Browse Tag

Timeshare Advocacy Group

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

Tide-Is-Turning-300x251

The Tuesday Slot with Irene, Plus some news about Butlins.

In this Tuesday’s article by Irene Parker, she explains how timeshare members fight back, this is a rather timely piece as we have recently received some disturbing news. It would appear that not is all well at Butlins.

In previous articles we praised Butlins Blueskies timeshare as one that was sold correctly and seemed to have very few complaints from members. That had now changed, Butlins is ending Blueskies.

blueskies

According to some of the posts on the Blueskies, Butlins, members facebook page, members are not happy about losing their timeshares. They were told that if they did not accept the offer to terminate the club, then their maintenance fees would rise significantly.

According to some of the posts on the facebook page, Butlins have also been hiring out apartments to non members, which goes against what they were sold. One member posted the following:

“Blueskies was sold to most of us as an exclusive club, it was not to be hired out. Therefore Butlins Blueskies broke the contract with us as members when they started hiring apartments out without asking/informing us the members.”

It also looks like there are many complaints about the standards of the apartments and the service, that everything seems to have gone down hill. Repairs not being carried out, with comments on damaged floor tiles and windows.

But the vast majority of the comments surrounded the vote, which gone in Butlins favour and the club is to be wound up. It also appears that the vote was done on points, rather than just votes, the more points, the more votes. Which makes the vote in Butlins favour not surprising, as they will own the points not sold. We have seen this before at other timeshare resorts, where the vote has gone in favour of the developer or management company.

Many members are calling to band together and take legal action, as they feel they have been cheated. It is a sad day when a company like Butlins, which did have a relatively good reputation in the timeshare industry suddenly falls from grace. We wish the members all the best in their fight to right a wrong.

Follow the link to the Blueskies Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Blueskies%2C%20Butlins%2C%20members

Now on with Irene’s article.

Lions and Cats

How Timeshare Members Fight Back

Lion

By Irene Parker

October 17, 2017

A timeshare insider recently asked me, “Why is Timeshare Advocacy Group™ so successful?”  “How do you do it?”

Most timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare and timeshare advocacy Facebook pages are confused, angry, and overwhelmed. Members face a battle pleading with a timeshare company, demanding a refund or loan be cancelled, knowing they may be forced into foreclosure if they are denied. If the member feels they were sold or up-sold by deceit, the conflict is magnified. The automatic denial from the resort leads to more anger and frustration as rebuttals ensue. We take pride in the number of members we have steered away from fraudulent transfer companies charging hefty amounts for so called guaranteed exits.

The predator turned prey

Something clicks inside a person when they have had enough, be it a victim of domestic abuse, child abuse, or predatory timeshare sales. Our goal is to turn the sound of the caller’s scared and desperate voice into a confident voice by providing the member with the resources needed to take action and advocate.

Three of Timeshare Advocacy Group’s leaders

3 trees

Irene “Irina” Allen is our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ administrator

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

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

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

Eron Grant is an educator who has volunteered to be our “go to” person analyzing ARDA’s Code of Ethics. After a member submits a report to us, Eron identifies how a timeshare developer has violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics. The report is forwarded to ARDA’s General Counsel and Lobbyist. So far there has been no response. We feel if an organization says they have a Code of Ethics, the Code should be enforced. Here is how Eron describes how ARDA’s Code of Ethics was violated in the case of her family. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association. The code can be found in Eron’s article.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Advocacy groups have been encouraging timeshare members not to make a voluntary donation to ARDA ROC, feeling the $4 to $5 million a year raised is used to lobby against timeshare owners when an issue is at odds with developer interest. It’s doubtful most owners know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.

“Owners donated $5.5 million this year, through voluntary contributions on their maintenance fees, to support ARDA-ROC, the independent Resort Owners’ Coalition that teams up with ARDA on consumer and legal issues that impact owners. The top two givers were owners at Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen Vacations, each of whom contributed $1 million for ARDA’s representation.” RedWeek April, 2017

According to Dr. Amy Gregory, University of Central Florida, who presented at an ARDA World Conference,

“A whopping 85 percent of all buyers regret their (timeshare) purchase (for money, fear, confusion, intimidation, distrust and other reasons). Forty-one percent of buyers never thought they would regret their purchase, but they did; another 30 percent were neutral prior to buying, but then regretted it.”

