Browse Tag

Marriott Vacation Club

alone

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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

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

Another Military Family Wages War against Timeshare

Will Bluegreen Honor those whose sacrifice is so great?

Terry and Linda Carter

soldier

By Irene Parker

December 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry’s story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thankyou

Terry and Linda

There are two more words to say.

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

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

Linda Carter

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

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

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

customerphone

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  

 

capone

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

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

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

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

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

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Engineering the Law” Politico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hello monday

Start the Week

Over the weekend Inside Timeshare received an email from Javier Correa Guimerá, a Spanish lawyer who at one time worked with Miguel Ceballos the senior lawyer from CLA. Javier posts on various forums answering many question on timeshare matters.

His email referred to the articles published last week on the new fake law firm Amador Galeca Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family. He was commenting on the very strange names these so-called law firms use for their lawyers, he states they are not even Spanish, just by seeing the names he is sure it is a scam.

Another point he made was about the directors pleading guilty, asking where in this world would a timeshare company accept responsibility, willingly and pay up? He called it Absurd and nonsense!

In this we must agree with him, we have never heard of any timeshare company accepting any responsibility or pleading guilty, quite the contrary, they always seem to deny any wrongdoing. All we can say is Inside Timeshare has made extensive enquiries about all these firms, searched for the lawyers, checked the cases with the courts and not one has proved positive.

FAB Timeshare Resales

fab

Over the past months we have been running articles which have highlighted the lack of a resale or secondary market on many timeshares, today we look at Marriott.

In Spain there is a company called Fab Timeshare Resales, it is a subsidiary of Fab Property based in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, the Managing Director is Julie Bett, who is an ex-regional director of sales for Marriott. According the website she has over 17 years experience in the timeshare industry.

The company was formed in 2012, the purpose was to help private individuals who wanted to sell their Marriott Vacation Club memberships, because MVC did not have a resales section for their European Resort members.

FAB Timeshare Resales also state they are fully registered and approved, operating under strict European Timeshare Guidelines. They also boast being members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association (LTRBA which is a US body) and ARDA (American Resorts Development Association).

This is quite commendable, a resale company that is working by the rules, especially with the reputation resale has in Europe. The only problem, is one of price!

price

Looking at their website memberships are being offered for as little a 1000€, way below what was originally paid. According to Marriott’s own website, prices start at around $21,000, or about 17,000€, not a cheap purchase.

It is not just Marriott which has this problem, look at any resale prices, those which are priced higher are what the owner believes they can get (or want) for their timeshare. The reality is very different, ebay shows many timeshares listed with the owners unable to give them away, even when they are willing to pay the transfer fees.

Many sales agents during their pitch will talk about the timeshare being property, which as we know, property goes up in value, but all they are actually getting is a right to use. The purchaser owns nothing!

For years timeshare was sold as an investment, even though the timeshare directives set by the EU stated it should not be sold a such. This has actually in one respect given rise to the resale problem, purchasers have in their minds the price they paid and then the “promise” of it going up in value. Many of the bogus timeshare resale companies played on this, offering ridiculous prices just to draw the prospective seller in.

The fact there is a resale company out there which is working to the rules is commendable, but the prices reflect only only one thing, that what you purchased in the first place is nothing but promises, there is no actual value. All you own is a right to use some very lovely properties.

If you have any questions or comments about any article published, then contact Inside Timeshare and remember to do your homework before engaging with any company.

stop think act

6-pillars-with-text

Hug Your Haters Part II: A Customer Service Message

Today’s article by Irene Parker is part II of her Hug Your Haters, which we published on 15 August,

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=customer+service+message

But first some of the latest in Europe.

At the end of last week, even though the courts are closed for business, another sentence against Anfi Sales SL and Anfi Resorts SL was published. This was issued by the Court of First Instance Number 1, based in Maspalomas, the court ruled according to the precedents set by the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Court Masp

In this case, the court ruled that the contract be declared null & void with the return of over 13,279€ plus legal interest. In this case the infraction was the length of the contract was greater than the 50 years allowed by Spanish timeshare law 42/98, which came into effect in January 1999.

