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Michael Kosor

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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.

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

This week’s Friday’s Letter from America is not the one we originally planned from Michael Kosor, this will be published in due course.

First a little news from Europe, only last week we told of the calls from HMRC informing people that they have money from the Spanish courts, one reader has sent us this information.

They were called by a Kipp Stuart from HMRC Accounting, this was with reference to a ruling at the Malaga courts, Kipp informed them that they were holding over £22,000 on their behalf, unfortunately as there was no paperwork then the funds could not be released. They were given reference numbers along with the following telephone numbers:

08713 581033 to confirm with HMRC

0034 602489947 for the Malaga Court

Wonderful, only problem, the 08713 number is not used by HMRC and also carries rather hefty charges.

The 0034 number is a Spanish mobile number and no court will issue mobile numbers for confirmation.

As we published before

HMRC DO NOT CALL PEOPLE WITH NEWS THEY ARE HOLDING MONEY ISSUED BY THE SPANISH COURTS!

On the subject of courts, it has been a rather busy, that lot at CLA have announced six more wins. There have been five in Tenerife, four of these against Silverpoint, with one of the largest awards we have seen for sometime. In this case the client was awarded over 67,000€ including legal interest and second instance legal fees with the contract being declared null & void.

The other case involved European Coast & sun Holidays SL, the judge of the Court of First Instance declared the client’s contract null & void, along with the return of over 15,000€, then as a double whammy he also ordered back payment of over 16,000€  double the deposit paid.

Then in Fuengirola at the High Court the judges reaffirmed a sentence from the Court of First Instance against Petchey Leisure, by awarding over 14,000€ plus interest and legal fees.

Back to Gran Canaria and the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas once again declared an Anfi contract null & void with the return of 21,000€ plus legal interest.

These are just some of the cases announced this week, it is certainly an expensive one for those companies.

Now on with this week’s letter.

The Deep, Dark, Dank, Obscured From View, But Very Lucrative Timeshare Developer Revenue Stream: Are Its Days Numbered?

money tree

By Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

Originally published by Inside the Gate

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-developer-revenue-stream-days-numbered

Clarifications in blue added by Irene Parker for non-legal minds (like mine)

September 14, 2017

We as consumers, with a certain level of understanding of business, probably attribute the lion’s share of timeshare resort revenue to two central factors: timeshare sales and timeshare rentals. As it turns out, there is a third major revenue stream that’s related to sales, but is an entirely separate source of revenue, and it’s a significant one. Depending on the nature of the initial purchase, whether it was a deeded interest, or more commonly over the past fifteen years or so, a “right to use” amalgamation of points, this shrouded revenue source may indeed also be in violation of certain state consumer rights statutes, including the Uniform Commercial Code.

I’m speaking to the universally accepted resort practice of the resort retaining every dollar received from a defaulting purchaser, even if the entire purchase price or an amount close to the total was paid over to the resort prior to the owner’s default. This would include a cessation of paying the purchase price, maintenance fees or capital assessments.

It’s not considered relevant, at least if one believes the purchase contract, to factor in the sometimes quite significant amount paid in up to the moment of default, in terms of any form of accounting back to the sum of money paid by the defaulting purchaser. It’s all retained by the resort pursuant to the purchase contract, as “liquidated damages”.

In other words, an unwitting purchaser could have paid in say $18,000 of his/her $20,000 purchase price (not to mention the additional payments of interest and annual maintenance fees), defaulted for any number of reasons and still be pursued by the resort as a debtor for the unpaid balance! Well, isn’t that appropriate, you may retort! After all, the purchaser has defaulted on a perfectly legal (on its face) promissory note obligation of $20,000 when only $18,000 has been paid? Well maybe, but let’s examine what happens next.

Foreclosure of real property and disposition of personal property are governed by different bodies of law. Real property foreclosure sale varies dramatically among the states. Personal property disposition is governed by each state’s versions of Article Nine commercially reasonable disposition.

I found this explanation of the difference in real property foreclosure compared to personal property distribution in Texas helpful:

Texas Real Property Foreclosure

Section 51.002, et seq. of the Texas Property Code defines the minimum statutory procedure that must be satisfied to properly foreclose upon real property. In addition to the minimum statutory requirements, the deed of trust executed by the debtor-mortgagor details the agreed contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of real property.

