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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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America for June, this week Irene Parker follows on from Haley Saldana’s Tuesday article, but first we look at the end of the week in Europe.

Over the past few weeks we have been issuing various warnings on some very dubious claims companies and fake law firms, we have now received some new information about one called Abogados Lopez.

In the past warnings the name of the lady on the phone was Hope Brugge, well it seems that Hope has now changed to Megan Haywood.

The pitch is the same as before, checking the details of how much they paid etc, before they file the case at court, the a day or so later the great news comes in that they have won the case and the court has awarded a substantial amount. Yes you guessed it they need to be paid to release the money.

The telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

This week has also been busy with the courts, Silverpoint has been on the receiving end of yet more Supreme Court rulings, with four in one week, this makes a total of 118 against the timeshare industry as a whole.

There have also been six sentences issued in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi del Mar and Silverpoint, with the total being awarded by the courts to the clients amounting to over 409,000€ plus in most cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. The contract have also been declared null and void, leaving these client not only financially better off but timeshare free.

All these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by none other than those intrepid lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

Diamond Resorts International Lawsuit against Castle Law

Declarations of Two Former Castle Law Employees

The Tangled Web: Castle Law Group Entities

How money was funneled from timeshare members to Castle Law

By Irene Parker

June 1, 2018

Diamond Resorts International filed a first amended complaint for damages, injunctive and other relief against Judson Phillips, Esq., Castle Law Group, P.C. and 24 other defendants in the US District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2118, in an effort to untangle Defendants’ web  of deceit and so as to end Defendants’ improper and legally inappropriate schemes, and in doing, not only vindicating its own rights, but also safeguarding the unsuspecting public and positively impacting the timeshare industry at large.

Case 3:17-cv-01124

Timeshare developers say timeshare exit companies like Castle Law are targeting timeshare members, enticing them to get out of their timeshare contracts. Some of these exit companies charge thousands of dollars upfront, but members are held in suspense for months or years, only to learn they were not released from the timeshare contract. On the other side of the dispute, timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare, desperate to be released from timeshare contracts they never knew were perpetual, and had little or no secondary market.  

https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/legal/litigation/article/20972343/resort-company-sues-local-lawyer-over-timeshare-exits

This past Tuesday we published an article about Haley Saldana getting caught in the middle of a dispute between Castle Law Group and Resort Relief. Haley lost $3,495 after paying Castle Law to get her out of her Silverleaf timeshare, only to find herself foreclosed anyway. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-6/

Two former Castle Law employees, a director of business development and an attorney, relate their experiences working for Castle Law Group, PC and Castle Marketing Group, LLC in depositions filed. I reached out to both employees through Linked-In and the attorney’s law firm. They did not respond.  

Over a year ago I received an email from Carly Vaughn, former public relations manager and content writer for Castle Marketing, asking if I would be interested in writing for the Castle blog. I declined the offer.

We first published an article about developer lawsuits against Castle Law and Judson Phillips August 22, 2017.

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

Among the twelve causes of action in the “cease and desist” letter Castle sent to developers, are those Inside Timeshare readers, asking for help in complaints against developers, would not disagree with. From the Castle “cease and desist” letter found in public filings:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

A “cease and desist” letter demands all communication with the client, including collection attempts cease under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Declaration from an attorney who worked for Castle Law

In his declaration, the lawyer states that it became clear to him that Castle Law was not functioning within the ethical boundaries of a proper law firm. At no time was the lawyer tasked with meeting with and/or engaging clients. Rather, according to the attorney, Castle Law clients were primarily engaged through outside third-party exit timeshare companies. Only on a few occasions does the lawyer recall even speaking with a prospective client. The attorney graduated from law school in 2015 and was hired by Castle Law Group, P.C. in 2015. He worked for Castle Law until May 2017. According to the attorney’s declaration:

It was my understanding, through observations, that many prospective clients engaged the services of Castle Law without ever speaking with any attorney. Strangely, I agreed to have a rubber stamp made of my signature to be used by assistants, which made me uncomfortable.

While at Castle I was shocked to learn telephone calls were being recorded without my knowledge, whereby neither of the two parties was aware they were being recorded. I learned of this practice from Sean Austin, president of Castle Marketing, which I now know to be illegal.

I was involved in the evaluation of various cases of timeshare owners who did not have valid claims and should have been entitled to a refund of monies paid to any of the Castle entities. I reported my claims to Judson Phillips and Michael Keever. To the best of my knowledge, very few, if any, actually received a refund. (Castle Law Group and Castle Marketing were both operated by Sean Austin and Michael Keever, neither licensed to practice law)

After I left Castle, I became aware that Castle Law sent out letters to their purported clients that they never represented them. I became aware of such letters after I was forced to defend my license to practice law against four bar complaints against me. All four complaints were eventually dismissed.

DECLARATION 2

This declaration was provided by the “assistant director of affiliate relations” who later served as “director of business development” for Castle Marketing Group as an independent contractor in 2015.

The director’s role was to communicate with and manage outside affiliate companies, referred to as Third Party Exit companies (TPE) who solicited timeshare owners to cancel their timeshare contracts. According to the director:

I observed that Castle Law allowed the outside affiliates to use Castle Law Group’s engagement agreement without an attorney being present or consulted. I observed that timeshare owners were being led to believe they were paying legal fees entirely to Castle Law Group, which was not true.

Initially, Castle Law Group collected all of the funds and was engaged in the practice of sharing the fees with the TPEs. Sean Austin told me that they had created Castle Marketing Group to “act as a buffer between the clients and the law firm” and to “protect the law firm” and to “get around the issue of fee splitting.”

Later Sean Austin told me Castle Law Group was not making any money, which was “not legal,” and that funds had to be pulled out of Castle Marketing Group and transferred to Castle Law group, so that it would appear as if Castle Law Group was earning revenue as part of the transaction. The TPEs kept their portion of the amounts paid for legal services and sent the rest to Castle Marketing. Castle Marketing then transferred funds to Castle Law Group and the many other business entities operated by William Michael Keever and Sean Austin (pictured above).

I observed that attorneys at Castle Law Group rarely, if ever, met with or spoke to the timeshare owners. Sean Austin told me that the staff needed to keep the timeshare owners happy as the lawyers did not have time to confer with them.