Again this flies in the face of Anfi’s assertion that their contracts are legal and that they have not lost any cases, see the article “Truth, What is Truth?”  Published on 10 August.

It is not just Anfi who deny these facts, Silverpoint have been doing so for years, they have even left the RDO and claim they no longer sell “timeshare”. So what are they now selling?

Well, we do know one product is Keys Concierge, a so-called “Lifestyle Credits” product, which promises a great deal but does it actually deliver? Another ploy by Silverpoint is the move to transfer the blocks of timeshare weeks they sold to clients (with the promise to sell in 2 years for a profit), into what is euphemistically called a “Company Participation Scheme”. Not much is known at present, a lot more research is yet to be done, but it appears that clients sign a document at the notary which makes them shareholders of the company Club Paradiso. If this is the case, then all liabilities of the company will fall squarely on those clients shoulders. More on this when the research is complete.

Now on with Irene’s article.

Hug Your Haters Part II

My Marriott Customer Service Experience

testimonials

By Irene Parker

August 29, 2017

Customer Service is a Spectator Sport, according to Hug Your Haters author Jay Baer. Although Hug Your Haters was written primarily for the providers of customer service, users of Customer Service can benefit from the book as well. Social Media has dramatically changed Customer Service in a way many timeshare companies have yet to acknowledge. The Marriott hotel chain seems to have gotten the message and has adapted to the new world order.

 

Mr. Baer discusses in his book the difference between onstage and offstage Haters. Many of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received are from offstage Haters, unfamiliar with Social Media. Sometimes offstage Haters need an onstage Hater to plead their case.

Disney Vacation Club seems to have bucked the timeshare trend, refusing to fall back on the oral representation clause that states, “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase” which translates to the customer is always wrong. Disney has few timeshare complaints so it’s not surprising to find former Walt Disney theme park executive Lee Cockerell, author of The Customer Rules, mentioned in Hug Your Haters. Mr. Cockerell explains in his book how he would encounter employees blaming the customer:

“From time to time over the years, a customer would complain to me that a frontline employee had been belligerent. When I asked the employee what happened, I’d usually be told the customer was wrong about the facts, or had been abusive, or trying to cheat the company. Most of the time, the employee believed it was better to lose a bad customer than appease one.” p. 115

A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies

Another Hug Your Hater example is Pella Windows and Doors, VP of marketing Elaine Sagers. “Monthly, our executives call a random selection of unhappy customers to talk about their experiences with us…..We’ve also played recordings from the call center so you can hear the emotion in our customers’ voices around what’s been happening with jobs and their homes.” p. 120

Having listened to 133 timeshare complaints, mainly about maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist, or the ability to sell points when no secondary market exists, it’s hard to understand how companies can so often ignore or dismiss allegations, especially when a volume of complaints (119 out of 133) meet the definition of white collar crime – “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch” – painting a compelling and compounding picture of trouble within a company or within the timeshare industry as a whole. I challenge any timeshare executive to listen to the tone of the voices of families devastated financially by their vacation plan. “Well you signed a contract,” is not the appropriate answer. I’m sure Mr. Baer would agree.

Mr. Baer makes another important point I have often stated when it comes to offering a customer wronged an apology. “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. Baer quotes Michael Lasky, an attorney and litigator with the Davis & Gilbert law firm in New York City. 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

marriott rewards

Page 138 of Hug Your Haters discusses the importance of rapid complaint response time. My husband and I have been Platinum Marriott Rewards members for several years. About a decade ago I complained about something I can’t remember at a Marriott Hotel front desk. I was just complaining, not asking for compensation, yet the company responded with an automatic adjustment in reward points. Every 20 or so stays, something might happen that I would complain about had it not been for the times the company responded rapidly and appropriately.

Right out of the Hug Your Haters playbook, I posted a comment on the Marriott Facebook about how a trainee and a manager patiently and pleasantly changed our room three times to address our concern about highway noise. I posted this experience on Marriott’s Facebook and they almost immediately responded, “Irene, we would like to share this on our comment site if that’s alright with you.” As Mr. Baer explains, onstage Haters (or Lovers) don’t expect to be answered. When they are, they are taken aback, astonished that a company as large as Marriott would care.