Personal Property Disposition in Texas

Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code defines the minimum statutory procedures that must be satisfied to foreclose upon personal property. In addition to the Article Nine requirements, the security agreement executed by the debtor-mortgagor defines the contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of personal property. Generally, personal property disposition must be commercially reasonable.

Commercially reasonable is the key concept here. We can all relate to selling a car. According to NOLO, there is no hard and fast rule on what “commercially reasonable” means. What is commercially reasonable depends on a number of factors.

The procedure, not the price, ultimately determines whether the sale is commercially reasonable. Whether a sale is commercially reasonable depends on four factors, the:

  • manner
  • time
  • place
  • terms of the sale.

Perhaps Mike’s concern as it pertains to timeshare foreclosure being commercially reasonable, as it applies to car sales, also applies to timeshare.

“There are times, however, when a private or “dealer only” sale may not be commercially reasonable”, such as in the following instances provided by NOLO. Two of the six points they mention seem to apply to timeshare:

  • the creditor has the ability to sell the car on the retail market
  • the creditor buys back the vehicle then resells it a significantly higher price.

What If I Believe the Sale Was Not Commercially Reasonable?

If you can demonstrate that the creditor did not sell your car in a commercially reasonable manner, you can raise that as a defense against any lawsuit brought by a creditor looking to collect on the deficiency balance. In some instances, if you can prove the sale was not commercially reasonable, the court may reduce or even eliminate your obligation on the deficiency balance.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/car-repo-sale-was-commercially-reasonable.html

Back to Texas

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

Thus, real property foreclosures in Texas are very defined and structured procedures unique to Texas law which do not require the sale to be commercially reasonable. On the other hand, personal property foreclosure sales are not structured by statute, but they must be commercially reasonable as to every aspect of the disposition, including method, manner, time, place, and terms. The apparent conclusion is that although the legislature has specifically defined the procedures that must be followed to dispose of real property, personal property may be disposed of in any manner the secured party elects, as long as the sale is in all respects commercially reasonable.

The differences between real and personal property foreclosure procedures and requirements have had interesting effects upon lenders and borrowers. The notice provisions for real property foreclosures mandate procedures known to both the lender and the borrower. The procedures provide certainty as to the mechanics of the sale. Both lender and borrower are offered an opportunity to dispose of property, with each fully understanding when, where, and how the sale or purchase will occur.

In contrast, the nebulous standard of a commercially reasonable sale leaves both the lender and the borrower uncertain as to the ultimate and satisfactory sale or purchase procedure for personal property. Article Nine attempts to place the burden on the secured lender seeking a deficiency to sell in a commercially reasonable manner, whatever that may be in the particular circumstances found by the lender. Likewise, the debtor has no knowledge of how the lender will proceed with foreclosure and has the burden of proof, if attacking the sale, to show that the sale was not commercially reasonable. The more certain real property foreclosure procedures seem to work more effectively for both the lender and the borrower.

http://www.lenders360blog.com/2008/10/real-estate-foreclosure-vs-ucc-personal-property-commercially-reasonable-disposition/

Commercially reasonable according to Cornell Law School: A disposition of collateral is made in a commercially reasonable manner if the disposition is made:

(1) In the usual manner on any recognized market;

(2) At the price current in any recognized market at the time of the disposition; or

Wait a minute here!

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“At the price current in any recognized market at the time of disposition” means my Diamond Resorts points should be sold for nothing. Not one of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will even accept a DRI listing and even Howard Nusbaum, CEO of the timeshare lobby ARDA, has been quoted as saying modern timeshare is a right to use product so the member should not expect any value back. I think Mike really is onto something!  

Other timeshare companies may argue that they do have a secondary market, but even those fortunate to be able to sell their timeshare, frequently sell them for pennies on the dollar of their original investment.

