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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

It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.

All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.

The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.

The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time Andrew Cooper was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola, so Andrew Cooper had nothing to do with it all.

On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.

We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.

Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.

Do right to use point programs offer more protection?

In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.

I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.

Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?

Finn

Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
  • Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
  • Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)

This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.

  • Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

Finn-Law--Main-Logo

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.

As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.

There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –

  • How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
  • Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.

To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.

The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”

Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).

With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.

Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.

Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.

Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.

That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

weekend

law

Legal News From the US: Castle Law Group PC v Timeshare Developers

Today Irene Parker gives us an insight into one lawsuit that has made the headlines in the US, it would seem that across the great lake it is the timeshare companies that are on the legal offensive. In Europe the timeshare companies are very much on the defensive as we have seen in some of our previous articles.

Yesterday we published an article about the legal battle being waged against Silverpoint, they have stated that they will be filing a case with the High Court of Justice of the European Union, arguing that Spain has got the EU Timeshare Directives wrong.

eu court justice

Just to clarify one point on the EU Timeshare Directives, that is what they are “directives”, they are not law. A directive issued by the EU is a guide to all EU States to enact into their own domestic laws certain aspects which affect citizens. It is up to each individual state to interpret those directives as they see fit. The whole point is that each State may strengthen the directives, which is what Spain has done with their own timeshare laws, firstly with Ley 42/98 and more recently with Ley 4/12.

Directives are there to try and unify each State’s laws, especially on the matter regarding consumers rights, which the timeshare directive was intended to do. Before the timeshare directives came out, timeshare in Europe was what can only be described as lawless, timeshare companies could walk all over the consumer, there was no protection, timeshare was a new concept which nobody actually understood.

It followed an old economic system known as Laissez-faire, which has its roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was to be free of any government intervention, such as regulation. More recently a new term was conceived by conservative politicians and economists ‘free-market capitalism’. Timeshare has always followed this model, profit, profit and more profit at the expense of the consumer. (Again it sounds like Star Treks Ferengi).

Until laws are strengthened to the benefit of the consumer, we are going to see many more of these legal battles, be it consumer against developer or developer against law firms, the stage is set, let battle commence!

Now on with today’s article by Irene

Castle Law and Judson Phillips is Sued in Federal Court for Fraud

Orange Lake v. Castle Law Group PC

Westgate v. Castle Law Group

Diamond Resorts v. Castle Law Group

Who Next v. Castle Law Group

Speak truth

By Irene Parker

August 22, 2017

Who is Judson Phillips?

Tea Party Nation is a conservative American group considered part of the Tea Party movement.   The group was created by former Shelby County, Tennessee assistant district attorney Judson Phillips in 2009

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_Nation

Judson Phillips Ridiculed for Wanting to Deny Others the Right to Vote

Judson Phillips, the lawyer behind Castle Law Group (Nashville), latest idea has created a hurricane size backlash against Mr. Phillips. The Castle Law Group owner believes that only property owners should have the right to vote.  Phillips seems to believe those who aren’t the elite feudal lords of property can’t be trusted to vote. Instead, they must be put back in their place as serfs, working for their lords for scraps off the feudalistic tables.

http://www.brighthub.com/money/home-buying/articles/123520.aspx

A Bright Hub reader’s response:

Yes, I am Republican but in no way would I ever want to be affiliated with any political group who deemed renters shouldn’t vote in public elections.

Who Castle Law Group is not:

http://www.castlelawgrouppa.com/

I contacted attorney Ben Hillard of the Castle Law Group P.A. in Largo, Florida a few months ago – by mistake. Mr. Hillard responded saying he thought I had his law firm confused with Castle Law Group PC of timeshare fame, law firms differentiated only by the initials P.A. and PC. Mr. Hillard would like to make it clear his firm is in no way associated with Mr. Judson Phillips or his law firm Castle Law Group PC. In a recent letter to Mr. Hillard, Mr. Phillips said his firm is considering rebranding for reasons not associated with Mr. Hillard’s concerns, the similarity in names.

