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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.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Margaret Chandler shares her “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with an introduction and editing by Irene Parker. This story focuses on the problems being faced by senior citizens at the hands of unscrupulous sales agents, this is being commonly called Elder Abuse.

We were actually hoping that this article was going to be pulled, but unfortunately we have not had any answer or reply from Wyndham, so on with the article.

For the Benefit of the Consumer and the Benefit of the Industry,

Timeshare Consumer Education is Important

Margaret Chandler shares her Wyndham disaster

Introduction by Irene Parker

If you buy a house and have a loan, you can still sell your house.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 443 mostly angry and desperate timeshare members, many seniors with 800 credit scores, facing foreclosure in their 70s and some even in their 80s. All report they were told their timeshare would be easy to sell or that the company would buy the timeshare back. Margaret contacted two licensed timeshare resale brokers. They both told her there was no demand for timeshare points.

I contacted Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty. Tom has been in the timeshare resale business for 32 years. Tom said Wyndham points can be listed for a penny or a penny and a half a point. So, for example, 300,000 points could be realistically listed for $4,500. That’s quite a hit from a likely initial purchase price of $60,000. http://www.timesharestogo.com/

Margaret has filed complaints with the appropriate regulatory agencies, but chances are nothing will happen. Timeshare members tell us the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division will say, “You should not have relied on verbal representation,” the Nevada Real Estate division will say, “You have no proof,” and the Texas Attorney General will advise legal assistance. With virtually no timeshare regulation, and few understanding at purchase the limited secondary market, more and more timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare seeking straight answers. Do not pay anyone upfront money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups posted below. Scams abound. We sent a draft of this article to Wyndham. They said they are looking into it.       

Elder abuse is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Wikipedia  

June 5, 2018

By Margaret Chandler

My name is Margaret and my husband is Edward. We are both 70 years old and Florida residents.  Edward is an Army veteran, E6 at discharge. Our timeshare nightmare started with Wyndham in 2012. I want to detail some of the lies we feel this company told us so that others can be forewarned. We have filed a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, the Nevada Real Estate Division and the Texas Attorney General. We have also filed with the Better Business Bureau.

We purchased Wyndham points several times.

We bought 125,000 points in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012.

We bought points a second time in San Antonio, Texas in 2013. We were told buying more points would increase our original point value to get more availability. This did not improve availability.

We could only find availability in less desirable locations.

We went to Hawaii in 2014 and bought what they said was deeded property.

We were told at Pompano Beach in November of 2014 we would be better off with non-deeded points. They took our Hawaii points. They said there would be higher maintenance fees with the deeded points because deeded points are tied to real estate. The maintenance fees did not go down.

We bought additional points in Atlantic City December of 2014. They kept telling us we would have better benefits at a higher loyalty level.

We bought more points at Daytona Beach January of 2017. They took two contracts and traded those in and added more points. Now all we own is points.

We still have the Nevada and the San Antonio contract in addition to Daytona.    

We are financially devastated.

Our experience started out fine, but got worse and worse. We ended up paying more and more money to fix a situation that never improved.  I imagine it’s something like a drug dealer hooking a new junkie. The first hit is for free. After that you have to pay more and more to get something that gives you less and less satisfaction.

Wyndham’s salespeople have always told us that they have our best interests at heart and that they are there to make our experience better. One salesperson even called me ‘mom’ and another invited us to her son’s wedding. Others were ex-teachers like me or said they had military connections when they found out Edward is a veteran. As a result, we have signed six contracts between 2012 and 2017 that have been upgrades, trades or merges.

The problem is we now feel that that the sales agents were not truthful about pretty much everything. We are both being treated for high blood pressure worrying about the money that we feel they have taken from us so dishonestly. Edwards’s face turns red and I can see the stress level increasing every time the topic of timeshare comes up. We cannot even talk about using it anymore, as he stresses too much. He wants us to be able to enjoy our remaining lives without the threat of bad credit, missed payments or annoying phone calls from Wyndham all day long. I keep telling Edward not to answer calls, but he forgets and answers anyway….then he becomes annoyed all over again.