(3) Otherwise in conformity with reasonable commercial practices among dealers in the type of property that was the subject of the disposition.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/9/9-627

Now on the edge of my seat, we continue with Mike’s narration:

In our original example, is the developer out the missing $2,000?  Ask what happened to the object of the $20,000 purchase? Well look at that, the actual property never, even for a moment, left the possession of the developer! My goodness, the developer just re-sold the interest to another brand-new buyer for a fresh new $20,000! So now are you still comfortable with the original purchaser being pursued for the missing $2,000? Perhaps sued, almost definitely having derogatory credit reporting, not to mention harassment from bill collectors? So what exactly happened to the first purchaser’s $18,000 paid to the resort? Is any of it accounted for with maybe a portion returned to the guy who ended up with nothing except perhaps a lawsuit?

Not a chance in Hades! The so-called ‘extra revenue stream’ is now actually an extension of the existing stream to the developer from sales, and sales, and maybe still more sales. How many times can the same unit interest (or bloc of points) be resold over the life of the project?

The distinction (and thus a portion of the reason for my overly dramatic title) is that typically sales revenue in say a condominium project is recorded once, and the revenue is, of course, offset by the cost of acquisition of land, construction costs, marketing costs, etc. and the net amount remaining after those costs is the developer’s profit. However, in the case of the timeshare developer, the original buyer covered those costs in their initial transaction, therefore the new additional piggy-back to back transactions didn’t come with any more land acquisition or construction costs, and therefore essentially came only with very little new or fresh costs of sale beyond the re-marketing costs.

light bulb

Well wait, you might say, this can’t be right! You sure this practice is universal? Yes? Well then, are you sure this unconscionable practice is even legal? Good question, and one wherein the answer to that question may be evolving and it’s not necessarily the laws in place that are changing, it’s the timeshare product changeover, the newer form of the property that is being marketed by the developer that is creating a change in which already existing laws are now perhaps becoming relevant to the timeshare purchase, and by doing so may be enforced by the previously out of luck defaulting purchaser. In fact, it may well be that the same old existing law pendulum may be swinging back in favor of the consumer!

I reference the fact that over the past decade plus a few years, there has been a change in the product that the timeshare industry is selling. Just after the turn of the century, the industry has backed off of selling of the deeded weekly timeshare product, which was indisputably a real estate product, in favor of a product they tout as being more user flexible: a product called a “right to use” product. Setting aside the differences in the actual ability to use the two very different types of timeshare “ownership,” the focus of this article is on the migration of the timeshare product from a real estate based product, morphing into what we attorneys refer to as “personalty”.

In our lawyer’s world, everything not legally defined as real estate is personalty (the only other option in the law). Presumably a ‘right to use’ timeshare product (points based) is not considered by the law as real estate, (if it no longer possesses any attributes of real estate and therefore as ‘personalty’, is subject to differing state laws particularly including the universally adopted, in some form in every state, Uniform Commercial Code).

Additionally, state laws regulating the real estate within its boundaries, do vary from state to state. Personalty, however, is a commodity of a different color. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as its title suggests, is nearly uniform in its textual content, and from an applicability standpoint, every state in the Union has adopted, with minimum exceptions not applicable to this article, a version of the UCC almost identical with its neighboring states. In other words, as we discuss the law of personality (again, all that is not deemed real estate) we can speak to it across the board. These laws apply everywhere within the USA.

As a Florida lawyer, you may have seen other articles where I either cite specific Florida statutes or have issued a cautionary statement that the principles I was espousing may not apply in other jurisdictions. Contrast this article where I do not constrain my statements. Also, rather than cite state specific portions of the UCC, I, in places, simply refer to Articles within the UCC and in others the ‘pure code provision’.

Further, this article is not intended for an audience of lawyers or jurists. It’s intended for consumers to get a grasp of a relatively new set of laws, including the Uniform Commercial Code, that now may begin to play a much greater role in the laws governing timeshare projects and correspondingly, the developers who operate these projects.

I would like to ask Mike at this point about another universally accepted practice – advising borrowers to go home after purchasing their dream vacation plan and arrange financing with their bank or credit union. Perhaps it’s the subject of another article, but the majority of complaints received by Inside Timeshare say their sales agent advised them to seek a home equity loan to lower timeshares usury type timeshare lending rates. Many have done just that. My husband and I were told we could get lower rate financing, “No one should finance at our rates,” warned Donna. (Grand Beach, FL July 2015) I guess buyers that follow that advice are just out of luck, like Sylvia Saldana, now stuck with a $30,000 home equity loan after Diamond Resorts “took back” $60,000 worth of timeshare points. To make matters worse, Sylvia said she was aggressively encouraged to open Barclaycards, told buying more points would lower their maintenance fees. Had she succumbed to that suggestion, Sylvia and her husband would have lost even more money.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Back to Mike

Consumer rights may also get a major boost by the applicability of the UCC as well, since, to the extent that a contract provision contradicts an applicable statute, that contractual provision will be rendered null and void.