Here is the Castle Law P.C. and Orange Lake Lawsuit as reported by Paul Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando-based timeshare companies Westgate Resorts and Orange Lake Country Club filed nearly identical lawsuits in Orlando against Tennessee firms Castle Law and Castle Marketing. Westgate and Orange Lake accuse the Castle companies of charging some customers an upfront litigation fee of $7,500. Orange Lake said Castle filed no lawsuits for any of its owners who paid the fee; Westgate said Castle hasn’t filed lawsuits for some owners who paid the litigation fee.

A senior partner with Castle — attorney and Tea Party leader Judson Phillips — denies those allegations…. he said in an email he believes the suits are frivolous, and he and Castle have obtained good results for clients.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-timeshare-cancellation-fraud-20170618-story.html

According to a letter sent to Orange Lake attorney Brian Lower, from a Castle Law Group attorney, Castle accused Orange Lake of “gross misrepresentations regarding the terms and conditions of the Orange Lake timeshares in that they were fraudulently induced to enter into the timeshare contract and the debt instruments associated with such contracts in violation of federal and state laws.”

A letter from a lawyer like this triggers a “cease and desist” demand of all communication with the client, including collection attempts. This cease and desist letter has served as a bone of contention to timeshare developers in that a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer if the consumer is represented by an attorney or has an open Attorney General complaint, under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Among the twelve causes of action in Castle’s cease and desist letter against developers, are those our Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us asking for help would not disagree with:

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

Castle Law Group PC is not Better Business Bureau accredited, is nonrated, and a consumer complaint warning has been posted.

https://www.bbb.org/nashville/business-reviews/timeshare-cancellation-and-litigation-attorneys/castle-law-group-pc-in-nashville-tn-37113357

According to the Castle Law website they are timeshare lawyers trusted by thousands with a 4.7 out of 5 star ranking based on 12 reviews (powered by GetFiveStars). When I reached out to the firm for comment, I was put on hold for a very long time.

https://timesharecancellation.com/

you decide

Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association was recently quoted by the Orlando Sentinel that more lawsuits against cancellation companies were likely in the works.

“Some of those cancellation companies that have been targeted by developers were actually started by their own former timeshare employees. Those folks learned how to exploit the system by learning what is called the inside track. They know how the high-pressure sales tactics work,” Crist said. “They attract timeshare owners in the same way — post cards offering a free dinner, or an evening out. They show owners how maintenance fees escalate, and literally scare the hell out of these people using calculations that are wildly inaccurate and overstated. These are not law firms but represent to have an attorney on staff, giving the illusion that there are legal services involved in the transaction. Rarely does the company even communicate with the resort and the timeshare owner doesn’t even know what is happening until it is too late. Why is that?”

Crist explained this is often due to an unqualified money back guarantee the company provides that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The owner is simply lulled into a false sense of security, until they are foreclosed on and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Crist has watched this happening for years, but says the industry is making a mistake by throwing legitimate attorneys in the same mix with resale, transfer and advocacy groups.

While the NTOA is involved with educating owners, advocating for their rights and helping them engage in the product they already own, they do not sell, transfer or offer services like TPE’s do. Any timeshare member or owner can join NTOA.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

GBUgly

The present legal climate in the timeshare world is reminiscent of the old west with summons flying like bullets back and forth across the corral. Lost in the middle is the consumer, many complaining they purchased a timeshare based on false promises. The timeshare lobby ARDA and the major timeshare developers seem determined to ignore outcries of deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale.  

All attorneys are not created equal. It seems that timeshare developers don’t want a timeshare member to ever contact any lawyer and they lump all attorneys into a kettle of frivolous lawsuit filers. Two major developers attributed their rise in default rate due to “attorneys targeting members and cease and desist letters.” As in any profession, some attorneys do have questionable business practices, but any citizen should have a right to their day in court and the legal representation that accompanies that right if they feel they were deceived into purchasing a timeshare.

