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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome once again to Friday’s Letter from America, the article we had planned for today by Mike Finn, has been postponed until Tuesday, the reason, some very important breaking news from the US. Inside Timeshare received the press release yesterday 26 October at 5.53pm, It was then sent to Irene Parker our US branch who prepared it for publication today.

As usual we start with Europe, Inside Timeshare has again been receiving many comments from readers regarding the Mark Rowe enterprise ABC Lawyers, all have been the same.

The timeshare owner has attended a meeting at one of their offices, enticed with the prospect of ending their timeshare and claiming compensation. Sounds good, but then comes the crunch, the “salesperson” starts to pitch the Rowe product “Jive Hippo”. Does this sound familiar. Well it should, after all sellmytimeshare.tv (another Rowe company) enticed people to their meetings with the promise of selling their timeshare, but then were pitched into the “Monster Credits” product.

It also appears that the “Jive Hippo” product is required in order to “Relinquish” then “claim compensation”. Once the contracts are signed, the client is also told there is no “cooling off period” as it does not come under timeshare regulations, there is no right to cancel and the full cost must be paid.

On Thursday we published the breaking news on a Norwegian client of Canarian Legal Alliance receiving a massive payout, involving Anfi, since then there has been more news coming in.

At the High Court in Tenerife, the judge ordered that Regency Resorts returns over £13,000 plus legal interest to another client. The contract was also declared null and void.

The same court in Tenerife has also awarded a client over £53,000 plus legal interest against Silverpoint, with again the contract declared null & void.

In one of the lower courts in Tenerife, the Court of First Instance number 5, declared another Silverpoint contract null & void, as it did not conform to the law which requires specific information to be included. In this case it did not contain information regarding a specific date or apartment. The client will be receiving over £44,000 plus legal interest and the return of legal fees.

So it has been all go in the courts on Tenerife, now on with our Letter from America.

Liberté

Breaking News from America!

Finally a Timeshare Exit Strategy with Promise!

October 27

Introduction by Irene Parker

Anything to help beleaguered timeshare members who no longer want or need their timeshare, spells relief for perpetual timeshare members.

With the launch of TARS TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program, consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare, and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits, according to TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel. “Our program allows legacy owners to safely trade-in their existing traditional timeshare and purchase a limited 5 year term timeshare at their Resort”, Kandel said.

I spoke with TARS Chairman Dennis DiTinno. “Our program is geared toward smaller, deeded fixed week owners, but we hope the brand name resorts will take note and will consider similar exit plans that do not place undue burden on their members or the HOAs.”

Timeshare developers and Attorneys General have focused on shutting down fraudulent resale, transfer and listing scams, rather than attacking the root of the problem. A reasonable exit plan nullifies the ability for such entities to prosper. This multi-page single-spaced Department of Justice reports illustrates the depth of the problem.

https://search.justice.gov/search?affiliate=justice&query=timeshare+report

“Not only can a five year exit plan such as our put such unscrupulous entities out of business, it will ease the burden of debt collection for HOAs,” Mr. DiTinno further explained. “When we presented our exit program at the TBMA Timeshare Board Member Association in Las Vegas last weekend, we were pleased that those in attendance listened and appeared to like what they heard,” he added.

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from 176 readers who describe sometimes catastrophic financial distress unable to be released from their timeshare contract.   

hope1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC EXPANDS SERVICES FOR LEGACY RESORTS AND OWNERS

Timeshare Advisory and Resolution Services LLC (“TARS”) a company dedicated to promoting the interests and rights of long-time timeshare owners, homeowner associations, and consumers contemplating the purchase of timeshare, has announced the launch of unique programs designed to ease the transition of long time owners, out of their “perpetual” timeshare and also attract new consumers, seeking the benefits of timeshare ownership without the burden of increasing maintenance fees or the hassles of resale.