At times a year or more went by without any action taken by Castle Law Group on behalf of the timeshare owners. I witnessed that timeshare owners who persisted with their complaints, or demands to speak with an attorney, would be placed on an “escalation sheet.” Staff members would, in some instances, contact customers to calm them down and say whatever was necessary to keep them hanging on until the deadline for their money-back guarantee had expired. My job became so stressful as a result of timeshare members and TPEs demanding answers, my health was impacted and my doctor advised me to quit my job.

The funds collected from the legal fees paid to Castle Marketing Group were funneled to other business ventures owned by Sean Austin and/or William Michael Keever. These businesses included: Castle Venture Group, Worthington Galleries, God Cloud, ExxoGear, Advisant, Kryptobit, and Instant Merchant Group, among others. Sean Austin expressed to me on more than one occasion that the payroll and budget for all these companies was dependent on my work with the TPEs and the funds generated.  

When I expressed my concern that “clients” would complain to the Tennessee Attorney General, Sean Austin stated that Castle Law Group was registered only in the name of attorney Judson Phillips, so Sean Austin, William Michael Keever and the staff, as non-lawyers, would be shielded from any liability or fault.

The Director left Castle Market Group in 2016.     

To date Inside Timeshare has received 437 requests for assistance from timeshare members who allege they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. It is our hope a meaningful dialog will develop to clean up both sides of the timeshare sale.  

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups before paying anyone to get you out of a timeshare contract.

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/

So that’s it, the end of another week in the world of timeshare, a week that has seen more fake companies emerging and many cases against some of the major timeshare companies being resolved in the courts.

If you require any information or have any comments on any article published, use our contact page and send us a message.

Have you been contacted by a company with a similar story to the ones published and want to know the truth, or have you found one on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to find the information you need.

Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company, it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.

Have a great weekend and join us next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor, Haley Saldana, who shares her experience with Resort Relief and Castle Law, the introduction is by Inside Timeshare’s very own Irene Parker.

But first, yesterday it was announced by Canarian Legal Alliance that they have secured a Court of First Instance sentence against Club la Costa, in the number 4 court of Fuengirola.

The case was brought against Club la Costa Leisure Limited by CLA on behalf of their English clients. The main basis for the judgement was the contract did not have an end date, which made it a perpetuity one, this has been declared illegal under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that contracts have a duration of between 3 and 50 years.

In this case the contract has been declared null and void, with the clients being refunded a total of £19,442 plus all their legal fees and legal interest.

It is quite clear that the lower courts are following the now 115 rulings made by the Supreme Court, which is good news for all clients who have cases pending or are considering filing claims.

Now for today’s article.

Resort Relief and Castle Law Group’s Tangled Web

Part I: How Haley Saldana Lost $3,495 retaining Resort Relief

Part II June 1: Declarations of former employees of Castle Law Group, P.C. and Castle Marketing Group, LLC

Haley Saldana shares her Castle Law and Resort Relief experience

Introduction by Irene Parker

May 29, 2018

Former Silverleaf member Haley Saldana relates her frustration over a cycle of hopeful vacation promises that ended with a desperate need to get out. More consumer awareness is needed, so Haley has shared her story today hoping people ask the right questions before buying a timeshare or signing up to get out of one. It’s important to examine the reasons why people reach out to a timeshare exit company in the first place.   

Inside Timeshare has heard from 431 mostly angry, overwhelmed, desperate timeshare members. They don’t know where to turn for straight timeshare answers. Most allege that they either bought or upgraded a timeshare from sales agents employing bait and switch tactics. If deceived, or just not understanding the nature of the product they purchased, they soon learn the challenges one faces attempting to be released from a timeshare contract, especially if there is an outstanding loan. The contract is perpetual, and the resort usually dismisses the member with a “You signed a contract.” Some state regulators second that response. With no other way out, the buyer seeks legal or third party assistance, or gets foreclosed. In Haley’s case, seeking third party assistance cost her $3,495 and she still got foreclosed!

Haley explains why she feels she was deceived into purchasing a Silverleaf upgrade. Unable to get help from Silverleaf, she contacted Resort Relief. Haley is 31 years old and her husband Louis, 34. Haley and Louis went from Silverleaf timeshare owner, to Resort Relief, to Castle Law, and ultimately to foreclosure.

Through public filings, we obtained depositions from two former Castle Law Group, P.C. employees. Their descriptions of what it was like to work for Castle Law will be the subject of Friday’s Letter from America.      

By Haley Saldana

I contacted Resort Relief in 2016 after being convinced to make a second Silverleaf timeshare purchase. In 2014 we had paid approximately $11,000 for our first Silverleaf timeshare. We had no problem affording this purchase.

We feel we were deceived into making the second Silverleaf purchase. We could not use the bonus time that went with the original purchase. At a members’ meeting we were told a second purchase or upgrade would give us more availability, but it did not. I contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief set us up with Castle Law Group. We were charged $3,495 February 2016.

Castle Law Group told us if we talked to Silverleaf they would drop us and keep our money. I heard nothing until I talked to a guy at Castle in 2017. He said to keep not paying and again told us not to talk to Silverleaf. We had gotten a letter from Silverleaf that said we should contact them. We received a second letter from Silverleaf June 23, 2017 that said if we do not pay them what we owed them, it would go against our credit, but we had been instructed not to talk to Silverleaf. By this time it had been well over a year since we had originally contacted Resort Relief February 2016.

I emailed Barb Holland from Castle Law the Silverleaf letter June 23, 2017.

Next, now almost two years later, we got a letter from Silverleaf January 26, 2018 saying that they were proceeding with foreclosure.

We notified Castle Law. Castle responded by letter informing us they no longer represent us because of a serious legal conflict with the organization that referred us to Castle Law Group (Resort Relief).

We contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief owner Kevin Hanson told us, “I’m sorry, I lost $2 million because of Castle Law. He said that Castle Law Group came back to Resort Relief and said “Here are your clients. Castle Law Group is no longer representing Resort Relief clients.”

You would think Resort Relief would make things right since they were the ones that set us up with Castle Law. Instead, Mr. Hanson said if we pay Resort Relief $750 they will transfer our case to a local attorney. We lost the timeshare through foreclosure, and the $3,495 paid to Resort Relief/Castle Law. I have all the emails confirming this disaster.

Mr. Hanson said Baker & Britt is the local (Conroe Texas) law firm that is representing him (Resort Relief) against Castle Law Group.