I can’t speak for Marriott Vacation Club, the timeshare company, because I am not a member, but one of our Advocates, a senior manager with a Fortune 500 company, also a Marriott Vacation Club member, made this comment about Marriott in Part I of our Inside Timeshare article Hug Your Haters, “I think of a brand like Disney first and foremost. Also, while I know a company like Marriott has their critics, in all my years traveling and staying at their hotel and timeshare properties I always got the impression they were serious about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and providing top shelf customer service and a quality customer experience.”

Onstage Haters compared to Offstage Haters – Chapter 7

Some companies respond to negative comments by expanding their advertising budget. “Advertising is a tax paid for being unremarkable,” is a quote Mr. Baer said is usually attributed to Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad,  but he rephrases the comment appropriately, “Advertising is a tax paid when you’re poor at retaining your current customers.” p. 18

“Listening is the ability to pay attention to what the sounds means and understanding it. We hear noise, but we listen to music. That is because noise falls on our ears without any effort at our end,” said an anonymous writer explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Too often customer complaints are dismissed as noise in the form or automatic denials to a complaint filed against a timeshare sales agent (s).

create

These are but a few timeshare Advocacy Facebooks and websites of members helping members because company complaints so often fall on deaf ears. They are closed groups, but all would welcome corporate representatives bold enough to listen and learn. We hope timeshare industry executives, ARDA and lawmakers will take the time to not just hear, but listen.

Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebooks

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

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

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently sent a message in the form of a $6.5 million settlement against The Manhattan Club timeshare accused of restricting availability for members who paid thousands of dollars for a timeshare while allowing access to those booking online. The settlement response was a reaction to a chorus of timeshare members mobilized and action orientated. All timeshare owners are grateful because a victory for one is a victory for all. Lack of availability is a universal complaint.

change

Thank you Irene, once again you have given us a look into the world of “Customer Service” or in some cases lack of. It is one of the main complaints that Inside Timeshare does receive, in many cases the sales staff are only intent on getting more money from you, rather than helping to get the best from your membership.

If timeshare is to flourish, developers and resorts really do need to look at this aspect and change their practises. Disney is a very good example of this as we showed in a previous article by Irene, “Disney Vacation Club Vs The Timeshare Industry”, published in July’s “A Lesson for Other Timeshare Companies”.

If you have any questions or comments Inside Timeshare invites you to contact us, your views are important, it will help to change the industry for the better.

Have you been contacted by a company you have never heard of, or want to know more about but don’t know how to start, again contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

help

start the week

Starting The Week.

We ended last week with a new contributor, Justin Morgan from Australia, along with some of the news from the courts in Spain. In those reports it was mention that the court in Tenerife had found once again against Diamond Resorts contracts. We have been reliably informed of many more cases in the pipeline.

If last week is anything to go by, we are expecting many more sentences being announced over the course of this week. Although, these will be among the last before the annual break in August, where Spain basically shuts down for the month.

Just moving away from Diamond for a change, last October we published an article of a class action lawsuit against Marriott. The case is for alleged “racketeering”, a term we usually associate with the old gangster films depicting the escapades of the likes of Al Capone, not large timeshare and hotel companies.

This the Irene Parker’s update on this story.

The Marriott Racketeering Case – An Update

Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)

Moses

By Irene Parker

Some stories tell themselves

July 3, 2017

Timeshare members find themselves with few friends in Florida state legislative and regulatory circles. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014. In addition, a Florida law passed in 2015, making it more difficult to get out of a timeshare contract, sparked outrage among timeshare owners and advocates. I’m told $70 billion a year flows into Florida in timeshare dollars. That kind of money certainly could buy a lot of power and influence.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617-post.htm/

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

Paul Brinkmann of The Orlando Sentinel first reported on the Marriott Racketeering case back in May of 2016.

The lawsuit takes aim at Marriott’s points program, which replaced traditional sales of timeshare weeks at specific resorts in 2010. According to the suit, Marriott timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate.

The lawsuit says Marriott timeshare buyers “are being duped into believing they are obtaining title to a real-property interest … when, in fact, they are merely getting a right-to-use license,” the lawsuit says.