The program also intends to assist legacy resorts in planning for either continued use as a timeshare property or for an alternative use pursuant to an organized repurposing plan.  In addition, TARS announced the acquisition of a significant interest in the company by Liberté Management Group of the Pinellas Islands, Inc. TARS will be operated as a subsidiary of Liberté and will be jointly headquartered in Treasure Island, Florida.

With the launch of TARS new “limited term/unlimited fun” program, consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare, and none of the “cons”, according to TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel. “Our program allows legacy owners to safely trade-in their existing traditional timeshare and purchase a limited 5-year term deeded timeshare at their resort”, Kandel said.  “Legacy owners will continue to be able to enjoy their resort and unit every year of the term, or rent or exchange it as they do in a traditional timeshare. However, they will no longer be billed any maintenance fees during the entire term, which terminates by going back to the resort with no further obligation. There are no worries about resales or fraudulent transfer and exit companies, and the HOA’s have a systematic and controllable, and scalable means to make certain all of their intervals are paying intervals”, Kandel concluded.

Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberte’ Management Group of Companies, will serve as Chairman of TARS and oversee the close interaction between TARS and Liberte’. “As a manager of legacy resorts, I have been committed to working toward a robust resale market to benefit older resorts and their owners, particularly those resorts fighting to remain financially stable and relevant. TARS will help these sold-out resorts find new owners to enjoy their products and services. I am excited to join with Marty and devising innovative ways to fight for and protect the resort associations and owners upon whom the timeshare industry was originally built”, DiTinno said. “I sincerely believe that what we are doing is to provide ‘out of box solutions… in a box’”, DiTinno added.

In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an á la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. TARS will target self-managed resorts, management companies (in those instances where such a company has been previously retained by the HOA), and individuals for whom timeshare has become a burden.

TARS business objective will be to provide new ways to address old problems by enhancing TARS’ original consumer-centric mission (www.tarserv.com) to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program.  Along the way, TARS may more readily assist individual legacy timeshare owners in parting with their timeshare as a part of the overall HOA program.

DiTinno established Liberté Management and related entities in 1987 to address a burgeoning demand for professional, turnkey resort property management along the Florida Gulf Coast, Liberté Management provides a comprehensive array of personalized services for a wide variety of vacation properties. Services include rentals, sales and resale services for timeshares, resort condominiums and hotels.

Clients range from large developers and community associations to individual owners who expect an unparalleled level of quality and commitment. DiTinno served with distinction in Viet Nam as a member of the United States Marine Corps.

Kandel attended University of Baltimore School of Law and Rutgers University and is a member of the State Bar of Maryland. He is a former Maryland Assistant Attorney General and Counsel to that state’s Real Estate Commission and Commissioner of Consumer Credit, and is the primary author of the first Maryland Timeshare Act. Since 1984, Kandel has served as counsel to timeshare developers, lenders, builders, and a variety of other industry related clients, as well as individual consumers and consumer groups.  He has also operated timeshare development and sales and marketing entities in the US, Australia, and Europe, and has served on the Board of Directors of ARDA and ATHOC.

calm

It’s nice to be on the same side of the fence for once! Imagine a world with no Timeshare Wars with members pitted against developers like North Korea and America. There’s no reason we can’t all get along by releasing timeshare members who feel like they are being held hostage by their vacation plan. Charles Thomas and I would like nothing better than to publish articles about people and places doing things right. Thank you to Marty and Dennis for their olive branch, offering a bridge between greed and need.

Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to examine how this revolutionary plan is working out. We hope to interview timeshare owners and HOAs taking advantage of this opportunity. I’ll call my favorite timeshare people, Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.       

So that’s it for this week, two breaking news stories from both sides of the Great Lake, our apologies to Mike Finn for not publishing his article, I’m sure he will understand. We will however be publishing that on Tuesday.