So, for example take the typical contractual provision that, “all monies paid will be retained by the developer as ‘liquidated damages.’’’ Essentially, the amount of damages fixed must be reasonable ‘in light of actual or anticipated harm’ and a term fixing an ‘unreasonably large amount’ is void as a penalty.

Therefore taking a contract, say with a 10% down payment and then adding subsequent monthly payments, the sum total could easily become ‘unreasonably large’, particularly in light of the quick turnaround on the “use rights” for which there has been a default, assuming which I think is fair with on-site sales team (ARDA’s Mr. Nusbaum calls them forever sales centers), that the interest will be promptly re-sold.

Another example of a UCC provision that may well change the way defaulted buyers are treated is as follows. The included reference to the specific UCC provision is the actual textbook unadulterated Code provision number, and may well differ from numbered state specific statutes. The developer or secured party is under a duty to notify debtors of the disposition of collateral under UCC Section 9-611. Further, the disposition must be done in a commercially reasonable manner.

Of particular importance, the secured party/lender is required to apply proceeds of any disposition to the underlying debt once expenses have been taken.

Is this where we end up with money back to the debtor? Can we go back to our original example?

I paid $20,000 and default at $18,000. For sake of discussion I am current on maintenance fees (which is probably not the case). The developer sells to the next hamster my forfeited points for $20,000. I am relieved of the $2,000 still owed, but if the developer sells for $23,000, I will be relieved of the $2,000 owed plus get $3,000 from the surplus amount? This next sentence sounds like the answer?

Also of notable significance is the duty of the secured party to pay the debtor any surplus which results from the disposition of collateral.

Additionally, the secured party/developer is liable for any damages caused by its failure to comply with Article 9.

In summary, a new day in the life of an unhappy timeshare owner is dawning. Existing laws never before applied to timeshare purchases may well now apply and particularly those timeshare interests that are non-real estate based like the ‘right to use’ interests that are now the mainstream of the timeshare community! Stay tuned for future developments on our website as we begin to apply the theories and applicable state statutes referenced hereinabove.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

www.finnlawgroup.com

michaeldfinn@finnlawgroup.com

work desk

Whew! That was exhausting. It’s a good thing we have legal eagles to figure these things out because Charles Thomas and I get pretty depressed at times listening to “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories. We have heard enough to fund a series. The question I am most frequently asked is, “How can they sleep at night?”

Thank you to Mike Finn for the chance to publish this and also to Irene to add her clarifications for those without legal minds.

It now only remains to say be careful who you do business with, check and check again, if you need help, then contact Inside Timeshare. Have a good weekend.

weekend02

monday start

Start the Week

Hope you all had a good weekend, we also hope that all our friends in Florida are safe with the hurricane Irma wreaking havoc. Irene and Don evacuated from Venice to Orlando to escape the storm, we hope to hear from her today, although she has kept busy with new articles for this week.

claimmoney

Back in July we reported on a series of police raids in the Velez MalagaTorre del Mar area, these centered on several companies: Halfmoon Holdings, Excalibur Sales & Marketing, Blue Chip and Rosedale Marketing, these were highlighted in the British press.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3952419/dozens-arrested-over-timeshare-scam-that-saw-500-brits-conned-out-of-life-savings-in-multi-million-pound-costa-del-sol-racket/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SprnklrSUNOrganic&UTMX=Editorial%3ATheSun%3ATwImageandlink%3AStatement%3ANews

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/costa-del-sol-cops-uncover-10745713

At the time we did warn about new companies that were likely to surface with stories of being appointed to contact people about money being held by the courts to pay them back. Well as usual it is happening.

Reports have surfaced about one such company, Bias Claims Services, apparently based in Mijas, Malaga. The telephone number given does seem to point to this area +34 951 203 873.

gobierno

According to the caller the case is being heard on 17 November in Madrid, which does seem strange as the raids and arrests were in Malaga. Another wonderful piece of news for the hapless victims is that the Spanish Government is covering all the costs for their legal representation. Bias Claims Services will arrange all this for you, but this will be for a cost.