One former Hyatt and Diamond Resorts sales agent described “inventory recycling” as a hamster wheel that sometimes begins with deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. To date (as of August 16, 2017) Inside Timeshare has received 124 inquiries of which 110 allege they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. Most have outstanding loans.

“I am asking you to look at the moon and you are staring at the end of my finger,” deceased Jesuit Priest Anthony DeMello once wrote. That’s how I feel listening to case after case from family members, often financially devastated, alleging they were deceived, sometimes just days after a rescission period. Why won’t developers take a closer look at their own house?

ethics cartoon

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a positive or negative timeshare experience to share, through your experiences others may have a better understanding of what they are going through and see that they are not alone.

If you need any further information regarding any article published, or wish to know where you stand legally with your timeshare, Inside Timeshare is here to help. Contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

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

torch

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.

trump
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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advocacy

Timeshare Advocacy

On Monday 23 January we published “And So It Begins”, it was about freedom of speech and the press. This was in response to Irene Parker being banned from the Diamond Resorts Members Facebook Page, which is a members page for Diamond owners. Irene is a long standing Diamond owner. She campaigns for greater clarity in the sales process and for the secondary market, also for those who wish to surrender their ownership. In this she has engaged with Diamond in meaningful dialogue and has achieved some results.

Irene did managed to sneak in one Diamond owner’s testimony before she was banned from her Diamond Members Facebook page.

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

Irene caused an escalation in negative comments so was banned from the Diamond Members Facebook page, although the charge was because she posted our Inside Timeshare article about Attorneys General in the US working for timeshare owners, compared to Attorneys General who seem to be on the side of the timeshare developers. She was told she had been warned. When she posted her previous article on this topic, the article had been removed, but protest resulted in the article being re-posted. Irene erroneously  interpreted this as an approval of free speech.

The article banned and reposted was about timeshare dividing down party lines with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halting sales at The Manhattan Club for a “bait and switch” scheme, compared to Attorney General Pam Bondi seeming to be on the side of the timeshare developers.

President Trump has a golf resort in Belmedie in Scotland with plans for around 900 timeshare apartments, which is set to double under new plans. In America this was reported to be only a golf course, they had no idea of the plans for timeshare to be built along with a 450 room hotel and 500 homes. Not to forget a second 18 hole course. We will of course be closely following developments in Belmedie and President Trump’s new golf and  timeshare resort.

Irene was accused of being political. Most timeshare owners don’t know that their voluntary $7 donation to ARDA ROC goes toward the timeshare developer’s lobby efforts. Lobby efforts in 2015 resulted in a law being passed making it more difficult for timeshare owners to be released from contracts due to “immaterial errors” as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. Is this not “political”? We reported on this in the October article “More News from Across the Pond”.

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

For today, free speech still exists in Spain, Europe and in America. Free speech will always exist at Inside Timeshare or we will die trying. Without it you a will not know what is happening.

Today Irene´s article is about “Advocacy”, even Diamond agree this is needed and they have created a “Consumer Advocacy Department” to resolve consumer problems.

How Timeshare Advocacy Works

Update on Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance”.

 Retired Canadian Army Family’s Diamond Resorts Advocacy Experience.

By Irene Parker January 24, 2017

Support

For years timeshare owners and prospective owners have been clogging the complaint sites, complaining about what the Arizona Attorney General’sAssurance of Discontinuance” or AOD describes as Diamond Resorts:

Deception, deceptive or unfair acts or practices, fraud, false pretenses, false promises, misrepresentations or concealment, suppression or omission or material facts violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has issued Diamond Resorts an Assurance of Discontinuance and announced an $800,000 settlement.

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

Diamond Resorts, while not admitting wrongdoing, despite hundreds of complaints filed, takes owners concerns seriously. The company has announced a new Clarity program. Next week we will publish an article on Clarity offering owner feedback as to how they feel about the new program. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

Diamond has also created a Consumer Advocacy Department. It is my belief that owners need an advocate not employed by Diamond, interacting with Diamond’s Advocate until the owner’s concern is resolved or the decision is made to seek legal recourse.