Once again, if you need any information on any company that has contacted you or you are considering dealing with, but are not sure where to look, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

It’s Friday, the weekend is once again upon us, have a good one and we will be back on Monday.

friday dog

 

A Timeshare HOA Collections Agent Shares her Experience

By Irene Parker, March 13, 2017

Hair pull

Inside Timeshare has written many articles about timeshare transfer agents, but not often does a timeshare developer offer insights from their perspective. Kristie works in HOA Collections at a west coast legacy resort. Her job can’t be easy, so we appreciate Kristie taking the time to answer our questions.  

The timeshare resort asked not to be identified. Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman’s response to the interview is posted at the end. We reached out to Timeshare Exit Team but they have not responded.

Irene: We are grateful that you have come forward to offer a developer’s point of view. Tell us your biggest concerns.

Kristie: I am excited to have been asked to offer my thoughts concerning this difficult topic and happy to provide any assistance you may need in the future. The biggest problem we see is that only the seller has to sign the deed. One thing that might help alleviate transfer scams is if both the timeshare owner and the resort representative had to sign to sell and receive property. Year to date I have tracked 85 individuals, representing $352,000 in uncollected dues because of what we consider to be fraudulent activity.

We have been able to address many fraudulent practices by working closely with the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA). Our establishment met CEO Greg Crist at the TBMA Orlando Conference a few years ago. Since then, we have worked together to stop some of the seemingly never ending fraudulent activity. Greg and his team have always provided positive outcomes. I would encourage every timeshare establishment to reach out to NTOA. They are the best in the industry.

Owners pay transfer companies thousands of dollars to be relieved of their timeshare which in the end often does not relieve them. This negatively affects the current dues paying owner with Maintenance Dues increases due to “Viking ships” that have no intention of paying dues. The term Viking Ships refers to Vikings who put their dead on ships and then shipped them out to sea.

We also work with Dave Heine @ requestmyestoppel.com. His program was set up to try to assist timeshare companies in an effort to stop fraudulent transfer activities by having a place for the purchaser & seller to sign as well as the estoppel & account information pages. His program can be built into any resorts policies. This saves all parties time and money.

Real Life Examples

The following article is about a Waunakee Wisconsin businessman who took over unused timeshares for a fee and will have to refund money to owners and return the timeshares to resorts, according to a consent judgment.

Jail

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/state-gets-judgment-against-waunakee-time-share-wholesaler/article_11d2cf8b-f2d9-5cdb-86d3-054e9148e417.html

NTOA works behind the scenes in their effort to stop fraudulent transfers.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

“Most NTOA members are timeshare owners, but twelve HOAs have joined NTOA as non-profit Associate Members. We assist HOA members when an HOA suspects fraudulent activity by working cohesively with the resort under attack while cooperating with and coordinating regulatory and law enforcement agency efforts,” Greg explained.

“Our HOA members agree to abide by NTOA’s Timeshare Owner’s Bill of Rights and Best Practices Agreement. Most if not all legacy resorts, meaning sold out traditional timeshare resorts, fight fraudulent practices on a daily basis. When a deeded timeshare is not properly transferred, the resort must hire a lawyer to resolve “clouded title” issues. This costs a resort from $200 to $2500,” he added.

Our interview continues:

Irene: Question 1 – Have you seen a dramatic increase in owners seeking release or more children and heirs taking over their week?

Kristie: We have seen both. Individuals seek a release because either they don’t want to burden their children or they have stated the kids don’t have the money or the time. Our resort and our owners have matured.  Other reasons for release include age, health, finances or are not able to travel like they used to.

If they do transfer the timeshare to the kids, they have stated it’s because they don’t want to give up the property and because of the wonderful memories. They want to keep the family tradition going.

Question 2 – Have your owners been successful selling their weeks and does your resort maintain a resale department or refer to Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers?

Some of our owners have had great success selling their week and some have had difficulties. Based on feedback, it seems that it is about 50/50, with half selling on their own and half having a licensed resale company sell it.

When a customer calls we strive to give them all the information they need to make an educated decision. We advise customers about the many frauds and guarantees and to stay away from timeshare attorneys. We advise them of the transfer costs and re recording fees and even provide the paperwork they will need.