Edward was working a part time job during 2016-2017 but gave it up because his blood pressure was increasing due to the worry over these timeshare loan payments. He has not been sleeping well which is another factor that is leading to his declining health.

Wyndham promised us the vacations of our dreams, an investment that would be something we could pass onto our children. One salesperson, Zadith, even offered to contact us in a year to help us deed it to our children. They said the Las Vegas location’s value would rise, Hawaii would always be in demand, and Bonnet Creek was a great one because it’s near Disney.

We had to book 13 months in advance to get a place in Hawaii and it has become harder and harder to find availability. Wyndham said there was no availability when we tried to book six months ahead in San Antonio, but online booking sites showed River Walk Wyndham was available. Now how does that happen that owners cannot get a room, but the rooms are available to the general public??

The Wyndham sales agents told us to go to the bank to get a line of credit after we returned home, using the properties as collateral, but we learned timeshares are not considered properties so we can’t refinance. We are stuck with a high interest loan.

Wyndham told us the contract would pay for itself with rentals and they would help us do that but when we tried to rent they told us it would cost 40% of the fee of the booked room to put it in the rental pool and if it was not rented we would have to cancel or lose our points. No one helped us with this complicated process. It was completely left to us.

They told us we could resell the timeshare with ease because timeshares are in demand but when we called Wyndham to do this they said we couldn’t because we still owed money on it. They didn’t tell us those were the conditions at the presentation. If you buy a house and have a loan, you can still sell your house. We were referred to two licensed resale companies that wanted to charge us 10% and 15% of the sale but told us there really was no market for timeshares because the market was flooded.

This was the turning point. Wyndham lied and pressured us into paying more and more money, each time telling us they would fix the problems, but each time we were saddled with more debt. Our ‘personal reps’ were never available. The latest one Zadith, from Daytona Beach, has not been in touch at all.  I tried texting her several times.

We are on a fixed income and we cannot keep up with the increasing costs. We are near the end of the money that we saved all our working days just to pay for these purchases. How can their sales people sleep at night after taking advantage of people that are hardworking souls and are honest and simple folks? They don’t have to lose sleep over our bills that are not being able to be paid. They are not worried about our blood pressures or our health. They just move on to the next victim.

We have written to Wyndham and they have offered to cancel our latest contract from 2017 but not the first two. We have tried to explain that the only reason we have so many contracts in the first place is because they told us the new contracts would fix the problems with the old ones. We are tired and exasperated and just want to be done with Wyndham.

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 Margaret and Irene, once again it is a story we at Inside Timeshare are becoming very familiar with, it is a great shame that a once superb product is being destroyed by nothing more than greed.

If you have had a similar experience to Margaret or just want to comment, then use our contact page and get in touch with us. Inside Timeshare is here to give you a voice.

 

A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies

Over the past few weeks many of the articles have shown some of the worst of timeshare, today however we show what can be good about timeshare.

In the UK there is a certain saying which is normally associated with substandard, shoddy or a bit of a joke, that saying is “Mickey Mouse!”

But in the context of this article it means brilliant!

Irene Parker explores one timeshare product that excels, in the world of timeshare this is rare indeed, Inside Timeshare has also done a lot of investigating and concurs with Irene, we can find no complaints against this “Mickey Mouse” outfit.

Before we published this article we reached out to Bluegreen, they told us they would have a response within 24 hours, that was on Monday, we still have not heard from them. The point is, by reaching out to other companies, we are giving them the opportunity to change, by working with us and our readers they have the chance to put right what is wrong with timeshare.

In Europe and Spain in particular, it is legislation that is forcing timeshare developers to change what and how they sell. The proliferation of court actions has changed timeshare for the better, we are seeing products and sales techniques change. Disney have shown that by having respect for their clients and putting their needs first, they have a product that is worthy of the name “timeshare”.

So on with Irene’s article.