In today’s article we examine one family’s advocacy experience. Terry and Roxanne Hurley were prepared to sign their Diamond relinquishment papers until they got to the part about not being able to say anything negative about Diamond.

“We put everything we had for our retirement into this, and we are gutted to know our many years in the Canadian Military (Army), planning and saving for our retirement over 40 years, is most likely lost,” said Roxanne.

Not knowing where to turn, the Hurleys contacted me and asked if there was any way they could recover any of their life savings. Most people would have contacted an attorney, but we contacted Diamond’s Advocacy Department. The reason they invested all their savings was because the Diamond sales agent (Vacation Counselor) said buying Diamond vacation points was like buying a second home. He neglected to tell the family it was like buying a second home without a secondary market.

The Hurleys chief complaint was availability. “Ash painted a beautiful picture of Diamond and even gave us a beautiful book and said these were all the places we could go. He said we would have access to over 2500 resorts through Interval International,” Roxanne explained. “We were getting ready to retire from the Canadian Army and we thought what a wonderful way to spend our retirement! He showed us a beautiful suite we would be able to get if we wanted to stay at Mystic Dunes.”

Terry and Roxanne Hurley recently retired from the Canadian army.

Hurley

Terry and Roxanne twice bought Diamond vacation points from DRI sales agent Ash Hanting at Mystic Dunes in Orlando. They bought points a second time when they discovered they did not have enough points to book the following year after their first purchase. The Hurleys have spent 50,000 Canadian for 15,000 points.

Armed with 15,000 points, they tried to book Myrtle Beach but it was not available so they had to book through Expedia. Booking one year out they were able to book Arizona.

 Terry and Roxanne approached Ash on a third visit to Mystic Dunes asking how they would go about selling their points because the vacation plan they bought was not turning out to be what they had been promised. Ash told them they would need to get a broker.

Unfortunately, not one member of the 64 member Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will market Diamond points because they feel Diamond points are worthless on the resale market due to restrictions Diamond places on points purchased resale. LTRBA members will buy and sell any major timeshare except Diamond Resorts; although I’m told only one of the members will market Westgate.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

The Hurleys told Ash the level of quality of their current accommodation was nowhere near the standard of what they were showed when they were sold their initial points. Their complaints were ignored. Roxanne wrote to Founder Stephen Cloobeck and Victor McElroy about what they felt were deceptive business practices, but no one responded.

The Hurleys are coping with Roxanne’s mother who is very ill and who lives about 2000 miles from them in Ontario. “It is very difficult to scrimp up the money to get to her. And my husband is dealing with medical issues as well,” Roxanne added.

I contacted Maya Pogoda, Diamond’s Public Relations Representative helping to launch Diamond Advocacy and Clarity. While the Hurley’s concerns about availability and the burden of rising maintenance fees, exacerbated by the Canadian exchange rate, have not been resolved; Diamond’s Advocate was able to offer the Hurleys a little “time out” in the midst of the family’s medical crisis in order to allow the family some time to weigh their options. I had suggested someone from Diamond contact the Hurleys to see if someone could help them find better availability. That is not the role of the Vacation Counselor, so Mr. Hanting cannot be of help.

Timeshare Needs a CASA,  

CASA

Court Appointed Special Advocates, (CASA) is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.[1]

The CASA is a volunteer who need not be an attorney, whose role is to gather information and make recommendations to the judge.[3]

Judge Soukup in 1977 formulated the idea that volunteers could be dedicated to a case and speak for children’s best interests.[5]

Fifty volunteers responded to his idea, which started a movement.[7]

A Proposal for our Attorneys General

Appointed Special Advocate for Timeshare Owners (™)

Here to help

CASA provides a voice for the voiceless. The Hurleys are not alone. I have talked to dozens of owners who don’t know where to turn or who to talk to.

Other advocates pictured above include Sylvia Saldana. The Saldana family is left with a $33,000 home equity loan and no vacation points.