Question 3 – What are the some of the problems you have encountered when owners seek release through transfer agents?

We see fraud and incorrect deeds being prepared and recorded.  It seems that nine out of ten transfer companies are fraud and when one gets shut down 20 more open up. We have seen timeshares that have been transferred to individuals and companies that keep buying them but then never pay dues.

We have new transfer policies in place for all resale companies. All companies requesting a transfer must provide their company information so we can make sure they are a legitimate company.  We also cross reference addresses and phone numbers and if we find that the customer has chosen a resale company that is not legitimate we immediately advise the customer.

Question 4 – Are you familiar with Resort Release, endorsed by FOX celebrities Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey? If so, what is your opinion?

I am not familiar with Resort Release but I am familiar with radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey and how they have endorsed certain resale companies. Unfortunately they are endorsing the wrong companies giving false information to clients. They both get paid to endorse companies to make it sound good regardless of the outcome. They are in advertising.

Most resale companies promise to get an owner out of their timeshare, but if it’s a deeded property they have to transfer the deed. The resale company might be able to get someone out of a contract, but they can’t get our customers out of a deed. The deed must be transferred to a legitimate party and all of our transfer procedures must be met for a transfer to be valid.

Question 5 – Are you familiar with Timeshare Exit Team? One of their agents contacted me and asked me to review their program. What is your opinion of this firm?

I would never endorse or advise anyone to use their services ever!! They specialize and advertise “Cancellation of Timeshare Contracts” but we don’t have contracts. We have deeds. We have chosen not to do business with Timeshare Exit Team because of their inability to follow our procedures and because of the quality of work previously sent to us.

Timeshare Exit Team has been involved with two other timeshare resale companies and/or timeshare attorneys that were involved with transferring 18 of our deeds since 2014 to four individuals that have never paid the dues and are delinquent in the amount of over $18,000. Out of the four individuals we were able to track, we learned that they are all associated with each other thru business dealings, contract employees or registered agents. They must assume that the association will eventually foreclose or take the property back but it is very costly to foreclose and we do not accept property back. It seems as long as they get their money they will make an effort, but if it doesn’t work out in their favor they just transfer the deed to anyone without making sure of whom they are selling it to.

Our newest issue is with the US Consumer Attorneys. They also specialize in Timeshare contract cancellations. They have transferred deeds to the same individuals as stated above that have never paid, and seem affiliated with timeshare Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman.

We were never notified of the transfers and none of the procedures were followed. This seems to be a repeat of the Timeshare Exit Team accounts all over again. We would be happy to work with any timeshare resale company as long as the procedures were followed.

Question 6 – When you deny someone a release, and they foreclose, with no loan, do you or the collection agency file a lien or report this to credit reporting agencies?

The account is considered delinquent 30 days after the due date. We send a few letters before filing a lien on the property. Once the lien is recorded and the customer has received the final notice we send the account to a 3rd party collection agency. They will report the account to the credit bureau. They work the account and report it negatively for a year. After the year we pull the account out of collections and evaluate the account for litigation.

Question 7 – Are there any transfer agencies you feel are appropriate for owners denied surrenders or are they better seeking help from a timeshare attorney?

We refer our clients to a company called The Timeshare Guys @ 877-987-4897. This is a legitimate resale company that we use all the time.

http://www.timeshareguys.com/

We never refer our clients to a timeshare attorney. Everyone we have dealt with has taken money from our owners and not been able to perform the work they promised they would do. The timeshare attorneys send us letters telling us that their clients will no longer pay the dues and we need to transfer the deed back to the association. That is not our policy and unfortunately our customer paid thousands for something an attorney cannot do. In this situation we refer our customer to the Secretary of State, or State Bar Association to file complaints to try to get their money back.

Question 8 – If an owner is denied a release, how likely is it a transfer agent will be able to release the owner, as some transfer agents guarantee a release and others offer money back guarantees? Is there such a thing as a guaranteed transfer agent?