On the creditor’s side of the fence, back in March 2017, I interviewed Kristie, an HOA collections agent. Kristie expressed her discomfort with Timeshare Exit Team and timeshare attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman. Countering Kristie’s comments, timeshare attorney Mitchell Sussman Reed responded:  

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit. Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset; the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable. When for health reasons or simply lack of income they are unable to utilize the timeshare the resorts have zero sympathy, refuse to take back the timeshare and then report the owner as a dead beat to the credit reporting agencies.

Shame on them, and bravo to any attorney willing to sue or otherwise punish the resort for taking advantage of the weak and infirm.

If a resort wants attorney’s in the field of timeshare cancellation to not feel as I do, they should simply agree to take back their timeshare when asked by their owner. Not by the attorney. Why should there have to even be attorneys in this field?

If timeshare resorts maintained a policy that would allow owners who are no longer willing and able to travel out of their timeshare, there would be no need for timeshare attorneys or timeshare transfer companies.

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

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

Resort Relief has an A BBB rating! As explained on a TUG post below, an F rating may be more credible than an A+ rating.  

https://www.bbb.org/houston/business-reviews/timeshare-advocates/resort-relief-llc-in-conroe-tx-90046035/reviews-and-complaints?section=complaints

Here’s a complaint almost identical to Haley’s complaint!

Complaint

We were sent a letter from Resort Relief where we were talked to about getting timeshare relief for the Timeshare we have through Silverleaf Resorts and was told that this service was a money back guarantee and that we were going to be able to get out of our timeshare once we paid the $4050.00. We… paid the monies and was referred to Castle Law Group who took the information and received all of our documents for them to proceed. I had no heard from the in sometime so I contacted Castle Law Group for a follow up. I was informed on September 11th that the law firm could no longer represent us due to a conflict of interest and referred me back to Resort Relief. I have been calling nonstop and no one is available to give me information or anything. I have stressed that I want my money back and I am getting tossed back and forth from Resort Relief back to Castle Law Group and back to Resort Relief. This has been stressful and I am not getting anything but a Reba will bet back to me and I haven’t heard anything and the worker that answers the phone Tyler doesn’t either and he knows its stuff going on and can’t tell me.

Thank you, Haley for sharing your disappointing experience after responding to a “Get you out of your timeshare or your money back” ad, powered by massive search engines seeking desperate timeshare members. It’s very difficult to reach Castle Law and when I tried calling Resort Relief I kept getting the busy signal.   

Maybe it’s just me, but I find today’s timeshare product one of the most flawed products in history. First, members contacting us allege they were deceived into buying or upgrading a timeshare. When they complained to the resort, the resort dismissed them with, “You signed a contract.” The member is then driven into the net of a search engine, and contacted by someone that often is a former timeshare sales agent or executive. When we researched one questionable timeshare sales agent, we learned he had several open and closed LLCs with names like Vacation Planning. Hence, the sales agent dangled the bait, made the sale, the timeshare buyer victimized, the exit company next deceived them, and possibly by the very person who sold them the timeshare in the first place! Worse, one snoop removed from our advocacy Facebook, had in his background a company called, Timeshare Fraud Recovery. No question this meets the definition of racketing. The member is defrauded by an exit company and then contacted by the same people offering fraud recovery!     

We’re not lawyers, so Haley and Louis would need to contact a reputable lawyer for an opinion as to where to go from here. Given what money has already gone down the drain, I can understand her reluctance to pursue this further. It’s a mess.  

When a reader asks about an exit company, keeping an open mind, I contact the company, explaining one of our readers asked us whether we would recommend them. Often they hang up the phone after a few questions. Once I received a threat accompanied by a string of expletives. Three timeshare exit companies I contacted I feel are reputable and we have maintained communication in an effort to better understand this murky world of timeshare exits and transfers.   

One timeshare insider provided us with this Timeshare User Group forum (beginning November 2016). I can vouch for one of the licensed brokers mentioned, Judi Kozlowski. Judi has helped us out with a few of our articles.

(Brokers recommended) Fred Messreni

www.timeshare-gallery.com

Seth Nock

www.sellingtimeshares.net

Judi Kozlowski

www.timeshareresalepros.com

Tug review crew comment November 16, 2016

I’m adding one more voice strongly recommending that you steer clear of any and every “exit / release / escape” entity — and to ignore meaningless BBB ratings.

 

You might consider “sweetening” the TUGgiveaway” by now additionally offering to pay the transfer fees — and maybe even the next maintenance fee bill as well (…said bill is likely already in hand at this time of year, or very soon en route to you). You’d still be mathematically “ahead” compared to paying any shaky upfront fee parasite, whoever they may be.

Finding a valid new recipient is infinitely more “clean” and legally conclusive than getting involved with (and/or paying) any upfront fee “exit / release/ escape” entity. Bear in mind that some of these entities are actually committing outright fraud by design …which could boomerang back around to you in the future.

Good luck, but do yourself a big favor and stay away from any and all of these alleged “escape artists”.

TUG Admin February 23, 2018

Looking at your ad, we see you are still asking for money for your Festiva timeshare.

You also don’t appear to be offering to pay closing costs as the seller.

Both of these factors are the reason you are having no success in selling your timeshare…not that fixing them will guarantee a buyer…but having them is certainly guaranteeing that the only folks interested in your ad…are upfront fee scammers.

(You are welcome; we just saved you thousands of dollars being thrown away for an upfront fee company)

Contact any of these independent self-help groups if you have a question or concern about your timeshare.

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/

Thank you Irene and Haley, this industry is in dire need of a major shake up and regulation, the periphery companies such as resale, terminations and claims are a product of the greed of the major developers, with the lack of a resale market and the inability to terminate membership.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have you been contacted by a termination or claims company, or have found one on the internet and are not sure if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them.

Remember, by doing your due diligence and your homework, you will save thousands in the end.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, today we welcome yet another new contributor Mike Yelton, edited as always by our very own Irene Parker. This article will also be of interest to our readers in Europe, as many have been victims of similar tactics, so we are asking our readers, both members and hopefully developers, to weigh in on the discussion questions posted throughout Mr. Yelton’s article.  

The deception that prompts the presentation, as happened to Mike and Joyce Yelton,  is often the reason why the ultimate end is the timeshare exit company when the developer will not address these issues.  