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-world-timeshare-owners

ARDA worked to pass legislation in Florida making it more difficult for timeshare members to be released from contracts due to non material errors. A high percentage of buyer’s remorse, coupled with a perpetual contract, little or no exit, and rising maintenance fees have left frustrated timeshare members no place to turn in an industry that is virtually unregulated. Lawmakers, influenced by lobby dollars, turn a deaf ear. Advocacy groups were outraged by the Florida bill.

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

Karen Garello

Karen Garello is our Secret Shopper coordinator. Karen is one of several members who allege they did not know, until they returned home, a credit card had been used to purchase a timeshare product. Marsha Young also was unaware she had been charged for the same timeshare product, but Marsha received her money back, told the person who sold it to her had been fired. The resort said he had been the top selling agent of this particular product.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Inside Timeshare and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ developed a step-by-step plan a member can follow if a resort offers no assistance. Through regulatory filings and media outreach members are helping other members while also contributing to timeshare reform. Other advocates, working behind the scenes, focus on legislative actions. Time, patience and diligence are necessary.

Many of the members reaching out to us have health issues. Out of 166 complaints received, diagnoses include cancer, dementia, concussion, kidney disease, Bell’s palsy, financial loss caused by loss of employment or divorce, and grief over the loss of a spouse or loved one. Developer attorneys say hardship is not a legal defense.

Many life events cannot be foreseen, so consumers thinking about buying a timeshare need to think about whether it is prudent to buy anything for $25,000 to over $500,000 that does not have a secondary market, is perpetual, and is accompanied by rising maintenance fees. Some timeshares have a limited secondary market. Members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can give you an idea of what your timeshare may be worth on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints (157 out of 166) by timeshare members alleging they were deceived on the front end of the timeshare sale. We are learning there are many ways to dodge the rescission period.

Timeshare member Tammy Arkley only realized this happened to her because she was able to access the booking site because her friend was already a member at a higher loyalty level. Tammy said she was told she would need fewer points to book stays if she upgraded to the next loyalty level, but when she went back to her room and logged onto her friend’s account, already at that loyalty level, she saw the reservation took the same exact number of points. She received her money back, but what did this experience do to change the image she had of this company?

In other words, there are some promises and claims that cannot be discovered until the buyer has access to the booking site, long after the cancellation period.

Similarly, others have been told they would need to wait six months before selling points after upgrading to the next loyalty level. By placing a six month wait on the false claim, the complaint is old when reported. Too many of our readers are highly educated professionals and were not alone when they attended the presentation. There are so many almost identical complaints – we can sometimes guess the name of the sales agent.

Timeshare members have had enough. Social Media now allows timeshare members to contact other members to find out they are not alone. Members include professionals offering their skills to help other members. We are hoping one day, if the timeshare companies themselves will not acknowledge the problems, lawmakers will pay attention.

My husband Don, and first read editor, asked me as I was writing this article, “Why does Disney have so few complaints?” Disney, I said, is a company backed by generations of little critters enmeshed in a corporate culture and brand that will not allow deceit but does allow a secondary market. It does not seem to have hurt their bottom line. Zacks estimates a year over year growth estimate of 11.27% forecasted for 9/20/2018 with an impressive 1.66% allowance for doubtful receivables 10/1/2016.

https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/DIS/detailed-estimates

Walt Disney Co.’s allowance as a percentage of current receivables, gross declined from 2014 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016.

 https://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Walt-Disney-Co/Financial-Reporting-Quality

Bad-Debts

Contact Inside Timeshare to share your news and views or one of the available self-help groups. Our success is not measured in dollars. While many have received resolution or refunds, relinquishments, or loan cancellations, others brace for foreclosure. It’s about the “3Rs or F of Timeshare” – getting a bad decision in the rear view mirror supported by other members who care and bring their expertise from all walks of life into our Timeshare Advocacy Group™.

create

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

We now share some more news from the courts in Spain, the High Court in Tenerife yesterday announced another crippling verdict against Silverpoint. The judge has declared another client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £40,000 plus legal interests. Once again the courts are finding in favour of clients as per the rulings of the Supreme Court.