If our owner is denied a release, a transfer agent will certainly not be able to get the owner released. If they offer a guarantee and money back they are only deceiving the customer. The board members are the only ones that have the authority to release a client and there are policies that must be followed for that to happen and it does not happen often.

Question 9 – What do you charge an owner for a one week deed-back if your resort accepts the transfer?

Usually we charge two times the amount of the dues plus hard costs.  Each owner’s request is reviewed by the board and our owner’s situation is taken into consideration. The board will never agree to transfer the deed just because the owner is tired of paying. This is deeded property like a home and is treated as such.   

Question 10 – Are transfer agents necessary? If an owner is denied a release, ads say the owner can get released through a transfer agent. The deed goes back to the developer anyway and the owner can be charged $5000 or more.

Our association would rather deal directly with our owners to avoid the transfer agent fee but it seems the customer reaches out to transfer agent first. If the transfer agents were legitimate they would be helpful because they can prepare & file any paperwork.

Question 11 – Are there any other specific company names you can provide that timeshare owners should watch out for?

 

Kristie: There are so many timeshare resale companies that just pop-up and think they know what to do. I am not sure how they get lists of owners but they get the names and prey like wolves on consumers. Some of companies we have had the most problems with and would advise owner to stay away from are: Tek Solutions, Vacation Ventures, Resort Access, Tanya’s Timeshare, Superhealth Technologies, Sunshine Groves, Sunshine Clearing, Starla Missions, and Fireside Registry, just to name a few. Then we have the deliberate scams that timeshare attorneys and resale companies transfer to – individuals that never pay and never notify us. We usually find out about things like that when the customer gets the bill or we stumble upon it in the recorder’s office.

Irene: Thank you Kristie for answering my questions. It sounds like the popular timeshare slogan “Vacation Planning Simplified” does not apply to vacation un-planning. I learned a lot from Kristie’s answers. It will take some time to digest. Inside Timeshare will continue to unravel the mysteries of our timeshare world.

think box

Mr. Sussman responded as follows:

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit.

Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset, the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

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

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

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

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

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

The views expressed in this article are the views of the interviewee. Timeshare transfer agents and the problems resulting from fraudulent transfers – as evidenced by the Department of Justice timeshare scam report linked in our article below – is a subject Inside Timeshare will be closely following.

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

 

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Kristie for her time and insight, it gives owners / members more information on this mysterious world called timeshare. Also a big thank you to Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman, his views on owners being able to hand back without the need of an attorney will, we believe, be welcomed by many on both sides of the pond.

 

We welcome your comments and stories, contact Inside Timeshare if you have something you would like to share. It you the reader who provides the information which will help others.

 

Chicken Soup for Timeshare´s Soul!

Chicken soup is used as a remedy whenever anyone is ill, I remember as a kid if I was under the weather mum or gran would ensure I had a bowl of hot chicken soup. Whether it did any medical good is not clear, but it did make me feel better.

The chicken soup for timeshare is a cacophony of abbreviated names, which many of us cannot work out what they stand for. I will not go for the ones on mainland Europe, for one simple reason, I don’t speak the myriad of languages we have. So here are the ones we have in the UK if you have a timeshare or consumer problem.

Firstly the timeshare ones: we have the RDO, Resorts Development Organisation, this is the trade body for the industry and represents only the industry not the consumer.

TATOC, The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees, this is supposed to represent you the owners, but as we know they are funded by the industry for the industry. Also they are in deep trouble as we saw in yesterday’s article.

Non timeshare organisations:

BIS, Business Innovation and Skills, this is a government department, in the past they are the ones who closed down several “dodgy” holiday clubs.

They also work very closely with TS, this is Trading Standards. Each county council has their own trading standards office, again they have been instrumental in closing down rogue companies.

CAB, this is the Citizens Advice Bureaux, this is an agency run mainly by volunteers who offer advice and information on a variety of subjects. Unfortunately when it comes to timeshare they will refer you to TATOC.

FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority, they deal with anything within the finance world, it is they who lay down the regulations for how businesses such as debt collecting agencies operate.

FOS, The Financial Ombudsman Service,this is a government body who is the last resort in any dispute on financial matters. For instance problems with loan agreement, credit card refunds, including complaints against debt collecting agencies.

There are plenty more but my soup pot is only small, so I cannot fit anymore in, Irene in the her article today explains the numerous ones in the US, this will be of specific interest to those in Europe who have bought in the US. You also have the right to lodge complaints there, even if you live in Europe.

 

A Survey of Administrative Remedies for the Timeshare Owner

Original by Attorney Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/surveying-administrative-remedies-for-timeshare-consumers-seeking-relief

Peasant Version: An Alphabet Soup of Regulators

Who are they? How can AGs, CFPB, FTC, or the BBB Help Us?

By Irene Parker – February 6, 2017

Board meet

Many timeshare owners have little or no understanding as to how to go about fostering change when business practices have degenerated to the point such practices become harmful to consumers. This article takes some of the mystery out of governmental and nongovernmental agencies offering a blueprint for consumers to follow.

Given recent actions taken by such agencies, and in light of today’s timeshare climate, we look at what’s happening and examine where we can go from here.

The Manhattan ClubNY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halts sales.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-court-order-barring-sales-manhattan-club-timeshare-hotel

Arizona Attorney General $800000 Diamond Resort Settlement and AOD

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

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia CoffmanHighland Resorts and Sedona Pines

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery IIIFestiva $3 million settlement

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Diamond Resorts Billion dollar lawsuitAlbright Stoddard Warnick & Albright

http://insidetimeshare.com/1billion-law-suit-diamond-resorts-international/

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Westgate investigation

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.bqeQAdL7#.whk6BDr5

$20 Million Wyndham Whistleblower award to Trish Williams

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Three former Hyatt sales agents: Whistleblower lawsuit.

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

Clearly, timeshare needs to change, so I reached out to timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group in an effort to understand how regulatory agencies work. Mr. Finn describes his writing style as “lawyerly”.  In order for me to understand an article found on the Finn Law Group “Learning Center”, I have to rewrite it. This serves as some source of consternation to Mr. Finn, but he on occasion graciously allows me to redact one of his papers so that my fellow peasants can understand the topic.

First: The Federal Trade Commission FTC

The Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914 to prevent unfair and deceptive acts or practices. The FTC does not resolve individual complaints, but provides information about the next steps a consumer may take to resolve an issue.

The FTC looks at fact patterns in an industry. Several (the key word is always several) complaints may indicate a pattern of fraud and abuse which may lead the FTC to investigate and eliminate those unfair practices.

We begin with the FTC, because many states have enacted a portion of this federal act into state law.

profit loss

The Timeshare Cycle

If a consumer encounters a rogue sales agent in the timeshare industry, the experience can be described as a vicious cycle or circle that begins with the oral representation clause used and abused by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. Consumer complaints beginning with “the salesman said” are sadly told the timeshare developer is protected by the oral representation clause.

In some cases, as in the case of Ralph Marble, maintenance fees escalate so fast the timeshare owner can no longer afford the fee. Mr. Marble was never able to use his vacation plan because of being diagnosed with a medical condition shortly after purchase. His maintenance fees increased from $200 to $684 over eight years.

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Voluntary Surrenders are on a case by case basis. If a timeshare owner is denied a voluntary surrender, they are often driven into the nets of timeshare “listing” or transfer agents. Some transfer agents are bogus which means the owner thinks they have unloaded their timeshare but have not. If the transfer agent is “legitimate”, the surrendered contracts are bundled 50 to 100 contracts and sold back to the timeshare developer, who in turn resells for full price. Thus the circle is complete.