If the developer would clean up the sales process, the back end of the timeshare exit problem would go away, or at least be reduced. Until the developer owns up to their being a part of the problem, the angry and desperate timeshare owner is here to stay..

Is Freewheeling Credit Card Lending Here Again!?

The Over Reliance on Credit Card Lending

Our Stormy Point Village, Summerwinds Experience

By Mike Yelton, Army and Air Force Vietnam Veteran

May 22, 2018  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Was this Elder Fraud?  

Was this Credit Card Fraud?

Was this an Unfair and Deceptive trade practice?

Was Summerwinds resolution to the Yelton’s offer fair?

Inside Timeshare has been receiving an increase in complaints about timeshare credit cards opened onsite and credit card charges made without authorization. This is exactly what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked so hard to put a halt to when Wells Fargo agents opened credit card accounts without the cardholder’s knowledge. Undeterred, Wells Fargo moved on to a $1 billion penalty announced April 20, 2018. This penalty was levied due in part to interest rate-lock promises. Mike and Joyce Yelton’s timeshare upgrade experience is somewhat similar, although they were promised a rate lowering.   

Another Wells Fargo Settlement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau) announced a settlement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in a coordinated action with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). As described in the consent order, the Bureau found that Wells Fargo violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) in the way it administered a mandatory insurance program related to its auto loans. The Bureau also found that Wells Fargo violated the CFPA in how it charged certain borrowers for mortgage interest rate-lock extensions. Under the terms of the consent orders, Wells Fargo will remediate harmed consumers and undertake certain activities related to its risk management and compliance management. The Bureau assessed a $1 billion penalty against the bank and credited the $500 million penalty collected by the OCC toward the satisfaction of its fine.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/bureau-consumer-financial-protection-announces-settlement-wells-fargo-auto-loan-administration-and-mortgage-practices/

Here’s what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Yelton. I have interspersed discussion questions hoping our readers will offer their input in our comment section. We encourage responses from the industry in addition to reader responses. We hope meaningful dialogue will help bridge the gap between the angry timeshare member and the timeshare provider.         

By Mike Yelton

My wife Joyce and I, both 79 years of age, bought a Stormy Point Village timeshare in Branson, Missouri in 2015 and upgraded in 2016. We enjoyed our stays there and had no major complaints until December 2017 when we attended what they said was a ‘mandatory update meeting’. We were told that if we did not attend we would lose our benefits. At that meeting we feel we were deceived and lied to. We may be older, but we are not stupid.

Discussion Question 1

Do you think it is fair for a timeshare member, who has made a prior purchase of a deeded week, be required to attend an update, threatened with the risk of losing their benefits if they did not attend? The Yelton’s would not have become angry owners had they not attended the meeting and we would not be writing this article.    

At this mandatory update, the salespeople presented what they described as a “change in need” or an exchange in benefits. We were led to believe it was not an upgrade. They said they could lower the interest on our loan if we opened a new lower interest rate credit card.

Discussion Question 2 & 3

Do you think this was more an attempt to open credit card accounts and sell an upgrade, rather than actually addressing the customer’s needs?

Was the “change in need” enough of a reason to tell the Yelton’s they would lose their benefits if they did not attend?

Due to our health we cannot travel far from home. We don’t live far from Branson. We were told if we wanted to limit our use to just Branson, two weeks could be broken down into four parts. We signed the papers, but later we found out we had purchased an upgrade which we did not want or could afford.

We felt we had become a victim of the unauthorized opening of credit card accounts and unauthorized charges made. We were not aware the cards had been opened or that an amount had been charged. We didn’t know the cards had been opened until not one, but two Bank of America credit cards showed up in the mail! We had agreed to one card being opened because they said it would be at a lower interest. It was never mentioned the card was being opened for the purpose of buying an upgrade. The cards have been canceled as Bank of America agreed they were opened without our knowledge.

Discussion Question 4

Was it deceptive to tell the Yelton’s the card was being opened to lower their interest rate if charges were made to make a purchase? What could have been done so that the Yelton’s would have been aware the card was being charged to purchase a timeshare product? From members young and old, we are hearing about credit cards opened and charged, and even loans taken out when the member was not aware. It seems the first thing a sales agent does is to run the card to determine the credit limit and then back into the maximum point purchase.  

To our utter dismay we learned that the sales agent charged $7,000 on a card opened in my name and $4,000 on a card opened in Joyce’s name! The salesperson told us we could charge up to $11,000 on the card but he NEVER said he was actually charging that amount of money or that he was opening two cards. He just charged it without even asking! We both were there. He told us we would get a check in the mail, which we should sign and send in, in an envelope that would be included with the check. We have no idea what the check was about, but no check ever arrived.

Discussion Question 5

Should the sales agent have explained to the Yelton’s why they would receive a check in the mail? This question was asked to encourage timeshare buyers to challenge vague statements like this. For example, Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from members purchasing additional points because they say they were told “You can pay your maintenance fees by charging purchases on the new credit card.” The problem is – the consumer typically does not ask the next question: What is the actual value? If 1% is credited, a family would have to charge $100,000 in one year to pay a $1,000 maintenance fee bill.    

We expected Summerwind to cancel the deceptive upgrade. We sent a letter of complaint to Summerwinds which they ignored. We then filed a complaint with the BBB which did get a response. Summerwinds asked us to take down the complaint so we could discuss the issue without a third party. They offered us a cancellation on the upgrade but not a full cancellation of our timeshare, which would have required the prior outstanding loan be cancelled.   

Discussion Question 6

Do you think the offer Summerwinds proposed was fair?

We will allow the cancellation of the last upgrade.

The debt prior to this purchase is still your responsibility.

We will start the first year of use for 2019 on the new contract. We will give you one free week in a 2 bedroom unit for use in 2018.

We will refund the amounts placed on the cards and any payments made to the lender since the time of your upgrade.

They never apologized for opening the second card or charging the credit cards without our knowledge. We had some good times at Summerwinds, but because of this experience, we have lost all faith in Summerwinds. We dread checking in.

Discussion Question 7

Should Summerwinds have apologized for the mistakes? Lawyers will be quick to respond….but not so fast. Hug your Haters author Jay Baer, obtained this answer from attorney and litigator Michael Laskey of Davis and Gilbert law firm in New York City.    