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

Kathie Olds and her husband were told to buy more points because Apollo would be coming up with a new program that would allow them to “cash in” points at $.50 a point to pay for maintenance fees. Points sell for about $2 to $4 a point.

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

BL, Our Devil’s Advocate saying positive things about Diamond having signed a non-disclosure statement.

Roxanne Hurley

Irina Allen (featured in last week’s article)

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

As a former CASA supervisor, I wrote court reports and attended hearings and trials on behalf of foster children and teens aging out. Victimized timeshare owners need a voice for the voiceless. Just like foster care, there is a need for advocates who understand the system. The Arizona Attorney General’s “Assurance of Discontinuance” is 37 pages long. It’s a lot for me to plow through.

Here is one reason why the Arizona AOD has encouraged DRI agents to stick to the script rather than make oral representations offering benefits not in existence. DRI Sales agent Wajdi’s promise below wandered far afield:

We (C and P) purchased an additional 60,000 points from Wajdi at Cancun Resort on July 25, 2016 based on our ability to sell half of our points back to DRI to pay maintenance fees. We have contacted Wajdi a few times, but still do not know how to pay our MF with points.

Through advocacy, C & P’s concerns were resolved. They will remain Diamond Platinum members because of their positive outcome. They ceased legal action.  

A lot is happening in Timeshare.

get-involved

This is what freedom of speech really means, without it nothing will change, Inside Timeshare will report what it finds, whether it is good, bad or ugly. We will continue to publish Irene´s articles on what is going on in the timeshare world in America. We also hope to start publishing news from timeshare owners in Australia in the very near future. The problems facing timeshare are not confined to Europe or America, they are worldwide.

Inside Timeshare welcomes those with news and views on timeshare worldwide, we will endeavour to publish and keep all informed on events and news which affect you the owners.

 

across-the-pond

The Alphabet Soup of Timeshare Lobby Organizations: TATOC – RDO – ARDA ROC & CARDA

Should Resort Timeshare Owners Worldwide Pay the Voluntary ARDA ROC Contribution?

questman    By Charles Thomas and Irene Parker

November 27, 2016

Across the oceanic great divide, there is an alphabet soup of timeshare political lobby organizations.  Are they on the side of the timeshare owner or on the side of the developer?

First off, who are they and what are they:

RDO (Charles)

TATOC (Charles)

The RDO, or Resorts Development Organisation, is the trade association for the timeshare industry in Europe, its function is to ensure standards within the industry are maintained and that members abide by a code of conduct. These members fund the organisation with annual subscriptions, they also provide the board of directors, it is a self policing organisation, funded and controlled by the people who make their money selling the products.

The RDO says that it helps to protect the consumer, but as we know, it is their own members who have breached the timeshare laws, just look at the many cases being brought in Spain. The only protection they appear to offer consumers is constantly attacking any company offering a service who is not one of their members. They say you should only deal with RDO “accredited” companies, any other company who is not a member is likely to be a scam.

The press has highlighted in the past, many transgressions RDO members have perpetrated, MacDonald Resorts is just one. This company was the subject of several articles by the Award Winning Journalist Tony Hetherington, one was titled “The timeshare contract that even death will not save you from”. It followed the story of one owner who could not get out of her contract on the death of her husband. What did the RDO do, nothing.

They state one of their missions is to “Educate” journalists as they are ill informed on the subject, that the industry has been the victim of poorly researched articles. Yet these articles are highlighting the plight of their own members customers!

Another partner of the RDO is TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, as the name suggests they represent the owners committees, but how can they represent owners when they are also funded by the industry?

The current CEO, Harry Taylor is no stranger to the Industry, between 14 June 2007 and 18 June 2013, he was listed as a director with Diamond Resorts European Collection Ltd. The strange thing is he is also listed as being appointed director of TATOC at the same time, 23 January 2007. (See Company House PDF).

harry-taylor-personal-appointments-free-information-from-companies-house

TATOC should be representing your rights, but we have seen on many occasions they have backed the plans of the resorts / developers themselves, again a case in point is MacDonald Resorts. There has been a move by this company to remove all fixed week owners into their points system, this has been resisted by many owners and is the subject of ongoing battles. Yet the advice from TATOC is to change to the points system, saying it will be better for them, backing MacDonald Resorts to the hilt at the expense of the people they say they represent.