Disney Vacation Club vs The Timeshare Industry

https://disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com/membership/

Why can’t I find any Disney complaints?

disney

By Irene Parker

July 26, 2017

Try as I might, I cannot find complaints about Disney’s timeshare arm, Disney Vacation Club. Searching in vain, it brought up memories of the old Maytag repairman ads describing the Maytag repairman as “The Loneliest Guy in Town”. The point of this long running series of commercials was that the product was so trustworthy and dependable that Maytag repairmen spent their days waiting for the phone to ring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXJ0rAyE_mQ

Why does the Disney Vacation Club have so few complaints? Any company has its grumblers, but the best I could find were a few owners complaining about availability. I asked Fernando at the Disney sales call center. Fernando was not allowed to provide his last name but was happy to talk about what makes Disney different and why Disney customers are so loyal.

Fernando attributed such a low volume of complaints to customer expectations met. As far as the complaints about availability, “Some timeshare members plan better than others”, said Fernando. “But it’s all about meeting customer expectations.” Just like hotel bookings, timeshare bookings are subject to supply and demand that fluctuates with peak and off seasons.

I also asked Fernando if he felt a viable secondary market was a benefit for the company as the timeshare owner obviously benefits from access to a secondary market. “Disney does not attempt to control the market. We believe timeshare should be a free market,” he explained.

Members of the Licensed Timeshare Broker Association say Disney has one of the best secondary market prices. Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty told me Disney almost always exercises their Right of First Refusal. A company that exercises its ROFR actually supports the resale price. Island Consulting Realty is BBB accredited with an A+ rating and a member of LTRBA and ARDA.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Timeshare Store markets basically only Disney timeshares.

“We don’t charge any upfront fees. A seller pays a commission at the time of closing and $170 in fees to Disney Vacation Club,” explained Jason Erpelding, Licensed Real Estate Broker Associate. Above all, consumers buying or selling a timeshare on the secondary market should work through a licensed broker as timeshare resale and listing scams are common. The Timeshare Store has a Better Business Bureau rating of A.

http://www.dvc-resales.com/

Contrast Disney timeshare resale prices with timeshare resale prices in general. Many timeshare are offered for $1 to $99, originally purchased for thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by The Timeshare Store listings, Disney resales are offered for $10,000 to $30,000 or more. Contact The Timeshare Store or a LTRBA member to find out the benefits or lack of benefits buying resale vs buying directly from the timeshare developer.

https://www.bbb.org/west-florida/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/island-consulting-realty-in-sarasota-fl-18003121/bbb-accreditation

Disney’s website states: You purchase a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort. The keywords are real estate. You own something and thus have a beneficial interest. Some timeshare company non-deeded points have been compared to buying air. Lack of availability is a frequent complaint.

Fernando and I talked about Disney’s corporate culture. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s restaurant fame and Walt Disney both drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in World War I. “While we were out chasing girls, Walt was drawing cartoons. All those girls are dead but Walt’s cartoons thrive to this day”, said Kroc.

mickey

Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Corporation were originally motivated by art. Money was the by-product of a pure motivation. Think of a real estate agent who is motivated by finding you the best house as opposed to the real estate agent that has nothing but the vision of a commission check dancing in front of his or her eyes. The purity of Walt Disney’s original motive has had an effect that has carried through the decades. “People buy a Disney timeshare because they know Disney and believe in Disney”, said Fernando. In other words, the strength of the Disney brand, supported by met expectations, has led Disney to become the model for timeshare developers industry wide. “I love what I do here,” Fernando added.

Lisa Ann Schreier, former timeshare sales agent and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, echoed Fernando’s enthusiasm. Lisa worked at Celebration World Resort, right in Disney’s Orlando neighborhood. “Most if not all Disney Vacation Club purchasers/owners are given sufficient information on the product before and after purchase. There’s no feeling of being rushed into a purchase and Disney’s famous Guest Service is no less evident with DVC than at The Magic Kingdom”.  