So no matter what the industry claims, they are losing the battle, consumers are protected by the law, at least as far as timeshares sold in Spain are concerned. It now needs the rest of Europe to follow suit, giving the protection that the EU Timeshare Directives promised. The industry must acknowledge the fact that they have for too long run roughshod over consumers in their quest for easy money.

 

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America on Thursday, yes that is correct, we are publishing a day early as we are travelling to the US on Friday.

Inside Timeshare is visiting our American colleagues, with Irene and Don meeting me at Orlando airport, while there we have arranged to meet with several attorneys including America’s very own Timeshare Crusader Lisa Ann SchreierWe will also be meeting many other people and hopefully having a few cold beers.

beer

Inside Timeshare is also pleased to announce a new collaboration, for sometime CLA International based in Dubai, has been getting their website up and running. They have been following the articles published on Inside Timeshare and have asked if we would run their news section.

They wanted an independent voice rather than their own take on things, Inside Timeshare has agreed to supply those articles, so many of the articles regarding international timeshare news we publish will be posted on their website. These will be from the many contributors who are now writing for Inside Timeshare. We also hope to add more from the following areas:

India (Goa), Thailand and the surrounding Asian area, Australia, Mexico, Central and South America, we welcome any contributor who would like to publish their experiences, news and views on the world of timeshare. You can contact us via our contact page or direct to admin@insidetimeshare.com

contribute

Update from Europe

Once again, Inside Timeshare has heard from another reader who found our articles on the Litigious Abogados family, namely Amador Galeca Abogados.

The reader had a call regarding their timeshare at Royal Sunset Beach, with the name Andrew Cooper again being named as the director being taken to court with all his personal property and assets being seized. For a sum of just under 1000€ they could be part of the case.

The reader then made a bank transfer, but then decided to check out the name Andrew Cooper, finding our previous article. When the reader contacted us we explained how the scam operates, they immediately informed their bank and the bank is now trying to stop the transaction.

The reader explained that when her husband became too ill to travel Royal Sunset actually took back the timeshare, so they no longer owned. Because of this there would not be any basis for a claim in any court.

This story just goes to show once again, before you pay any money, check who you are dealing with. Hopefully the readers bank was informed in time to stop the money being transferred.

stop think proceed

We started the week with verdict from the courts against Palm Oasis (Tasolan), the following day the Supreme Court ruled on another case against Silverpoint in Tenerife, that made 64 rulings from this court on timeshare. In this case the court again declared the contract null and void, awarding over £99,000 plus a double deposit of £6,082 including legal fees and legal interest.

Then yesterday Wednesday 4 October the High Court in Tenerife ruled once again against Silverpoint and awarded over 67,000€ plus legal fees and interest to the client. This was then followed by the news the Supreme Court had just issued another sentence against Silverpoint, bringing the total number of cases won at this court by Canarian Legal Alliance to 65.

Now on with Irene’s article where she recounts our first meeting and her visit and interview with Canarian Legal Alliance. We have certainly moved on since that first meeting.

Canarian Legal Alliance and Inside Timeshare

The meeting of minds

Irene with CLA
Irene Meeting with CLA Staff Sept 2016

By Irene Parker

October 5, 2017

We are judged by the company we keep, so shortly after submitting my first article to Inside Timeshare my husband and I flew to Gran Canaria, Canary Islands to meet Charles Thomas and his Canarian Legal Alliance friends. It was not an easy trip since we boarded the wrong plane in Madrid and ended up in AMSTERDAM!

We stayed at Diamond Resorts Cala Blanca resort on Mogan. A Diamond sales agent in the US actually introduced me to Charles by sending me one of his articles. The staff at Cala Blanca could not have been nicer. I talked quite a while with the manager as he was the head of a resort employee union of sorts advocating on behalf of refugees he felt were being treated unfairly at a resort on the other side of the bay. One of the sales agents working at Cala Blanca and a friend of Charles is one of my Facebook friends.