After a four to seven hour timeshare sales presentation, the beleaguered buyer is poorly equipped to read the mile high stack of documents they are about to sign.

man list

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is one of the newest government agencies created in July 2010 partly in response to the mortgage crisis in the late 2000s. The goal of the CFPB is to watch out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. The timeshare industry utilizes various financing tools in its sales practices and presentations.

The CFPB told me consumers should choose the mortgage option when filing a timeshare complaint, even if there is no mortgage. Timeshare is somewhat new to the CFPB. If the owner does not want to file a formal complaint, there is an option to “Tell Your Story”. I tell the CFPB stories almost every week.

The CFPB does publish the subject and data of the complaint, feeding its Consumer Complaint Database. Most importantly, the CFPB will report to Congress with the purpose of enforcing federal consumer financial laws and writing better rules and regulations.

As more credit card transactions involving timeshare purchases are generated, the credit card financing aspect should not be overlooked for consumers seeking a monetary resolution to their timeshare purchase issues, assuming a credit card was utilized. Diamond Resorts offers a six month 0% interest rate “Barclaycard” offer if the credit card is used to purchase a timeshare. More and more timeshare developers are acting as new credit card originators for third party financial provides such as Bill Me Later (a division of PayPal) Barclay Bank, Bank of America, and a couple of credit unions.

Unlike other regulatory agencies, companies must reply to the CFPB’s complaints or inquiries. Consumers should file their complaints with the CFPB, but expect only a modest resolution and an opportunity to be heard. However, the more complaints the CFPB receives regarding a company, practice, or industry – the more likely those complaints will be presented to Congress. Congress has the power to create new rules and regulations that can improve the market for consumers when Congress reviews and enacts new laws.

Attorneys General or State’s Attorney

An Attorney General (AG) is a publicly elected position. Every state in the US has one. The AG is charged as the chief legal officer for their respective state. The AG’s Office proclaims to protect “timeshare owners by investigating business practices” relating to the sale and resale of timeshare interests.

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division has the civil enforcement authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division is additionally responsible for the enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act,(“RICO”), which punishes businesses and “enterprises” conducting patterns of illegal activities within a state.

Notably, the AG by law cannot represent private citizens in legal disputes. When a complaint is filed by a consumer, and the AG investigates the alleged misconduct, the AG does not represent the consumer on an individualized basis, but rather the interest of consumers in their state as a whole.

As in the case of the $800000 settlement the Arizona AG reached with Diamond Resorts, if the Division investigates and is successful in prosecuting or settling the action, there is a potential for recovery.

Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) state regulatory agency – Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”)

Florida is a timeshare mecca center. The DBPR is an extension of the executive branch of the Governor, and is charged with licensing and regulating all businesses and professionals within the state. The DBPR subdivision relating to timeshares is known as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes (“Timeshares Division”). The Florida Timeshares Division licenses and regulates timeshares through education, complaint resolution, mediation and arbitration, and developer disclosure.

The Office of the General Counsel (“OGC”) of this division represents the interests of Florida residents and does not represent individual complainants. In most cases the Department, even with successful prosecution, does not typically recover money that a consumer has lost. Many consumers rightfully wonder what the likelihood of success would be if they take the time to file a complaint.

Statistically speaking, from April, 2014 through April, 2016, the Florida Timeshares Division received 2,360 complaints. Of those complaints, only 110 resulted in action by the Florida Timeshare Division – less than 5%!

The Better Business Bureau BBB

The Better Business Bureau is not a regulatory agency. It is a nongovernmental nonprofit that serves to promote a community of business that consumers can trust. The BBB does not solve consumer disputes. Success is not based on the outcome, but whether the business responded or not.

The BBB rating rates only how cooperative and responsive a business will be to consumer issues.

National Timeshare Owners Association

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

The National Timeshare Owners Association is a social purpose organization dedicated to educating, advocating and protecting ownership interests. For nearly 20 years, the NTOA has worked to ensure owners have access to resources available to them. As the oldest and largest member based association, NTOA works closely with other industry associations and stakeholders such as CRDA, TBMA, TATOC, CARE and FTOG. NTOA’s extended relationships include 12 domestic and international developers, HOA‘s and management companies. The NTOA seeks to find solutions to some of the industry’s most complex issues.