There doesn’t appear to be any angry owner Facebooks or websites either. Let’s contrast Disney with Bluegreen timeshare. The following are member supported Bluegreen Facebook pages. In parenthesis I have changed the words to be generic as the advice provided is appropriate for any would-be timeshare buyer.

This Bluegreen Facebook page of 1,670 members, Sales Team Reviews & Update/Sales Presentation Experience, is for the benefit of the members, corporate Bluegreen personnel and sales agents working towards a more honest and transparent sales process.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1718664518412381/

(Any timeshare company) IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHAT IS STATED IN THE CONTRACT. IF YOUR SALES REP CANNOT SHOW IT TO YOU IN WRITING IN THE CONTRACT DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE IT HAPPEN.

YOU HAVE A CANCELLATION PERIOD WHICH VARIES BY STATE AND THAT INFORMATION IS ALSO IN THE CONTRACT.

(Many)  BENEFITS ARE NOT GUARANTEED. THEY CAN BE CHANGED OR CANCELLED AT ANYTIME.

This is a public group accessible to everyone, including Sales and Corporate. You are responsible for your own comments, opinions, etc. I am merely providing this page as a single location for both positive and negative experiences in regards to the sales team. Allowing both them and corporate to better improve how owners and possible new owners are treated, likely increasing sales.”

A Member Sponsored Bluegreen Facebook page:  770 members

This Facebook page seems to be a sort of self-help Facebook for members trying to be released from their contract. A book on how to write a letter to an Attorney General is available.

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

The following internet consumer complaint sites list Bluegreen reviews:

Consumer Affairs rates Bluegreen 1 ½ stars out of 5 stars based on 100 ratings. There were a total of 411 reviews. In all fairness, Disney ranked only 2 stars out of 5. Typically happy customers don’t bother searching for complaint sites to post positive reviews. Consumer Affairs posts a balanced collection of consumer reviews helpful for consumers researching online.

Pissed Consumer rates Bluegreen 1.9 out of 5 stars based on 155 reviews. There were a total of 761 reviews. There were no Disney reviews on this site.

Complaints List – There was only one Bluegreen complaint but the comment was intriguing.

“One federal authority told me they are in violation of the constitution by enslaving people with unending contracts because this is a form of indentured slavery and slavery is unconstitutional…”

Better Business Bureau

TUG Timeshare Users Group noted that Bluegreen lost their rating in 2010 with an F rating.

http://tugbbs.com/forums/index.php?threads/bluegreen-corp-loses-its-bbb-accreditation-with-an-f-rating.132284/

Bluegreen is not BBB accredited but now has a B+ rating.  Keep in mind BBB does not resolve complaints. They rate how effectively a company responds to complaints.

7 positive

4 neutral

67 negative (out of 78 reviews)

Bluegreen had 761 complaints in the last three years.

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

Contrast the Bluegreen BBB rating with Disney’s rating:

Disney has been accredited since 1991 with an A+ rating. There was one review:

1 positive

0 neutral

0 negative

Disney had nine complaints in three years.

In my research I found useful timeshare tips provided by the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Division, the most important being:

Oral promises: Make certain all promises made by the salesperson are written into the contract.

https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Publications/TimesharesResellers182.aspx

Here is the company response one of our Diamond Resort readers just emailed me in response to their allegations that they were sold by deceit and bait and switch. I have highlighted the oral representation section in red.

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

It would certainly save the timeshare company and the timeshare buyer a lot of times and trouble if the paragraph above would be provided to the person about to enter a timeshare presentation. Most, if not all of the complaints Inside Timeshare receives begin with, “The sales agent said…..”

The Finn Law Group maintains approximately 500 timeshare cases. Timeshare attorney Mike Finn told me he has never had a Disney client which led me on this quest to find Disney complaints. Mike Finn has often said the timeshare contract’s oral representation clause is “a license to lie”, used and abused by some timeshare sales agents. Just think. If Disney were the only timeshare company out there, Mike Finn would be Disney’s version of the Maytag repairman.

maytag

So there we have it, not exactly rocket science is it?