Edward Kinney, spokesman for Marriott Vacation Club, said the company will defend itself in court. He said the timeshare industry is highly regulated.

“We sense the people behind this lawsuit have a misunderstanding of how our product works. But we follow every aspect of the state regulatory compliance for vacation ownership sales,” Kinney said. “Everything we do as far as sales are reviewed by the state.”

Fast forward one year later

On May 23, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB-818 which amends Section 721.05(21) of the Timeshare Act by adding a subsection (b) to clarify that, for purposes of a “multisite timeshare plan” (e.g., the MVC Product), an “Interest Holder” does not include any person or entity that has an interest in, or lien on, the underlying condominium or property:

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/00818/?Tab=BillHistory

Revising the definition of the term “interest holder” to clarify that the term does not include certain parties to a certain multisite timeshare plan; revising requirements for the termination of a timeshare plan; specifying the percentage of votes required to extend the term of a timeshare plan under certain circumstances, etc.

Marriott defendants then submit to the Court

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

This Notice is being submitted to alert the Court to a recent amendment (“Amendment”) to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act, Fla. Stat. § 721.01, et seq. (“Timeshare Act”), in further support of the Marriott Defendants’1 and the First American Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss the Complaint (see Doc. Entries 77, 78, and 79, filed September 15, 2016).

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs respond to the request for dismissal (excerpts)

Based on the fact that the FVPTA Amendment (which became effective on May 23, 2017) is so specifically tailored to address a narrow exception pertaining precisely to the particular facts of this case, it is beyond obvious that Defendants (immediately following briefing on the motions to dismiss) railroaded the law through the legislative process.  Defendants’ blatant lobbying effort smacks of impropriety and amounts to an admission that their conduct is not authorized under existing law. Further, it is proof positive that Defendants are willing to use any means possible – including government influence – to mask the unlawfulness of their prior acts.  

Defendants were clever in making sure the FVPTA Amendment was characterized as a remedial “clarification.” Of course, simply calling it a “clarification” does not automatically bestow retroactive application – especially, in this case, where the FVPTA Amendment purports to clarify a long-standing law, enacted over twenty years ago.

An “interest holder” has a legally-binding property interest in the accommodations under the existing law. The definition of accommodation includes timeshare condominiums under the existing law. Fla. Stat. § 721.05(1). Therefore, it would substantively change the existing law to exclude from the definition of encumbrance anything that would be contained in a timeshare condominium declaration.

This makes it clear that the revision was recognized and acknowledged for what it truly is – a substantive change to existing law, creating new categories of exclusions to interest holders and having potential constitutional implications. Nothing in the legislative history, including any staff or committee analysis, provides even marginal support for the conclusion that the legislature intended the FVPTA Amendment to be a mere clarification that would have retroactive application in this case.

Regardless of Legislative Intent, FVPTA Cannot Have Retroactive Application because it will impair Vested Rights in Violation of the Constitution.

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As usual, I contacted timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group for his take on Governor Scott’s legislative prowess. Our Advocacy group of 84 Timeshare Advocates includes 18 attorneys. Timeshare is extremely specialized so we do not suggest any aggrieved timeshare member seek legal advice from any attorney without real estate or timeshare experience. Mike has assisted several timeshare owners needing legal assistance.

According to Mike,

“The constitution of the United States protects US citizens from Ex Post Facto laws, meaning that you cannot take an act and make it criminal after the fact. You can criminalize that action, but you can only do so prospectively because any actor is entitled to notice that this particular act is now a crime. How unfair it would be to be able to punish someone who had no previous warning that a non-criminal act was suddenly and with no advanced warning or notice made criminal?”