As Bias Claims Services do know you had dealings with those companies involved in the raids and arrests, it would be safe to say that your details have come from those companies records. More than likely ex-employees and office managers.

It is important that if any company contacts you with a similar story, do not believe it, do your checks first, the authorities would contact you via official channels, not employ a company to do so.

In tomorrow’s article Irene Parker explains how to file a complaint, all the main points you need to get right. It also goes to explain how advocacy works and who you should file the complaint with. In this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we welcome back Michael Kosor to our pages, in this article: Timeshare and Asset Back Security Products. This is an article that will interest many, including us in Europe as it is not something we are familiar with. So join us on Friday.

If you have been contacted by any company with an offer or claim that looks too good to be true, remember to do your homework. If you are not sure how to check them out or if they are telling the truth, contact Inside Timeshare, we will point you in the right direction. Taking time to check will ultimately save you money.

homework

help1

The 3 R’s of Timeshare: Part 1

Today we start with the first of a three part article on what Irene calls the 3 R’s of Timeshare, although this first part begins with “F”.

In the US this is Foreclosure, which to those of us in Europe would just be Relinquishment or Surrender. What we have to remember in Europe is that for our American cousins, timeshare tends to be governed by Real Estate Law and financial agreements are usually associated with a mortgage rather than a personal loan or finance agreement. So foreclosure will be similar to repossession of your house for not keeping up with mortgage payments. Failure to keep up payment on a loan does not result in the timeshare being “repossessed”, as the finance is separate from the timeshare.

As for relinquishing or surrendering your timeshare in Europe, this very much depends on who you purchased with, some companies are better than others.

As a very good example of the bad, we only have to look at MacDonald Resorts, this particular company has been the subject of many press articles, including some published here on Inside Timeshare. This company is renowned for not allowing people out of their contracts even after death, so this means the children inherit the timeshare and the subsequent maintenance bills.

A very good case which Inside Timeshare has been working on is that of Mrs B, an 87 year old lady in ill health, who used a company to relinquish her contract. This was done by selling to a third party, MacDonalds refuse to accept this, stating they do not recognise the transfer, even though we have notary documents proving the transfer. Consequently they are pursuing Mrs B for arrears in maintenance, passing the debt onto a debt collecting agency who are threatening court action if it is not paid. Inside Timeshare is now lodging a formal complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority as the debt is “under dispute” and should not be chased by the agency.

This company also “offers” a limited number of members to hand in their timeshares every couple of years, but only on the payment of 4 years maintenance fees.

Another company that is renowned for being very difficult to get out of is Petchey Leisure, now owned by MGM Muthu. As far as they are concerned your contract is in perpetuity and that means never ending, so even your grandchildren will end up with the maintenance bills.

Diamond Resorts in Europe on the other hand seem to be getting their act together, for several years now they have allowed any member over 75 to hand back their membership. They also allow others to hand back in what they term as “exceptional circumstances”. These are the death of a partner, illness and financial difficulties. For those who do not fall into these categories they will allow surrender on payment of upto 3 years maintenance fees.

So now on with Irene’s Article.

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare:

Part I Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure

What will happen when you decide your timeshare decision was a mistake?

Part II: The 3Rs of Timeshare

Part III: 2 More Rs  – Timeshare Rentals and Resales

By Irene Parker March 28 

Contract picture

Except for failure to pay child support, there is no debtor’s prison. Anyone feeling desperate, angry, worried, ashamed or scared about their timeshare situation can rest assured they can put their timeshare troubles behind them through the 3 Rs or F of Timeshare.

The words I used above are how I describe timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare or to me through our Advocacy Facebook Page, burdened by high interest loan payments and rising maintenance fees. Our goal is to convert this owner into an informed and empowered owner.

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

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

Often, life without timeshare can be achieved without legal assistance, but we have a crew of able bodied lawyers there if you need them as a last resort. Advocacy works but has its limitations. All of our Advocates are unpaid, helping individual timeshare owners and members while working towards timeshare reform.