In today’s timeshare world you can’t be too careful. Attorneys come in all ethical shapes and sizes. In addition to meeting Charles, I was able to meet with the CLA office manager Csilla, named business person of the year for Gran Canaria, several intake workers showing sincere compassion as they listened to timeshare accounts over the phone, and a few CLA lawyers. Since this July 2016 video clip CLA has achieved several more victories for EU timeshare clients – 65 Supreme Court victories to be exact as of October 4, 2017. Watching this video for the first time, I remember thinking if Cristina ever decides she doesn’t like law, she could find a job in the motion picture industry.

http://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/cla-latest-updates-video/

Timeshare today seems to have lost all sense of direction. True, we hear primarily from the disgruntled, but developer lawsuits flying back and forth between timeshare developers and transfer agents has left many timeshare members in a state of confusion. Who do you trust?

I trust CLA and am honored to have been asked to have my Inside Timeshare articles featured on the new CLA International website with Charles webmaster of the news tab. Our Diamond Resorts member sponsored Advocacy Facebook administrator and Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and Australian Contributor Justin Morgan submitted their comments for this article about the Apollo Global Management buyout of Diamond Resorts.

http://clainternational.ae/2017/09/28/who-is-apollo-what-is-apollo-two-diamond-member-consumer-advocates-offer-their-opinion/

Timeshare members need help. It has been widely reported many aging baby boomers (like me) are desperate to be released from timeshare. Some timeshare companies have launched surrender programs, like Wyndham’s Ovation program, but the vast majority of members contacting Inside Timeshare succumbed to high interest rate loans and credit cards. Thus, they are not eligible for voluntary surrender programs. Often they are forced into foreclosure. The problem is exacerbated when the member alleges they were deceived into buying a timeshare or upgraded for maintenance fees relief or buy-back programs that do not exist. Out of 157 complaints received (as of October 4), 143 allege deceit on the front end of the sale. The others can’t afford rising maintenance fees.

From our humble beginnings, as more members started helping other members, we called ourselves Timeshare Advocacy Group™ as members turned anger and disbelief into action and advocacy. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ started as an afterthought. A former timeshare sales agent contacted me and said they wanted to do a press release in Arizona. We needed a place where readers could respond.

Irina Allen stepped up to the plate. She is our Facebook page administrator.

admin lady new

Irina (Irene) Allen purchased over $500,000 worth of timeshare points to share with family, friends and clients. On the advice of a sales agent, Irene opened a RedWeek account and posted one ad to rent some of her points. She gave up this idea after she never got paid for the rental. Rentals are not allowed, according to company rules, but there are hundreds of rental ads anyway. She also was accused of opening an Airbnb account. Irene says she has never had an Airbnb account. She was expected to pay $2,400 per month in mortgage payments and $29,000 in maintenance fees for a year while her account was suspended. Resorts are exempt from the rule for promotional purposes. Thus, the resort was able to rent out Irene’s points at Irene’s expense.

At Timeshare Advocacy Group™ members also help members with regulatory filings and media outreach. We have Wyndham, Bluegreen and Diamond members working alongside former Hyatt, Westgate, and Diamond timeshare sales agents in an effort to reform an industry badly in need of reform. In addition to timeshare members, other Advocates, like blogger Lisa Ann Schreier, lend their support. Lisa Ann and Charles are both former timeshare sales agents.

In America, it’s not easy these days for opposing sides to talk to each other, but every once in awhile there is a glance of a Republican sticking their toe over to the Democratic side of the aisle. It is our hope there will be a day when developers will take the time to listen to what critics have to say instead of only focusing on ambulance chasing unscrupulous transfer and listing agents. It is my belief, until the deception on the front end of the timeshare sale is acknowledged and addressed, the court of public opinion is the only court open for the beleaguered and often financially devastated timeshare member learning their contract is perpetual and the secondary market limited at best. For some timeshare companies, there is no secondary market. What other investment or product exists that holds the buyer of a product hostage?