“There is no comparable constitutional protection in the civil arena even though the consequences in suddenly and intentionally changing a civil law while a case is pending, and applying the new law retroactively to a set of facts that resulted in extinguishing an existing and viable claim for monetary damages are essentially identical. Imagine how you would feel as the litigant bringing a claim, after hiring an attorney, filing a lawsuit that was meritorious when you filed it, only to have your case dismissed because the rules of the game were changed after you had filed your case?” “How dishonest!”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs continue

On May 16, 2016, the Plaintiffs (represented by Jeffrey Norton and the law firm of Newman Ferrara) filed a class action complaint against Marriott and First American (“Defendants”) that included numerous claims arising out of hundreds of thousands of instances of unlawful conduct, in which Defendants engaged for over seven years, related to the creation and continued sale and operation of the MVC Trust Product.

In December 2016, briefing on Defendants’ motions to dismiss was completed.

On February 9, 2017, SB 818 was introduced. That bill, introduced curiously on the heels of this action and immediately following briefing on the meaning of “interest holder” (a term having a direct impact on Defendants’ racketeering activity), sought to revise the definition of “interest holder” as it applies to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. More specifically, SB 818 aimed to “clarify” that the term “interest holder” excludes certain parties to certain multisite timeshare plans – a uniquely-focused amendment that appears specifically crafted to address claims in this case.

Three months to the day later, SB 818 was presented to Governor Scott for signature.

And, on May 23, 2017, SB 818 was enacted into law (the “FVPTA Amendment”).  Two weeks

later, on June 7, 2017, the Marriott and First American Defendants (the “Defendants”) filed the

Notice to “alert” the court of the FVPTA Amendment and its purported impact on this case.  

It seems obvious that because Defendants could not justify the legality of their conduct under existing law, they endeavored to change the rules. The Notice is tantamount to an admission that Plaintiffs’ claims are meritorious and that Defendants’ conduct violated the laws that actually were in effect during the relevant time period.

This is not the first time Defendants have endeavored to prevent this Court from considering the claims in the Complaint under existing law. Defendants previously filed a borderline frivolous motion seeking to invoke primary jurisdiction in order to refer the matter to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (the “Division”), and a stay of the entire matter pending review by the Division.

(Note from Irene: Maybe that’s because only 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints were acted on by the Florida Timeshare Division.)

As argued by Plaintiffs, however, it is abundantly clear that the Division does not have primary jurisdiction over the claims in Complaint (and expressly rejects providing advisory opinions in pending litigation.

Parcels of real property do not simply materialize out of thin air by virtue of a statutory definition and nothing in the construction of a timeshare estate’s definition under Fla. Stat. § 721.05(34) supports Defendants’ preposterous construct.

girl

Whew! That was a lot for the average timeshare member to grasp, but more and more timeshare members are coming forward to learn about what goes on behind the scenes of their dream vacation. Inside Timeshare is hearing from timeshare members on a daily basis crying foul. Thank you to all our 18 attorney advocates as we work together to “take back our vacation” from an industry clearly in need of reform.

Once again Irene explains a difficult subject for us mere mortals in a way that is understood.

Over the weekend Inside Timeshare has received many more stories from some very concerned owners. It certainly looks like the articles we publish are hitting home to many owners, if you have any questions concerns or comments about anything published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

                                                       

 

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter From America

Welcome to this week’s Letter From America, from Irene Parker, as usual in her own style she explains what is happening across the Great Lake, but first a look at the week’s news in Europe.

Inside Timeshare is receiving many questions about the Anfi SGM and the vote to change the constitution, it seems to be causing a lot of confusion. No one seems clear as to what it is all about, so in a nutshell here it is.

Voting on Resolution 1

To establish occupancy periods for a maximum of 50 years duration, with an option to extend for further recurring occupancy periods of 50 years.

This will bring the contracts in line with the 50 year rule established in Spanish timeshare law, but it allows you to extend voluntarily to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 2

To limit the duration of the Timeshare Scheme to a maximum of 50 years.

The same as resolution 1 without the option to extend to another 50 years.

Voting on Resolution 3

Total change of Timeshare Scheme to adapt to Spanish Act 4/2012.

This adapts the contract to  “Rotational Enjoyment Rights” Anfi explains it thus:

“Every current holder of a membership certificate shall be allocated a number of rotational enjoyment rights, equal to the number of membership certificates they currently hold and which will entitle them to enjoy the same week of use as they currently hold”.

It will not make any difference unless you accept the new contract and sign them, it will however affect any new sales and those contracts.