Last week we quoted Mr. Nusbaum’s feelings about the secondary market. Mr. Nusbaum is President and CEO of ARDA, the timeshare developer lobby.

“This is a legacy problem. People buying a timeshare today are buying it from multisite clubs that have management forever and sales teams forever, so the ability to recycle inventory will not be a problem in the future.”  June 2014 RedWeek

On the other hand, here is another Nusbaum quote from the same article sounding somewhat contradictory:

“The developer community is not without some dirt under their nails in this. We’ve created a business model that needs recycling. We want to help the secondary market. For self-perpetuity, it’s insane not to have a healthy secondary market.”

But most of all, according to Nusbaum, the long-term outlook is improving because the largest timeshare companies are developing programs that offer exit strategies for their owners. The complete RedWeek article:

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/timeshare-resales-arda-predictions

“Exit strategies” are voluntary surrender programs. Requests are evaluated case by case. It is difficult to determine how many requests are granted compared to the number of requests overall. Are these programs just media window dressing to make it look like the industry is responding?

Michael Kosor has worked with Nevada Senator Becky Harris in an effort to propose legislation that would allow better disclosure as to the limited, or sometimes non-existent, secondary market.  

“Actions by the timeshare industry, regulators, and legislators, are analogies to firefighters rescuing the elderly trapped in a burning building. Until the cause of the fire is identified, consumers will continue to be lured into these burning (defective) timeshare products that are not supported by a secondary market. While I applaud the rescue, we should not allow the industry and those responsible for consumer protection to hide behind said rescue efforts while they inexplicably fan the flames. Ambulance chasing fraudulent transfer agents is a back-ended solution – a Band-Aid reaction.”

Treating symptoms without studying the cause can be problematic for medicine or timeshare. The cause in the case of timeshare is the active destruction of the resale market for the benefit of immediate developer profits.

“Where are the association Boards we elected to represent our timeshare interests”?

“Owners clearly would like to see more done to advance and advocate for an improved resale market,” continues Michael. “Why is it our advocacy group is the only voice in this discussion? With the exception of a few legacy associations, virtually none of the industry affiliated associations have an active resale program available to owners to assist in exit and preclude foreclosure, if a voluntary surrender is denied”.

I approached my association a few years ago, the Wyndham Grand Desert, and was told “this was not their responsibility.” Instead, my (and most all) associations’ leaders throw owners wishing to exit (which we all do eventually) to the wolves of the current resale environment or transfer agents. They then enter into very lucrative repurchase contracts with and for the developers. These repurchase contracts provide the association pennies on the dollar of outstanding assessments, then give the developer very low cost inventory to sell as new to the next owner.

The real issue is not merely failing to fix the resale market. Worse, the industry is actively working to build the recycle model which requires the intentional undermining of the resale market. Advocate owners and members understand the cause and the fact the industry has no desire to fix the problem. It’s sad that we as advocates have to educate and walk the elderly, the ill and those burdened financially, through the foreclosure process when all else fails.

The developers consider themselves benevolent when they allow the surrender of a $25,000 to over $100,000 vacation plan in exchange for a surrender of zero value. As long as the vacation points or weeks stay in the hands of the developer, there is no free market system. Lenin would be proud.

Back to the 3Rs or F of Timeshare

We want to avoid the F for foreclosure, but for some owners there is no choice.

Let’s get this last and most unpleasant option out of the way so we can focus on more positive outcomes.

Where do we start? Pull out all those documents and start digging!

Magnify

I hear a lot of “I think” or “I’m not sure” when I ask the following questions:

  • When did you first buy your timeshare?
  • Where did you buy your timeshare?
  • How many points do you own?
  • What was the sales agent’s name?
  • What interest rate are you paying if you have a loan?
  • What do you want to happen?

We begin at the end – Foreclosure

If a member has an otherwise unblemished credit score, he or she can work to have the reason for foreclosure added to a credit report.  I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process.  We use one unnamed resort as an example, but the procedure is similar to all timeshare companies. A common question is:

Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can or will members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Do they place the lien just on the timeshare? In other words, does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never.

Is it advisable to just stop paying fees without the aid of an attorney?