“In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’”

Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hug+your+haters

So there you have it. Mr. Yelton has produced lots of food for thought. This is the YouTube Mr. and Mrs. Yelton produced. https://youtu.be/a1XCF479oa8

We hope you will express your thoughts on our comment section.

Summerwinds Resorts Services, LLC has a BBB rating of F

https://www.bbb.org/stlouis/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/summerwinds-resort-services-llc-in-branson-mo-29040/reviews-and-complaints

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from all branches of the military as well as law enforcement. We have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, Active Duty military and government workers. We encourage those who have been assisted by our efforts to make a donation to this worthy organization. https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

I have never served my country, but I am honored to serve those who have by providing the means to let their voices be heard. Thank you to Mike for joining Inside Timeshare as a contributor and for your service to our country.

Additional self-help groups that can aid in your due diligence:

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/

In Europe we have not yet seen this use of credit cards, but we are familiar with finance being arranged by the sales staff, the main provider of theses loan agreements is Barclays Partner Finance. We have many readers who have informed us that they told the sales staff they could not afford the timeshare as they were only on pensions.

Yet after many hours of high pressure sales tactics they eventually agreed to finance being provided, the unfortunate thing is the usual due diligence checks such as income versus outgoings reports have never been done. Eventually this has ended in severe financial hardship.

It has also been the case that many of these loans have been brokered by unauthorised and unlicensed staff and companies. Yet the banking industry still allows these agreements to take place, putting yet more people in financial crisis.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

 

Money Vs Morals

A Fraudulent Timeshare Sale can pose a National Security Threat

One Marine sacrifices, not only his money and his security clearance, but also his air unit command, as a result of believing a timeshare sales agent.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, former Marine Corp pilot and investment banking and capital market underwriter, was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm.   

http://www.navy.mil/navybio_ldr.asp?id=1001

NNSA

December 27, 2017

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare received an alarming response in response to last week’s article about Samuel Melendez. Mr. Melendez spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, working with soldiers and colleges to teach them chemical, biological and nuclear defense. A Diamond Platinum member, he alleges he and his wife Delores were up-sold by deceit and bait and switch by Diamond Resorts top selling sales agent Rick Casper at DRI’s Polo Towers resort.

Inside Timeshare has been informed one Marine lost more than his money and security clearance. He lost his air unit command, as a consequence of believing a timeshare sales agent. He was forced into foreclosure which jeopardized his security clearance. We will not name the Marine who lost his air unit command, or the timeshare company, because Inside Timeshare has received reports directed against four timeshare companies offering members of our armed forces deals like the ability to rent for a profit, the ability to easily sell vacation points, or buy vacation points at a special military discount price that does not exist. Fifteen active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel allege they were sold by deceit.

Marine

Former Marine Jeff Diehl describes how his Vacation Village sales agent over promised the income that could be generated from renting his week.

Jeff Diehl

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Jeff expressed outrage after hearing a fellow Marine lost his command post due to predatory timeshare sales. He sees such tactics as a threat to our national security. “It would be easy for anyone, seeking to do our country harm, to get hired to sell vacation points in an effort to remove an armed service member from their command post,” said Jeff. Jeff is encouraging service members to write to the Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer and Commandant of the Marines Robert B. Neller, as well as other directors of our armed forces.

I fear Secretary of the Navy Robert Spencer, a former top venture capitalist, may have conflicting feelings about how Diamond Resorts, owned by Apollo Global Management, achieve their sales target. Apollo is the third largest private equity company. Secretary of the Navy Spencer is a former Marine Corp pilot and a former investment banking and capital market underwriter. He was also president of Crossroads Investment, LLC, a leading venture capital and private equity fund-of-fund investment firm. Mr. Spencer was sworn in August, 2017. Apollo manages Diamond as a fund of funds.  

Our fifteen Timeshare Advocacy Group™ military and law enforcement members have mobilized as a unit of armed forces to put an end to timeshare’s predatory sales and marketing targeting the military. Jeff, a retired Marine and disabled, is the unit commander. All fifteen allege they were sold a timeshare by deceit and bait and switch. Four are worried about losing their security clearance. Four are disabled.

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2017/11/242nd-marine-corps-birthday-message-commandant-marine-corps

Given dismal regulatory enforcement, we fear the only court open to any timeshare buyer alleging deceit is the court of public opinion, so in addition to 15 members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines, alleging they were victimized by Vacation Village, Bluegreen, Wyndham and Diamond timeshare sales agents, four members of our media outreach committee will assist our military in an effort to reach mainstream media.

Diamond Resorts is offering free passes to the military and to first responders for their upcoming invitational golf tournament to be held in Orlando January 12 – 14. Model and golf pro Blair O’Neal is featured.  

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

USN

Navy computer technicians Amanda and George Jones are also worried about their Navy security clearances. Amanda and George say they were told by two Diamond sales agents, at two different locations, there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. Banks will not finance timeshares. They too could be forced into foreclosure and lose their security clearance, unable to afford the 18% timeshare loan interest rate.

Amanda and George Jones were featured in last week’s article. Mary Bowling, former #2 top selling Diamond Resorts sales agent, describes in a lawsuit, how the deceptive “price freeze” works.

Amanda and George Jones

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Here is the “price freeze” script

Case 1:17-cv-00562-DKW-RLP filed in Hawaii District Court Page 10 of complaint

#43 Owners Update is deceptive because it is to sell points.

#44 Customer is told the current “list price” but the agent has to see someone else.

#48 the sales agent has customer sign a form indicating they were updated and the agent has to have the manager sign off.

#49 the sales manager has reviewed all prior customer contracts and the manager falsely states the customer was given a “price freeze” but none exists.

#50 (In bold) because of the “price freeze” only today can the customer buy for the discounted price.

#51 (In bold) the price given is the real price planned from the outset.

#52 the “price freeze” never existed because (a) The special deal available to this customer only is available to anyone and (b) Urgent to buy only for today

#54 this is lucky news for the customer – brand new information!

#55 the sales agent waits for the customer to “step in”

George and Amanda Jones “step in”

We went to an orientation in Orlando presented by DRI sales agent Jonathan Pineda at DRI’s Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. (This is the second complaint Inside Timeshare has received from our readers directed against Mr. Pineda) We ended up purchasing an additional 4000 points for $15,732. Our loan balance $13,271.16 is financed at 18.6794%. Jonathan (like our first Virginia DRI sale agent), said both loans could be refinanced and combined by companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares. He said we would have to wait until we made our first payment (long after the contract rescission period). When we asked for a company name, Jonathan said we could google it.  

