doing business with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Friday is upon us the weekend beckons, we hope you have a great and relaxing one. See you next week.

weekend 1

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

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.

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

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.

 

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.

  

 

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.

 

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.