Put the customer first, give a good service and bingo, happy all round. A business model that keeps going, a business that people are proud to work for, a business that customers are happy to be members of.

On another note, Canarian Legal Alliance, announced that it had just received another Supreme Court ruling, that now brings the total to a massive 57. You could say that they have just had their “Heinz” moment.

In Spanish legal history this is unprecedented, no other law firm has achieved anything like this, from what our sources tell us this figure is set to rise, as they have many more cases waiting to be heard in Spain’s highest court!

As the news comes in we will keep you informed.

In this week’s Friday’s Letter from America we will be publishing another article on Advocacy, written by one of The Timeshare Advocacy Group. In this analysis of the industry the writer puts forward some very interesting points, so stay with us for the next article, see you then.

Friday Letter from The US: Part II: What is our Timeshare Advocacy Group Doing Today?

Here we are again, another Friday and another letter from America, courtesy of Irene, following on from last week’s article.

Firstly the similarities between ARDA ROC and the RDO TATOC, both are industry trade bodies and owners organisations funded by the industry. Both require their members to abide by a code of ethics, but neither will arbitrate or investigate their own members. One difference is that ARDA ROC will not recommend any resale company, but RDO and TATOC will recommend any company that is one of its members.

Both bodies also actively focus on chasing scam and bogus companies, the RDO has employed kwikchex to head their Timeshare Taskforce. This company runs Timeshare Business Check, who contact businesses and question them for transparency, they list those who are not RDO or TATOC members, basically saying if they are not members or submit to their questions don’t touch them. They have no legal mandate and the owner has what can only be described as a very poor track record as a director. (see following link).

http://insidetimeshare.com/kwikchex-chris-emmins/

Only last week we announced and published the news that ARDA have donated $30,000 to TATOC and their Consumer Helpline, which received charitable status after initially being rejected. This donation was given because it is said they help and advise European Owners of US timeshares.

This is obviously a saving grace for TATOC as many of their members are withdrawing their membership or reducing their membership status, as was seen by Silverpoint dropping from Platinum to Silver.

Harry Taylor himself has been somewhat discredited over the Lakeview debacle, which has been going on for sometime. He has also been a very vociferous supporter of MacDonald Resorts and their forcing owners from fixed weeks into points. There is a class action ongoing by members who do not want the change as it then gives MacDonald’s “ownership” of the resorts and reduces members to “right of use only”.

This is happening in Spanish resorts, where we know that the points system is illegal, yet is still going ahead. MacDonald Resorts have a very bad reputation for the way they deal with members including the elderly. Yet they are main contributors to Harry Taylor and TATOC. Even the RDO have had nothing to do with them since 2005.

So we now move on to Irene’s article.

Part II: What is our Timeshare Advocacy Group Doing Today?

Part I: What is ARDA ROC Doing Today?  

By Irene Parker

March 31, 2017

Boss

“What is ARDA ROC Doing Today?”

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

ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, is the national organization representing the timeshare industry. The ROC in ARDA ROC is the Resort Owners’ Coalition looking out for timeshare owners’ or members’ interest. Critics argue ARDA ROC works against timeshare owners when the interest of the owner and the developer diverge. It should be noted that non-deeded point members don’t “own” anything as they are right-to-use programs.

 FAQ Timeshare Resale Questions found on ARDA ROC website

Can ARDA-ROC or ARDA help me?

ARDA provides professional and educational development for its members provides industry research and data and advocates for policies that promote the vitality and continued growth of the industry. Based in Washington, DC, ARDA is comprised of nearly 1,000 corporate members and one million timeshare owner members.

Question: How many readers knew they were a member? Donations range from $3 to $10 as an opt-in or opt-out donation. That adds up to approximately $5 million a year in voluntary donations.  How many timeshare members even know what the letters stand for?  I didn’t. I was told it was an organization that helps timeshare owners. Foreign buyers who buy a US timeshare are also charged. How much do you think they know about ARDA ROC?