As usual it is framed to confuse, why is it that anything to do with timeshare is made complicated, confusing and difficult for mere mortals to understand. Well, quite simply that is how they sold it to you in the first place!

The courts in the Canary Islands have been busy again this week, with many cases against timeshare companies being heard. Some of these sentences have yet to be announced, but as usual, we think we all know the outcome!

It has also just been announced that another ex-Anfi owner who won their case some time ago, has now received into their bank account the awarded amount. Their contract was declared null & void and now they can enjoy the 15,531€ as well as being timeshare free.

We have also been inundated with enquiries into several “claims” companies, all offering claims on a no win no fee basis. Then comes the crunch, they want several thousand pounds upfront! Obviously this is to relinquish the timeshare then the claim will be pursued, this claim is more than likely to be under the Credit Consumer Act 1974, Section 75. Which as we have stated before will not get paid out as the purchase was more than likely over the 6 year limit, (limitations act) or the fact that they will say you have received the goods and services as you have used the timeshare.

Again it pays to be cautious, so on with our Letter from America.

A Tina Timeshare Pinocchio Tale

Told by a Wyndham owner, possibly foreclosed by now, Mr. Patrick

pinocchio

By Irene Parker

June 9, 2017

Wyndham member Gene Patrick was one of several Wyndham owners to go to the trouble of making a YouTube about his timeshare trouble, continuing on with our “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” series.

Comments ranged from “this is the most boring video I’ve ever watched” to “this is the most informative video I’ve ever watched.”

Mr. Patrick is a videographer. I side with the latter, although the video is long at 45 minutes. Mr. Patrick is also an effective storyteller, but for those who would rather read a short article than watch the video, here are the seven lies (allegations) he described. He seemed to lose count after three, but I believe I found seven. Mr. Patrick did provide a disclaimer stating these were his opinions or allegations, a word I have come to detest in that, even if only half the highly educated and professional people asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their timeshare troubles are telling the truth, Timeshare has a problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q218fyTmYpc

The back and forth comments among the 244 respondents sound familiar. Timeshare Facebooks that maintain a quota of happy vs angry members, admonish the angry members as irresponsible suckers that should have known better. Lawmakers and timeshare developers seem to agree with those hurling insults.

A Timeshare Tale

bloke

Gene and Melissa Patrick used his mom’s RCI points to stay at a Wyndham Resort. He was told he had to attend a member update or he would be charged $77 for a gift. He should have stopped right there, but like so many of our readers, he continued on.

We will call the sales agent Tina Timeshare as the sales agent in the video is like so many others we have reported on. As we always say, we know there are those trying to work fairly and honestly in timeshare, but the proportion of bad apples seems to be higher than even the proverbial used car salesman. Watch the video, but give it a chance. It seems boring in the beginning but the plot becomes more interesting as it thickens. For now, we will just itemize the allegations mentioned.

#1 A timeshare is tax deductible

This is a gray area, so we will defer to RedWeek and TimeSharing Today. Tax laws change, so a date would have been helpful. Apparently, in Mr. Patrick’s case, his timeshare was not tax deductible.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/articles/timeshare-tax-deductions

#2 Jim Cramer of Mad Money said Wyndham is a good investment.

Yes, Jim Cramer has been known to tout timeshare stocks, but that is not the same as saying buying a timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick learned that the television clip he was shown was about Wyndham stock. Fifteen insiders made over $600,000 million on the Apollo buyout of Diamond, but that doesn’t mean buying the timeshare is a good idea. Mr. Patrick feels timeshare stock investors make money at the expense of so many who are duped into buying a timeshare.

One of our readers reported that he was shown a clip of the Ellen DeGeneres show at his Mystic Dunes presentation and told Ellen bought “hundreds of thousands” of Diamond points. Inside Timeshare is following up with Ellen on that one.

This is a good time to slip in the article I wrote for Jim Cramer’s investment news service, TheStreet, about timeshare contracts. At least Cramer allows opposing views.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13653117/1/the-timeshare-industry-has-improved-its-reputation-but-still-faces-scrutiny.html

Tina advised Mr. Patrick that he had to promise not to sell the membership to someone for a higher price than what he had to pay. It was at this point Mr. Patrick began to lose track of the lies. “The pace of the deceit was so fast I could not keep up,” he lamented.