Mike: It really does depend on your ability to endure collection calls, letters threats, and a foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about 5 years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

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

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

According to Charles Thomas, here is how it works in Europe

This resort employs a debt collection agency, one they use is called Daniels Silverman, the debt is passed on to them (usually sold), they now own the debt and will threaten court action – whether they will is another matter. If this does occur, then yes credit rating will be affected as it will then be a County Court Judgement and failure to pay will result with the court bailiffs being sent in to recover either cash or goods to the value. Only they have the right of entry into the home.

As for a loan, if it is with a third party i.e. Barclays Partner Finance, any failure to keep up payments will result in County Court action as above and credit blacklisting.

It is advisable to seek advice from an attorney before just stopping any payments, as by doing this the debt cannot be passed on to an agency as under the Financial Conduct Authority regulations. The debt can be classified as “under dispute”.

According to the Canarian Legal Alliance CLA, when the firm takes on a relinquishment with a loan attached, they also try to have the loan agreement cancelled.

It is advisable to completely check any company that offers relinquishment services, as this is an area which is fraught with con artists.

Below is our Inside Timeshare article on debt collection with links to various authorities, it also includes a list of those resorts who employ debt collectors and a list of those who have taken people to court.

As Charles Thomas reported, Europe maintains a thriving timeshare foreclosure and collection industry as well.

http://insidetimeshare.com/maintenance-arrears-debt-collectors/

Our Advocates, relying on their experience and expertise, are here to evaluate and work together, each bringing a piece of the puzzle to help you find your answer.

Conference table

Next week we continue with Part II – The 3Rs of Timeshare:

Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund

Part III – The 2Rs of Timeshare – Rentals and Resales

Contact us today if you would like to share your story or work with us by becoming a Timeshare Advocate.

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

Thanks to Irene, Mike Finn and Michael Kosor for their contribution.

As you already know as owners of timeshare, whether in Europe or across the “Great Lake” in the US, once you purchase timeshare, getting out of it is fraught with obstacles. It does depend on who you own with, some are better than others. In Europe, Spain is leading the way with timeshare law, it is giving “consumers” more protection, making it easier to get out.

Inside Timeshare hopes these articles are of benefit to you the owners, that only through coming together and sharing information can we hope for any change in the industry.

If you have any questions or want to share your experience contact Inside Timeshare or join the Advocacy FB page.

 

across-the-pond

The Friday Letter from America

Back in January, Inside Timeshare published Irene Parker’s article Attorneys General and Timeshare under Trump, This was at the time of the now President Trump’s inauguration. In the introduction, we broke the news to our US readers of the plans  Mr Trump had going through planning in Scotland, for a second golf course and the increase in the number of timeshare apartments.

This apparently came as a big surprise to our American readers, it would seem they had no idea that he was also involved in “timeshare”.

Below are three links to two major UK daily newspapers, the last link is around 9 months old, but shows the opposition that Mr, now President Trump faced from local people. In this particular article is the story of a quarryman who refused to sell his home to Trump, who described him as a “disgrace” for not wanting to sell him his “pigsty of a home”. I don’t know about you, but in the UK and especially in Scotland that type of remark about someone’s home is a total insult.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-organization-golf-links-resort-scotland-aberdeen-conflict-interest-a7534596.html

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/22/planners-reject-donald-trump-revised-plans-scottish-golf-resort#img-1

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/23/donald-trump-faces-wall-of-opposition-as-he-returns-to-scotland

Now to Irene’s article.

What is ARDA-ROC Doing Today? An Analysis

By Irene Parker – March 24, 2017

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After reading the March article “What is ARDA-ROC doing today?”

http://resorttrades.com/what-is-arda-roc-doing-today/

It seems a good time to revisit my $7 “voluntary” donation to ARDA-ROC. The word voluntary has a nice ring to it so for years when paying our maintenance fees, if I was asked if I would like to make the voluntary donation to ARDA-ROC, I said, “Sure.” Since then I have learned too much to ever answer in the affirmative again, unless proven wrong.