More from ARDA ROC FAQ

Neither ARDA-ROC nor ARDA provide information about complaints they receive.  ARDA-ROC and ARDA do not mediate, arbitrate or otherwise resolve individual disputes between a consumer and an ARDA member or non-member business. They don’t buy or sell timeshares OR recommend companies with whom you should do business. Neither can tell you if a company is “legitimate.”

ARDA does not have any regulatory authority, although they do require member companies to agree to abide by their Code of Ethics. Failure to do so may result in expulsion of the company from membership.

http://www.ardaroc.org/roc/resource-library/default.aspx?id=2771

Timeshare owners, often unaware they have signed a perpetual contract without a secondary market, consider the lack of a secondary their primary concern. ARDA has focused their efforts on chasing timeshare transfer agent scams, but little is mentioned about the cause of the scams, which is the lack of or limited secondary market.

 Thank you to Disney because Disney does allow a secondary market. “Disney is known for exercising their first right of refusal. When a timeshare company exercises their first right of refusal, the effect supports the resale price,” explained Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty. Check out those Disney resale prices. Is your timeshare on the resale list below?

http://www.timesharestogo.com/listings/index.phtml

Deeded weeks can almost always be listed. If a resort has converted from weeks to points, non-deeded points with no secondary market will not be listed as the members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association feel such points are worthless on the secondary market. If denied a voluntary surrender, a seller in this situation has nowhere to turn but foreclosure or the well reported transfer agencies that may or may not get you out of your timeshare.

Tom is a LTRBA member. I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the members and respect what they do to work with what little secondary market they’ve got.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Tom cautioned against making a blanket statement accusing ARDA ROC of not doing anything for members. A good example is the Virgin Islands. They are trying to slap an extra $300 onto an exchange. “If that happens, Aruba and other locations may try to follow suit,” warned Tom. In Hawaii, our two bedroom timeshare at Maui Hill slipped in a $6.90 a night Hawaii some kind of tax.

However, when the interests of the timeshare developer are at odds with the timeshare owner, the result is controversy. Issues like:

Owner access to membership lists. Timeshare owners receive endless calls offering vacation giveaways due to a mysterious $1800 credit on our maintenance fees, yet the developers work to pass laws or put up obstacles preventing owners from contacting other owners. No one on our Advocacy Facebook group will question why developers don’t want that!

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/timeshares-refuse-to-share-owner-lists

The lack of a secondary market.

Back to my $7 ARDA ROC “Voluntary” Donation

accountability

This “voluntary donation” can be difficult to remove from your account.  

What is this voluntary ARDA-ROC fee doing in my maintenance fee bill? – RedWeek.com

I asked timeshare Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group why it has been impossible to have my voluntary $7 removed from my timeshare maintenance fee invoice?

“Indeed you are quite correct that several other resorts include a line item in their maintenance fee statement for an ARDA-ROC contribution. I guess they get away with it because it’s allegedly voluntary. However subsequent maintenance billing beyond the first one incorporates that so called voluntary contribution and lumps it in with the subsequent maintenance fee total billing. If you don’t pay your bill after you receive the initial bill and you pay it after you receive a subsequent bill, you’ll probably be inadvertently including that voluntary contribution into your maintenance fee,” Mike explained.

Our Advocacy Group will begin having monthly conference calls to:

  • Target legislators that might be willing to consider owner concerns;
  • Educate the general public about what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. We wish someone gave us that advice!
  • Get updates on current legislation;
  • Get updates on legal and regulatory matters;
  • An update on the measurable success of our Advocacy Group.

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

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

Happy group

So there we have it the end of another week in the murky world of timeshare, Irene and myself thank those who have contributed to all the articles we publish, hoping it gives you the owners and readers an insight into what is going on. We have had many people contact us for advice and help, and through the contributions from readers, we have highlighted many dubious companies.

It remains for Irene and myself to wish you a very happy weekend, have fun.

weekend