#3 Wyndham has a buy-back program

Mr. Patrick said his job had just been cut to 32 hours from 40 and he was unsure about his employment stability. “Not to worry Mr. Patrick! Wyndham has a buy-back program,” Tina assured him.

#4 The 90 minutes presentation was heading into its eighth hour

My favorite is #5

#5 God wants you to buy a Wyndham timeshare! He wants you to enjoy life.

Mr. Patrick might have been confused at this point because Tina probably meant “God wants me to enjoy life.”

#6 Your credit is Golden!!!

Melissa raises an eyebrow. “Our credit is golden?  Our credit score is less than 650. Our credit is not golden.” Mr. Patrick might have been confused here as well, because 650 is no problem whatsoever for a timeshare purchase so in that sense, his credit was golden, at least for the sales agent.

#7 is a sin of omission. Maintenance fees go up.

It wasn’t until the eighth or ninth hours, with pens in hand, were the Patricks told about maintenance fees and at that point they were about to collapse from exhaustion it seemed. The kids were getting a little tired too.

the end

That’s the end of our article, but we don’t know the end of the story. We do know that after Mr. Patrick lost his job he learned the hard way Wyndham did not have a buy-back program.

Which side are you on?

Like timeshare sales agent Chuck used to tell us on our timeshare Facebook, we’re all irresponsible suckers and should have known better. Lawmakers, timeshare developers and some Attorneys General seem to be on Chuck’s side.

ARDA says nine million own timeshares and 83% are happy with them. That leaves 1,530,000 not happy with most complaining about being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. I’m on the side that thinks timeshare needs greater disclosure.

Diamond Resorts agrees too as they have launched a CLARITY™ program that, if followed, and that’s a big if, does provide accurate statements about their program. Inside Timeshare has heard stories reporting when CLARITY™ has worked and when it hasn’t.

The consumer is not off the hook here. I don’t blame the buyer for not reading word for word an 81 page contract, but the CLARITY™ forms ARE easy to read and are written in English rather than legalese. Items in bold are in bold on the form. I would have bolded what I have underlined. There are 20 items to be initialed on the legal size single sheet including:

I have reviewed the chart of Maintenance Fees for past years. I understand annual increases are normal.

The purchase of additional points will not decrease my maintenance fees.

Diamond does not offer a buy-back program and makes no representation regarding tax deductions, refinancing opportunities, or that there will be a secondary market for the sale of Points. Points do not typically appreciate in value.

I many not engage in any commercial rental activity to rent out Points for cash through online or print advertising to the general public and understand that my membership may be suspended or terminated if I do.

My membership is perpetual and may transfer by gift, or intestate succession upon my death. However, the transferee is not obligated to accept the transfer.

Redeeming points for reimbursement of travel services does not provide the best monetary value for my Points and is typically not lower in cost than spending cash for the same arrangements.

Non-Platinum Loyalty members cannot redeem Points for Maintenance Fees. Only Platinum Loyalty members may use Points to pay part of their annual Maintenance Fees, but that is not the highest and best use of Points. There is a $100 transaction fee and the redemption value per Point is currently $0.04 per Point and a maximum of 50,000 points can be redeemed.  

That about covers what Inside Timeshare has heard from readers asking Inside Timeshare for assistance with their Diamond complaints. I fell for two of the above.

So the moral of this story is not “Don’t buy a Timeshare” but “Timeshare Buyer Beware” and talk to a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare to compare the cost of buying resale or from the developer and the benefits or lack of benefits for doing so. Some may specialize in one resort or another like David Cortese of Magical Realty who specializes in Marriott Vacation Club, or Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX who likes Hilton Grand Vacations, feeling Hilton has the most consumer friendly secondary market.

Contact Inside Timeshare or our member sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook to join the discussion.

We seek to provide Diamond Resort members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

There we have it, another week over and time to enjoy the weekend, breakout the BBQ’s, open a few tinnies or some vino and as our Aussie cousins say “Stick another shrimp on the barbie”!