We were told we were buying our second purchase in Orlando at a price point that was almost unheard of and was not being offered to any new Diamond customers right now. “I can’t believe your first sales agent didn’t tell you about this price from the first purchase!” Jonathan said.  If we did not buy that day we would lose out and would go from $2.85 per point to $10 from that day on. He said not to go to any future promotional events because it would change our price point. Jonathan said parents had died and the children did not want the points so DRI was reselling at this low price.

Jonathan also said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point. He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points.

USArmy

Samuel Melendez, Army veteran

http://insidetimeshare.com/nightmares-timeshare-street/

Mr. Melendez is the eighth Rick Casper Platinum DRI member to reach out to Inside Timeshare, and the only complainant not to have been resolved. The Melendez complaint was dismissed. Mr. Melendez said he received an email from their DRI Consumer Advocate hospitality agent, with the family’s initials on their contract, confirming the oral representation clause.

Platinum members are Diamond’s most loyal customers. They are unsuspecting because they have dealt with the company for years without major complaints until their encounter with Rick Casper or others with questionable business practices.

We’re not sure if Rick Casper is still with DRI. Like Elvis, some members report Rick Casper and Wadji Kassas (another name frequently mentioned) are no longer with the company, while others tell us Casper and Kassas are still working at DRI. I can imagine them holed up in a special Platinum bunker.

Inside Timeshare also published the story of army veteran Terry Carter, diagnosed with blood cancer. Terry lived next to a burn pit in Iraqi. Bluegreen offered this family a loan cancellation but no refund. Terry says he will not give up without a fight. Sold in a group presentation, promised the ability to sell their timeshare at a profit should they need to sell, the family is demanding a 50% refund. Bluegreen’s defense is the family used the timeshare for 19 days since making their first purchase in 2013. They stopped making loan payments in July.

Terry Carter http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-2/

One of the worst upsell stories was reported to Inside Timeshare by Karen Vartan, another disabled vet. She was contacted by DRI marketing in San Diego. As a Platinum member for more than five years, Karen was hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Mystic Dune Sales Team in Arlington, Virginia. Karen says she was told if she purchased 25,000 additional DRI points, added to her exiting 57,000 points she would have 82,000. But if purchased today only, double points – 165,000 – allowing Karen to be able to pay her maintenance fees with points left over to travel. The program does not exist. Diamond’s response was again to provide Karen with her initials on her contract acknowledging that Karen “did not rely on any oral representation to make her purchase.”

Canada is also represented in our military victim report  

Canada

Roxanne and Terry Hurley

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

Inside Timeshare directed Roxanne and Terry Hurley to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department over a year ago after the family reported they lost their entire life savings to DRI. Chalk it up to a bad decision, but having served in the Canadian army their entire career, they have nothing left. DRI did provide some help. We are not lawyers, so are not privy to the terms, but the family thought it would be alright, not violating the non-disclosure agreement, to admit they are still DRI members. Roxanne’s mom’s condition has worsened since she reached out to us. With no secondary market, their savings wiped out, their dream vacation future turned into a financial tragedy.

homeland

Law Enforcement is also at risk

Lela Renea is a Florida detective trying to work with Bluegreen to resolve her complaint.  Inside Timeshare, back in July, published Detective Renea’s article describing how she feels she was a victim of a Bluegreen bait and switch. We will not use the word “alleged” because if anyone knows they were baited and switched, it’s a detective.  

Detective Renea  http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Scotty Black, MS Criminal Justice, also works in law enforcement. Inside Timeshare will publish Scotty’s battle with Diamond Resorts in an upcoming article. Detective Renea and Scotty could also lose their security clearances if forced into foreclosure.

There are others who have moved on. We will not republish their articles or mention their names, as they have signed a mutual release agreement, agreeing not to say anything bad about Diamond Resorts.

When will this industry wake up? Never, I fear if there is not some federal enforcement. Members cannot even file a complaint effectively with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the timeshare company finances the loan because, as not the actual lender, there is no drop down CFPB menu choice to select a timeshare company. Only banks are listed.

monay v morals

According to FBI agents I spoke with, and several attorneys, hiding behind the oral representation clause is not legal but continues as a hamster wheel because there is no federal timeshare enforcement. In our opinion, state enforcement is, in some states, influenced by powerful lobby dollars. With so little enforcement, unscrupulous sales agents have little to fear. Lie to make the sale, force the member into foreclosure, take back the points, resell for full value to the next consumer.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has dismissed all Diamond Resorts complaints, submitted by members who contacted Inside Timeshare, despite Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issuing an against DRI accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The AZ AG office received, according to a source, 400 complaints, and an additional 500 complaints after the press release.

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

We do not dispute there are many timeshare members, having not yet experienced a life crisis, who use and enjoy their vacation points. We know there are honest timeshare companies, like Disney Vacation Club, and honest timeshare sales agents, but it would take another lengthy article to list the lawsuits that have evolved, like the Wyndham whistleblower Trish Williams $20 million jury award describing TAFT days – tell them any blank think on slow sales days.

At least timeshare members, those who find Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below, are not silenced and isolated.

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/

help

          

 

Timeshare Debt: A Growing Problem

Many people have found themselves in financial difficulty due to huge finance agreements sold to them by the timeshare sales staff and the ever increasing maintenance payments. Usually this is down to a change in circumstances, either from illness, loss of a job or a change in jobs resulting in a severe cut in wages.

Some who are in arrears in maintenance have to this stage because they have listened to bad advice, “Just don’t bother paying they won’t do anything, that’s what I did”. Others because they believed their timeshare had been transferred by a company they paid, only to find that either the timeshare resort does not recognise the transfer or it was never done.

Those who were taken in by Incentive Leisure Group and Designer Way Vacation Club are all too familiar with this scenario.

Timeshare companies will sell the debt to a collecting agency, they will hound you and threaten court action, which is why many end up paying it.

In this article from Irene Parker she explains the problems in the US, it may just sound very familiar to our readers in the UK.

Timeshare Debt Collection

Life after Foreclosure

foreclosure

By Irene Parker

May 30, 2017

The flood of Inside Timeshare reader responses concerning timeshares and what to do when your resort denies your release, request for refund, or loan cancellation has been eye-opening. We have heard from a surprising number of timeshare members in their 60s and 70s with high US credit scores around 800 considering foreclosure for the first time in their life.