Summary and Conclusion

What avenues, if any, exist for the unwary consumer who gets pressured into purchasing a $25,000 to $100,000 or more timeshare interest with credit at a 14% to 19% annual interest rate accompanied by a lifetime and beyond maintenance fee obligation? A thriving resale scam industry exists due to the limited and sometimes nonexistent secondary market.  

It’s not until long after the contract is signed, or if the family experiences a life crisis, they learn that the purchase contract often contains no way out. In all likelihood, the perpetual contract was signed in a same day sale, after a sales presentation that lasted for hours. The elderly are targeted, according to several lawsuit allegations.

success

Given recent regulatory decisions and legal actions, a highway of hope is under construction.  

GET INVOLVED!

To perhaps state the obvious, the timeshare industry is a well-organized and wealthy industry that has the ability to lobby for favorable laws and treatment.  Contrast this with the average consumer who is economically stretching to afford a $25,000 timeshare interest.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to learn more about organized efforts to reform an industry badly in need of reform. Thank you to timeshare companies working towards a safer and owner friendly timeshare industry.

We would like to thank all contributors to this article especially Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group.

Inside Timeshare is here to bring you the latest news on what is happening in the world of timeshare, at present we are very much focused on Europe and the US. We are however working on collaborating with writers in Australia, this will bring you the news on a worldwide scale. We would also like to hear from any owners in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can contact Inside Timeshare through our comments section or email direct to [email protected]

We look forward to hearing from you.

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More from across the Pond: Information from the NTOA.

Gregory Crist the CEO of the NTOA (National Timeshare Owners Association), will be making a presentation at the TBMA (Timeshare Board Members Association) in Tucson AZ, on 16 to 18 October.

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The presentation will be about Combating Fraud in the Changing Timeshare Environment, this is an area which affects timeshare owners worldwide, from dubious resale companies to false claims and law firms. In the USA there is a very severe problem of as he puts it “bad actors” who are taking advantage of owners and severely damaging the reputation of the entire secondary market (resale).

 

He states that these fraudulent companies who operate what is commonly called the “Viking Ship” programme, cause considerable harm to owners and resort associations alike. Regulators have been attempting to close down fraudulent transfer and resale companies who use unfair and deceptive trade practises, but Greg believes there is a great need for owner education and consumer protection.

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On another matter, Greg also informed Inside Timeshare of a Senator who managed to block a bill which would have restricted owners access to HOA (Home Owners Association) rosters. These are the list of all members who own timeshare and are members of the association.

 

The bill would have made it impossible for the HOA to be able to communicate with other members, which would have had a considerable effect on informing them of board policies and HOA issues.

 

The bill was sponsored by ARDA (American Resort Development Association), and was a means of protecting owner confidentiality. In other words stopping a legitimate use of these lists thereby controlling any form of owners coming together for the common good.

 

According to ARDA this bill was to protect owners from predatory rogue transfer and resale companies. It transpires that ARDA did not even show any evidence that these rosters had ever been sold or misused.

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Again this is a blatant abuse by the industry to prevent any dissemination of information which would be of use to owners. This is not just a problem in the US, we also have the same problem in Europe, whereby information is hidden or denied. Only recently we have found that one resort, Anfi, is contacting owners and denying any buyout of the Lyng family shares by IFA Lopesan and also denying any legal action being taken against them. All this even though it has been widely circulated in the European press. (Search Anfi for previous posts).

 

For the full articles see the PDF below.

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Once again a very big thank you to Greg and Irene for all the information they pass on, it is through collaboration that we all can find out what is going on. Without this we will be kept in the dark, it also helps to see what “scams” and other “schemes” may just be lying in wait, after all what happens here may happen there next year and vise versa.