According to Lisa Ann Schreier, the ARDA board only lists one timeshare owner. Of the 23 board members, included are Frank Goeckel, Diamond Resorts, recently departed with a $2 million handshake and Franz Hanning, departed after the Trish Williams $20 million Wyndham Whistleblower verdict with a $3.4 million handshake.

http://www.ardaroc.org/roc/about/default.aspx?id=1354

Of the $816,068 ARDA made in political contributions, 74% went to Republicans and 26% to democrats. This breakdown was also provided by Lisa Ann Schreier:

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

Like it or not, timeshare is all about politics. President Trump, or his family, is going into the timeshare business. Pictured to the left of President Elect Trump is long-standing friend David Siegel, owner of Westgate timeshare. Given the current political climate it would not surprise me if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau halted their investigation of Westgate. The CFPB was spearheaded by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. That’s the organization that helped the Wells Fargo victims.

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David Siegel seated to the left of Donald Trump

As Charles Thomas of Inside Timeshare previously reported,

“Well it is actually quite simple for those in Scotland, back in 2008 there were some very heated debates over Mr Trump’s plan to build an 18 hole golf course and resort in Balmedie Aberdeenshire. This met with considerable resistance from the local people, but eventually Trump won through.

The original plan was to build a 450-room hotel, a second golf course, 500 luxury homes and 900 timeshare apartments along with a second 18 hole golf course. In a recent article in The Guardian newspaper these plans now intend to double the number of homes and timeshare apartments”

Whether you are or were for or against now President Trump, it is clear he is on the side of the timeshare developer which has become a battlefield pitting owners against developers.

Now to our main attraction:

What is ARD-ROC doing today?

A breakdown for soundbite reading and request for more information:

In a perfect world the only thing ARDA-ROC would be doing today would be writing checks, sitting back and relaxing. But, it’s not a perfect world and so a typical day for Chairman Ken McKelvey goes something like this:

ken McKelvey
Ken McKelvey

It is a Thursday and McKelvey started his day discussing a new wrinkle in the South Carolina transfer legislation that ARDA-ROC has been proposing.

I believe this is South Carolina House Bill 3647 tightening the language of timeshare transfers. In our last article we reported how the nature of the perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market spells a disaster for aging original owners if denied a voluntary surrender.

That was followed by a conference call regarding the proposed United States Virgin Islands timeshare fee.

This does sound like a benefit for owners because an extra $300 slapped onto an exchange seems exorbitant.

The day before was loaded with details regarding a Saint Maarten Parliament Timeshare Ordinance and its potential impact on consumers.I know nothing about the Saint Maarteen Parliament Timeshare Ordinance but it sounds ominous.

Along with a final draft of legislature in Florida regarding the sunset clause to help legacy properties gain reasonable voting requirements to extend into the timeshare agreements into the future. Whew.

This is Florida House Bill 818 concerning a reset to continue beyond the sunset provision.

And he’s just a volunteer who is happy it is not Monday.

The ongoing operations of ARDA-ROC is both reactive and proactive; on one hand they react to any proposed legislature, dealing with real estate or tourism proposed laws that have any tentacles that could possibly affect timeshare and on the other hand they write and lobby for legislature that could help timeshare owners.

This lobby effort sparked outrage among owner advocates. Did my $7 go to this effort?

“The bills (House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932) have been sponsored by two politicians from Central Florida — deep in the heart of time-share country: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

Both politicians have received money from time-share interests — an industry that showers cash on Florida politicians and committees, including $300,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $150,000 to the Democrats,” reported Scott Maxwell for the Orlando Sentinel.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-timeshare-tactics-scott-maxwell-20150411-column.html

Throughout the year, ARDA-ROC has lobbyists on retainer in up to 25 states, and territories, and who according to McKelvey “we HOPE the only thing we ever hear from them is an invoice.”

These lobbyists monitor and pick through every piece of proposed legislature with a fine tooth comb, seeking things that are rarely specifically spelled out to say timeshare, but could be interpreted to have grand impact on it.

This from Advocate Michael Kosor:

The “fine tune comb” can be seen in the Nevada State Bill 195 that would have allowed an Association Board to terminate its management contract (the most important and costly agreement a board oversees), issued to them by the developer, without obtaining a majority owner vote – an impossible effort. ARDA-ROC identified the change and successfully lobbied to have it removed.  This was clearly an owner friendly provision the industry did not support.  Lobbyists (of ARDA and ARDA ROC, they use the terms loosely and interchangeably) suggested (vaguely and without discussion despite being an absurd assertion) the original language was “intended to protect timeshare owners” and should not be changed.

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