It has been stated by Inside Timeshare many times, there does need to be dialogue between owners, resorts and developers, but the owners should be a separate voice, not one funded (run) by the industry. (See following link on trade associations inc, Tony Hetherington articles)

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-member-egtbw/

As for the “voluntary contributions” added to maintenance bills, this does not appear to be the case in Europe, so far we have not seen this and it is possible it would be highly contested if it were to be introduced.

ARDA and ARDA ROC

Timeshare owners worldwide who own a timeshare in the US may pay more attention to ARDA ROC’S “Voluntary” donation this year. Depending on the developer, the fee can range from $3 to $10. Owners must call their resort accounting department to have the charge removed unless it is an “opt-in” request.

For owners asking: “ARDA what?” – ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC is the timeshare owner arm – Resort Owner’s Coalition.

One reason timeshare owners are taking a closer look is because legislation passed in Florida last year outraged timeshare owners and timeshare advocacy groups. The legislation went into effect July 1, 2015.

One clause, simply put, “Currently, if there are errors in the contract, then a buyer has a right under Florida law to cancel that contract after 10 days. Under the new bill, errors or omissions that are “nonmaterial” would NOT allow a buyer to cancel after 10 days.” (Deanna from Winning the Timeshare Game)

http://timesharegame.com/florida-bill-weaken-timeshare-protections/

RedWeek also weighed in:

http://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

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thoughts

My Thought Today: End of October

So here we are the end of another month, we started October with news of a Supreme Court ruling which stated that “Fractional” was indeed timeshare. In this instance Puerto Calma, Holiday Club Finland was ordered to repay over £235,542.00 as they had sold it as an investment.

Then Inside Timeshare reported the news of the first prosecution in the ongoing Anfi Tauro Beach Project.  The former head of the Canarian Coastal Authority José Maria Hernandez has been charged with administrative malfeasance (wrongdoing in public office) and forgery of official documents. The prosecutor Javier Ródenas considers that Hernandez verbally authorised the works despite warnings of serious breaches then committed an act of forgery by drafting a document which was then signed by him in April. This document gave the impression that it was written in February when the work actually commenced.

Local residents build defences to protect their homes

We then published an article from Gran Canaria Info which explained recent developments into the goings on at Anfi.

http://gran-canaria-info.com/content/timeshare-law/anfi-del-mar-and-the-future-of-gran-canaria-timeshare-in-2017

This online publication is a great source of information to the expat community and visitors in Gran Canaria, it often publishes in English, news from the Spanish press.

letter from america

Moving on from timeshare matters in Europe we published a piece by Greg Crist, the CEO of NTOA (National Timeshare Owners Association) in the USA. He explained about a timeshare donation scheme which had recently been slammed by a US Federal Judge. In this scheme, owners donated their timeshares, which were valued at high amounts and then received tax relief as charitable donations. The scheme has cost the tax man around $19.4 million.

http://insidetimeshare.com/u-s-federal-judge-slams-timeshare-donation-scheme/

Greg again sent over information on what was happening across the pond, with the article about combating fraud. It was very much a month of information from the USA with articles from the Orlando Sentinel and Irene Parker on Marriott facing charges of “Racketeering”.

Irene Parker submitted another article, this time on how Barclaycards are being issued by timeshare sales staff. Irene was comparing this to the scandal of finance being arranged by sales staff in Europe without the normal due diligence being carried out. We finished the US theme with Irene´s article on timeshare and politics and how it is split between the two political camps.

The Anfi Tauro Beach project again hit the headlines with the news that the current Mayor of Mogan, Onalia Bueno has been place under investigation for licences and permissions for the project. This followed on from the first prosecution and is still underway.