Charles Irene

Charles is winging his way to America tomorrow, so let us know if you will be in the Orlando area October 8 – 12. Or, let Charles know the next times you happen to be on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

I am a former stockbroker and financial planner. After I retired from the brokerage business, I became a CASA Supervisor, writing court reports for Family Court on behalf of children in foster care. I have always had a problem turning my back on anyone who considers themselves a victim. There are many ways to volunteer time in retirement. Join us in our efforts to enhance timeshare accountability and transparency.

http://insidetimeshare.com/what-a-volunteer-does-for-nothing/

globe

That’s it for this week, tomorrow will be a long day as it is Gran Canaria, Madrid, Miami then to Orlando. I know Irene and Don have set aside a couple of days to show me some of the sights, so it will not be all work and no play!

We will however be trying to publish some articles while over there, so keep an eye on these pages.

Have a great weekend

cartoon-airplane

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday! Time for another Letter from America, this week one of our advocates writes an open letter to an industry advocate, Irene Parker provides the introduction, but first some news from Europe.

Those nefarious fake lawyers from Tenerife are at it again with another new twist to secure your money. This time it is from Armando Gareca Abogados, one of the new names in the Litigious Abogados family, thank goodness this reader decided to search the web before paying any money and found our articles.

armando-gareca-abogados-logo-1

This particular reader was contacted by Armando Gareca and informed that a case had been lodged with the court against their timeshare resort, not bad considering the courts are closed in August. They were informed they could become part of this case and once they paid the Procurator fees of 1,012€ the case would proceed. It all sounded very good, they were told how much they would be getting back and when they would receive it. Obviously this law firm has a crystal ball and can tell the future!

As we said the courts are closed in August, but also they have expanded their jurisdiction, the Spanish courts and these so-called Spanish lawyers now have the power to take a Greek resort to court in Spain. Not only that Spanish law is applying to a purchase made in Greece!

So just to recap, if you purchased your timeshare in Spain or any of its territories, then Spanish law will apply, if you purchased in the UK, Malta, Portugal, Greece or anywhere else in the world, then Spanish law will not apply. Also it takes at least 12 to 18 months to get a case to court, there are some lengthy procedures to go through before it gets to trial, so the promises of this particular group that the case is being heard within weeks are false.

We have also had some enquiries regarding finance for timeshare purchases arranged by the sales staff, many of these are with Barclays Partner Finance or Hitachi. Some of our readers who have been contacted by various claims companies are told that once they sign up for legal action, they will have the loan stopped and the interest repaid.

This is a false claim, the timeshare resort acted as a broker for the finance, your agreement and contract is a personal one with the finance company and nothing to do with who sold you the timeshare. If you are taking legal action against your timeshare company, the loan is a separate issue, which can only be dealt with after a successful outcome against your resort. By stopping any payments to the finance company you are then leaving yourself open to legal action by debt collectors and subsequently receiving a CCJ, or County Court Judgement. This will have a devastating effect on your ability to get any credit, even being able to get a mortgage.

So beware of many claims, these people will play on your emotions, make promises that are not there, it pays to to check and double check. Do your homework!

homework

Now we move on to this week’s Letter from America.

An Advocate’s Open Letter to an Industry Advocate

greed1

By an Advocate

Introduction by Irene Parker

August 25, 2017

The following is a letter submitted to Inside Timeshare written to a timeshare industry proponent by one of our Timeshare Advocates. The letter is in response to an article the author wrote posing the question as to whether the timeshare industry needs to look in a new direction.

The letter writer asked that he not be identified and that the title of the article not be mentioned as this was a personal letter written to the author. One thing sorely lacking is dialogue between critics and proponents of the right to use timeshare product which can be financially devastating for a family when the resort denies their release and when no secondary market exists.

Following the article I have offered comments agreeing and disagreeing with both the author of the article and the letter writer. We encourage others to weigh in.

Thank you to our Advocate reaching out to the industry. We hope he receives an answer.