Have a great weekend and as we always say before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you contact with anything to do with timeshare, it pays to do your homework!

stop press 1

Just as we were getting ready to hit the publish button this latest news has just come across The Great Lake from Irene Allen.

Lawsuit: Diamond Resorts ‘Harasses’ Timeshare Owners

 

https://www.classaction.org/news/lawsuit-diamond-resorts-harasses-timeshare-owners

It tells of a huge class action filed on 10 May 2017, so it looks like Diamond are being hit on both side of the lake!

 

weekend02

 

marriott

Marriotts Face Charges of Racketeering.

Last week the Orlando Sentinel published a story that Marriott Vacation Club and First American Title Co. the trustee for Marriotts, are facing a class action lawsuit which alleges racketeering.

 

It involves their points system which they started in 2010, to replace the traditional weeks system, which is governed by real estate law. The suit filed by Anthony and Beth Lennen claim they had to pay fees associated with real estate, such as closing costs and recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

 

They also claim they were forced to purchased title insurance. First America claim that the Lennens purchased this insurance of their own volition, they have also filed their own 27 page motion to have the case dismissed.

 

Marriotts attorney has also filed a 50 page reply to the lawsuit, and claims that the plaintiffs have misread the statutes they believe have been violated. He also states that the allegations are unfounded and the Marriott system complies fully with the law. Marriott are also seeking to have the dispute transferred to a state regulator to be reviewed, Greg Crist of the NTOA said he would welcome a review of the allegations by a state regulator.

 

The term racketeering is usually associated with organised crime, so these allegations are very serious indeed, especially as Marriott do have a reputation as one of the good guys in the timeshare industry, especially in Europe.

al-capone

Inside Timeshare’s American colleague Irene Parker wrote the following:

 

Timeshare and the Definition of Racketeering

 

October 14, 2016

By Irene Parker    

 

The Orlando Sentinel yesterday reported on the proposed class action lawsuit against Marriott charging racketeering. The charges stem from a lawsuit that began May of this year claiming Marriott charges fees associated with real estate without actually owning real estate.

The charge of racketeering is intriguing. According to Investopedia, racketeering is often associated with organized crime. The example used described a group of people slashing tires in a neighborhood only to have a second group, composed of members from the first group, sell protection.

There is a clear parallel to trends in timeshare. Timeshare used to be real estate when “fixed weeks” were sold. The trend towards a points based “currency” has led to cloudy definitions as to what a timeshare really is these days.

Timeshare contracts are perpetual, meaning they are designed to extend beyond the owner’s lifetime. Contracts in perpetuity are not in essence bad, according to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group. “Perpetuity can apply to real estate or personalty. Personalty simply means personal property – something as simple as a new shirt. A primary residence or vacation home is a perpetual contract. By definition, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes about in timeshare when no secondary market exists.”

This leads us back to the definition of racketeering. There is a wide assortment of timeshare scams. The practice has become so widespread, Wyndham actually provides owners with a “Scambuster’s Hotline”.

Timeshare transfer agents charge timeshare owners seeking a way out of a timeshare contract an upfront fee offering them a form of “protection” by releasing owners from timeshare contracts. The fee often ranges from $3500 to $7000 but provides a “guaranteed deed-back” of the timeshare. Transfer agent companies often have lofty sounding names like “Redemption and Release”.

What happens to the timeshare after it is transferred out of the owner’s name? The contracts are bundled 25 to 50 and sold back to developers. Some timeshare companies offer owners voluntary surrender, but the surrender is not guaranteed so owners denied are forced into the nets of transfer agents.

In an ironic twist of fate, there are double racketeering schemes in which the deed taken back is transferred to a dummy company that disappears. Thus, the timeshare resort rightfully does not honor the transfer and the surprised owner receives an invoice for maintenance fees because the transfer did not take place. The owner is out thousands of dollars while still owning the timeshare. At least in racketeering, real protection is given. It’s a sad day when timeshare becomes less honorable than racketeering.

For the original article published in the Orlando Sentinel follow the link:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

If you have any questions or need any information about any article published, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try to answer them.