Also published was an article on Trustees in the timeshare industry and whether they are independent or not. This article was prompted by several enquiries from readers, with some of the content supplied by them. legal clipart

So to finish the month, Canarian Legal Alliance announced another two Supreme Court victories on behalf of their clients. In the first to be announced on 26 October, their client will receive 11,806€ and their contract declared null and void. Again the court reaffirmed its position that floating weeks are illegal, this case was against Anfi.

In the second announcement made on Thursday 27 October,another Supreme Court ruling, again against Anfi. In this ruling the client has been awarded 19,000€ and again the judgement was about floating weeks. The contract was also declared null and void. This now brings the total of rulings from the Supreme Court in respect of timeshare contracts to a staggering 27, with more still waiting to be heard, so there is more of this to come.

Just as we were about to publish news came in of yet another victory at the Supreme Court in Madrid, this brings the total number of rulings from the highest court in Spain to a phenomenal 28, you can’t argue that this particular law firm is not doing what is says.

The latest ruling this time involves another resort, Palm Oasis / Tasolan, the court ruled the client was not provided with all the information required by law, this resulted in the court ruling that the contract was flawed. In this instance the contract was declared null & void with the client being awarded 10,608€ plus legal interest. It would seem the courts in Spain at least, are on the side of the consumer, it only now needs other countries to follow that example.

It now remains to see what November will bring, if it is like this month it certainly will keep Inside Timeshare Busy. Have a good Halloween night and enjoy the party.

haloween

one-drop

More News from Across the Pond

With the US Presidential election now coming to a close over the next week, Irene Parker, who collaborates with Inside Timeshare on matters which affect timeshare on both side of the Great Lake (or Pond as our American friends call it), has sent in her most recent article.

It very much focuses on the political game that is affecting timeshare in the US, showing how it splits into Republican and Democrat, as she explained, the industry is very much pro Republican, the Trump camp, the Democrats seem to be supported by the timeshare owners. We should not be surprised by this.

Irene has very often commented on the documentary “The Queen Of Versailles”, the wife of the owner of Westgate, David Siegel. It shows the 90,000sq ft property they have been building as their home. It is quite staggering, with a walk in wardrobe (sorry closet), bigger that most homes in Europe. Irene has in many writings dubbed herself “The Peasant of Venice” in contrast to The Queen. Have to admit Irene does have a great sense of humour. Irene claims it’s not humour if one studies Polish and Russian history and the need for peasant uprisings.

Irene opens her article on the New York Manhattan Club, when the Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halted trading of timeshare. As you will see from her article, it is a very murky world indeed, the lines between timeshare and politics are blurred to say the least. Enjoy her article it reveals a lot.

Timeshare Battles Split Down Political Party Lines

October 26, 2016

By Irene Parker submitted to Orlando Sentinel

Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made headlines taking on presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation. Mr. Schneiderman claimed the Foundation did not meet certain administrative requirements necessary to receive donations in New York.

In addition to challenging Trump, Mr. Schneiderman has also taken on another developer and billionaire, Bruce Eichner, and Eichner’s Manhattan Club timeshare. Mr. Schneiderman halted timeshare sales at the Manhattan Club due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.

The New York Post unleashed an onslaught of criticisms against Mr. Schneiderman accusing him of picking his fights based on political motives.

Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi created her own headlines when she accepted a $25,000 donation from Donald Trump while considering whether to participate in a Trump University investigation. Her investigation was dropped after receiving the donation.

There is an eerie similarity between Trump U and timeshare sales, illustrated in an extraordinary CNN interview between Trump U salesperson James Harris and CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin. Not all timeshare sales agents are predatory, but complaints about overly aggressive sales tactics abound.

In the CNN interview, Harris is accused of exploiting the elderly by selling them classes averaging $34,000 and then “up selling” them to attend more classes. In rogue timeshare presentations, an average timeshare week costs $25,000 and after the initial purchase, owners are barraged to purchase additional points or weeks.

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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

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