Out of 58 formal complaints and request for relinquishments filed in the US and EU, 42 allege they were victims of deceit and bait and switch. The remaining 16 requested relinquishment. Voluntary surrenders or “take back” programs are evaluated case by case. Some of the 42 members were offered surrenders but could not tolerate the non-disclosure agreement, especially the clause that states the member cannot say anything negative about the company. They wanted refunds if they felt they were deceived or a victim of a bait and switch.

We should not harp on the elderly being targeted. At least a third of the approximately 80 timeshare members who have contacted Inside Timeshare are 40 years old or younger. The youngest was 19 and pregnant when she signed a timeshare contract after a six hour presentation.

Continuing on after the 3Rs or F of timeshare we previously reported on –

Resolution

Relinquishment

Refund

Foreclosure

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

We move on to the cheerful calls from the debt collectors and what happens during the foreclosure period. The shortest timeshare debt collection period seems to be 60 to 90 days and the longest 180 days. If a timeshare company is worried about reporting a high default rate to the investment community, one way to lower that statistic is by lengthening the debt collection period.

It’s been surprising to learn how many of those in timeshare trouble are financing a vacation at a 12% to 19% interest rate. The emphasis in a sales presentation is on the low monthly payment. If someone does think to ask, “At what interest rate?” typically the answer is, as in the sales presentation I attended, “Don’t worry, when you get home you can get a home equity loan.”

An instant credit card is often used to finance the timeshare down payment. When you buy a house, there’s a reason why banks won’t let you borrow the down payment. That reason doesn’t go away when you buy a timeshare for $20,000 to sometimes over $100,000, but credit card companies and lending laws have helpfully aided and abetted timeshare lending.

I have come to the conclusion placing credit card applications in the hands of a thousand timeshare sales agents is like sending a thousand three years olds into Toys R Us unsupervised. Inside Timeshare has published several timeshare lending “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles. There have been so many it has turned into something of a series authored by our readers.

Once again, I turned to the Finn Law Group Learning Center to better understand timeshare debt collection.

Timeshare attorney Mike Finn agreed with my assessment concerning overzealous timeshare lending cramming third party loans into the deal. “An additional point to be made in this regard is that their efforts are contrary to Federal law (Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which requires the new debtor to receive in writing PRIOR to the loan being funded a written summary disclosure statement summarizing the deal points. This procedure is never ever followed by the timeshare industry and why the practice is permitted is beyond my grasp.”

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

“Timeshare buyers need to think beyond the down payment and loan payments. “Maintenance fee rates may far exceed the annualized cost of inflation,” Mike added.

“To make matters worse, resorts sometimes categorize timeshare loans as “mortgages”.” What this means is that if you stop making payments on your loan, it may be reported to the credit bureaus as a mortgage foreclosure. Many resorts try to pick the category that does the most damage to the consumer.

Finn Law Group helped timeshare owners settle a class action lawsuit against Bluegreen Corporation. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and Equifax Information Services, LLC in Best and Snapp, et al. v. Bluegreen Corp., et al.

The plaintiffs alleged that when they were delinquent, Bluegreen sent a series of letters advising them that they were terminated from the Bluegreen Vacation Club and the status of their accounts may be reported as foreclosures to the credit agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida debt collection laws. While the companies did not admit liability, the more harmful “foreclosure” category was deleted from over 11,000 individuals’ credit reports, replaced with the less damaging “settled for less”.

First and foremost, avoid timeshare transfer agents offering a “guaranteed” release in exchange for an upfront fee which can easily run into the thousands. Our previous interview interviewing an HOA Collection agent tells why.

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

Consumers need to be wary of television celebrities like popular financial expert Dave Ramsey, paid to endorse timeshare transfer companies with lofty sounding names. Some of these transfer agents may be legitimate, but heed the warning of our HOA collection agent above. Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, also explains why:

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

According to Mike Finn, bankruptcy is a worst case solution.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/mortgage-after-bankruptcy-timeshare

“Timeshare consumers can face a steep financial burden which can lead to a ruined credit score, and, in some cases, the need to file for bankruptcy. For more on the complexities of what happens to your timeshare and timeshare debt in bankruptcy, we encourage you to read on over at NOLO or The Bankruptcy Site,” said Mike.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/can-timeshare-be-foreclosed-nonpayment-fees-assessments.html

“Failure to pay timeshare loans before bankruptcy can be reported to credit bureaus as delinquencies or even foreclosures, both of which can negatively impact your credit and make it extremely difficult to secure the 580 credit score that the FHA requires for its low down payment advantage.”

So if you are in this situation, what’s next? What can I do to save my credit score?

chains

Sun Trust Bank offers these words of hope and encouragement

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/real-estate/debt-collector-demands-huge-fees-on-past-due-time-share.aspx

“Now, if you were deceived or otherwise legally abused in the purchase, you can file a complaint against the seller. Each state has a different process so you’ll have to contact your state’s attorney general to determine the jurisdiction. Have a narrative of your complaint and a copy of your contract when filing. The agency will contact you if it finds a valid violation of real estate statutes (or sometimes banking statutes), especially if it involves deceptive sales practices. Collectors must legally back off in such under-dispute cases, though many don’t.”

“By the way, consumer complaints about abusive debt collectors have nearly tripled in less than a decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re exceeded only by identity-theft cases, says the FTC, which has sued about 200 collection companies since 2010. Many have been banned from doing business. “

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this helpful advice concerning what a debt collector can and cannot do.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/329/are-there-laws-that-limit-what-debt-collectors-can-say-or-do.html

consumer

Our Advocates are here for you if you are concerned about your timeshare. By accumulating a volume of timeshare accountings, we can better recognize patterns of deceptive and predatory lending practices. The following Facebook was launched by Diamond Resorts members working with the company to resolve member issues.

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

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

Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for this insight into the problems of debt and also Mike Finn if the Finn Law Group for his legal contribution.

As for the goings on at Los Claveles, there is at present no confirmed news about Carol Parkinson the Owners Committee President, when we get confirmation of what is happening we will publish here.

If you have any comments about any article published we would like to hear from you, your contributions are welcome. Also if you require any information about any company that you have had contact with, but are unsure how to check them, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

$1billion Law Suit against Diamond Resorts International!

Spain has been at the forefront of enforcing timeshare laws in Europe, so far the Supreme Court has made 42 judgements in favour of the consumer, these are now part of law and all courts must abide by them.

It has cost the industry millions of euros in payouts with many more in the pipeline. All this because for years they have ignored the laws put into place in 1999, which are there to protect the consumer.

But this now pales into insignificance with the latest lawsuit in America.

In a class action filed in Las Vegas, Diamond are being sued for $1billion. Yes, that is correct a whopping $1billion!

Irene Parker has sent in this report on what this lawsuit is all about.  According to this document a trial by jury has been demanded, along with the law firm leading the action who have a very good reputation, it has the hallmarks of a long and fierce battle.

According to our sources this lawsuit is not just for those in the US, but it could possibly be left open for Europeans who purchased in the US to join the action, especially any purchaser who was 60 years or over when signing. We are waiting confirmation of this as there may just be statute of limitations in place.

But this could be good news for many.

Billion Dollar Lawsuit Filed against Diamond Resorts International

Law Firm: Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

Case No. 2:17-CV-00248

Filed in Las Vegas Federal District Court

By Irene Parker:  February 1, 2017

Lawsuit

 The law firm of Stoddard Warnick & Albright filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Diamond Resorts International January 29, 2017. The lawsuit alleges Diamond Resorts (DRI) ensnared thousands of elderly consumers in its deceptive and fraudulent scheme to sell points-based timeshare memberships.

According to the complaint, which was filed on behalf of lead plaintiffs Ilona and Lester Harding, along with thousands of other elderly consumers, buyers typically spent tens of thousands of dollars or more for upfront Membership fees and upsold Membership levels. Memberships were accompanied by hefty annual assessments that continue in perpetuity.

Several plaintiffs were named in the lawsuit. Among those named:

Of particular note to Diamond Resort Owners is the absence of any “collection” except the US collection. Other Diamond Resort collections not named in the lawsuit include Hawaii, Premier Vacation Club, California and Monarch Grand Vacations Collections.

Former CEO David Palmer served as President and/or Director (and sometimes as both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; Jared Finkelstein serves as Secretary and/or Director (and often both) for at least six of the Defendant entities; and Lilian Luu serves as Treasurer and/or Director (and sometimes both) for at least six of the Defendant entities.

The law firm Albright Stoddard Warnick & Albright is one of the oldest law firms in Nevada, in existence for 40 years. According to the firm’s website, they have represented clients in many high profile and complex bench and jury trials in Southern Nevada, in both state and federal court, representing contractors, lenders, and owners on large commercial projects. The firm successfully defended a general contractor in a bench trial, which lasted intermittently for well over a year, arising out of the construction of a major Strip hotel. At the time, it was the longest bench trial in Clark County history. Included among the firm’s numerous institutional clients are American Express, Wells Fargo and Hard Rock Café International.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit alleges the elderly were targeted because of their vulnerability and time available to travel. Elderly is defined as anyone 60 years or older at the time of purchase. The elderly were induced to purchase vacation memberships in a same day sale without being advised as to the lack of a secondary market by intentional design. Memberships were accompanied by, at times, dramatically escalating maintenance fees.

Inside Timeshare has written numerous articles supporting such claims.

cartoon IreneCartoon Charles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mr. Ralph Marbles, an elderly buyer diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase, but denied a surrender until the television reporter contacted the company. Mr. Marbles’ maintenance fees increased from $200 a year to $684.

While Diamond Resorts boasts that 70% of sales come from existing owners, there are thousands of complaints filed by existing owners, as detailed in previous Inside Timeshare articles. In addition, existing owners are often encouraged to purchase additional points as a way to reduce maintenance fees through a non-existent buy-back program and are not told points are worth only pennies on the dollar when used to pay maintenance fees. The Saldana and Olds families are cases in point.

http://insidetimeshare.com/call-change-us-timeshare-industry/#more-1397

I have intervened on behalf of several families whose financial lives and retirement savings were decimated by their Diamond Resorts vacation plan. The Hurleys are a retired Canadian army family currently working with Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy in the hope of saving 40 years of retirement savings representing their entire life savings.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

As a result of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800000 settlement and “Assurance of Discontinuance”, Diamond is rolling out a new Clarity (™) program that seeks to address deceptive and fraudulent business practices that the Arizona Attorney General alleges violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

http://insidetimeshare.com/opcs-europe-usa/#more-1518

It’s not all doom and gloom though!

fourmen

I have recruited, well drafted, several of those I have helped to pay it forward by becoming Appointed Special Timeshare Advocates (™) as a bridge between their vacation nightmare and resolution. We are working with the newly formed Diamond employed Consumer Advocates. Already, we have achieved positive outcomes, or at least provided straight answers, for what an owner can and cannot expect.

Not resolved are the plight of high volume owners whose accounts have been suspended or issued a “cease and desist”. For years these owners were encouraged to buy upwards of 100000 to 200000 vacation points in order to be able to rent out enough points to cover maintenance fees. In recent years points have sold from $2 to $4 per point. Changing rules and regulations and acknowledgement forms signed in an upsell have eliminated rights contained in their original contracts. Irina tells of her vacation nightmare:

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-news-across-atlantic/

That about covers the first 20 pages of the 55 page complaint. There’s only so much vacation burden a writer and reader can handle at once.

“Diamond Resorts is still looking into the facts surrounding the lawsuit; therefore, it has no comment at this time,” according to DRI Public Relations spokesperson Maya Pogoda.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you’ve had a positive or negative vacation experience you would like to share.

Would love to hear from you!   telephoneman

 

So there we have it, a huge battle is about to take place in the world of timeshare. This is one story we will be keeping a very close watch on, although it may be some time before the trial actually takes place. The wheels of justice are slow to turn.

NEWS JUST IN!!!

CLA Logo

Canarian Legal Alliance has just informed Inside Timeshare of yet another Supreme Court judgement, this is against Silverpoint / Resort Properties. That makes 5, yes 5 rulings in against this company in under 2 weeks.

The British client has been awarded over £62,000 including legal fees and legal interest. We believe this ruling covers lack of information in the contract, perpetuity and once again the client is recognised as a consumer not an investor.

If you have any questions regarding any article published or about any company you may not be sure about, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be please help.