QA

In your article you state, “Timeshare is definitely not a real estate investment and apart from the occasional overzealous sales associate, timeshare companies long ago stopped pitching it as such an investment.”  While I agree with your assessment that it is not an investment, I must ask, are you saying timeshares are not real estate or are not an investment?  I also read other timeshare articles you wrote. You are knowledgeable, but I believe you missed some of the key issues a potential buyer of the product needs to understand. You are not the only financial timeshare writer glossing over two important issues:

  • Timeshares have no viable secondary market,
  • The timeshare product has evolved to no interest in real property.

Consider the potential impact on the industry, or better stated, why the issues have not yet impacted the industry.

You rightly state in your article, timeshares are overpriced and there is no appreciated value in the real estate. I wish you had made it clear, that once purchased, a timeshare has no value. You must be aware of the fact that there is no viable secondary market. With little data available (the industry controls it), I find the “sale” of most timeshares on the secondary market require the seller to bring money to the transaction. That equates to a negative value.  

Recently, in an effort to avoid increasingly ugly publicity, many of the largest players are offering a “give back” or “surrender” option to older owners, not actively using or able to use their timeshare, provided the associated home facility is viable and the product is fully paid. These guys are such good sales people they have actually been successful in improving their image, offering certain members in select properties the opportunity to give back their timeshare to the developer with nothing in return other than to escape their burden. The timeshare interest they bought for $20K to often well over $100K is given up for nothing so the developer can resell as new.  

The non-viable secondary market environment is no accident. It certainly is not caused, as ARDA would have you believe, by an oversupply of inventory, or the result of advocacy groups and “sell your timeshare” type organizations that illegally prey on owners. ARDA has long acknowledged the lack of a viable secondary market and has for years committed to fix it. While out of the public eyes, ARDA does nothing, even works not so secretly against efforts to raise a secondary market.

I am sure you have read industry 10Ks. In most every 10K I have read for the past 15 years, the existence of a secondary resale market would have a significant negative impact on developer earnings. It’s no surprise the industry is active in suppressing the market to eliminate their perceived risk. I just wish our consumer protection guys, wherever they may be, would mandate the same level of discourse for the individual timeshare buyer.      

I also wish you had not implied a timeshare interest is necessarily tied to a real property interest (and again the industry should be required to disclose this to potential buyers). The classic deeded timeshare is today by far the minority of sales. Timeshare consumers buy either an interest in a “user rights” trust, not the underlying real estate, or simply buy into a timeshare “club” arguably not a timeshare at all. Many in the industry call them vacation clubs.

Please understand my criticism of your piece is meant to be constructive and more importantly, intended to spur some additional interest on your part by examining the member’s perspective. Few consumers really understand the product and/or business model. The consumer protections guys are asleep at the wheel or have no mandate/political incentive to get involved, and the industry will not speak up for fear of risking a very profitable business model born on the backs of timeshare buyers fallen victim to the oral representation clause, locked into a perpetual contract. It’s tough for the consumer or the industry to get the real picture.

Have you had a chance in the past several minutes, as you struggle through my letter, to consider my question about the implications of the issues presented?

  • No secondary market,
  • Inadequate regulation,
  • ABS markets,
  • Cash flow should the issue of a non-equity product make the light of day,  
  • Inadequate disclosure as to the lack of a secondary market.

I am right?  No?

Well, I will end now and hope you do consider the implications of what I touched on. If I have sparked any additional interest on your part I’d like to talk more. Please call or write.

Respectfully,

An Advocate

gps cartoon

I would like to add a few comments to some of the issues raised or not raised by the letter writer and the article’s author.

First, I disagree with the article’s author in his statement that only a few overzealous timeshare sales agents sell a timeshare product as an investment, as the US side of Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints almost daily from our readers reaching out to us for assistance after they allege being sold by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch, meeting the definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud. Timeshare sold as an investment, told it would be easy to resell, is still one of the top five complaints.

We always want to acknowledge sales agents and developers trying to exist in a timeshare world so ingrained in deception on the front end of the sale. The 7,000 plus timeshare members belonging to five Bluegreen and Diamond Resorts Facebooks are filled with posts concerning allegations of deceit.

Second, surrender programs are no help to the majority of timeshare members that have reached out to Inside Timeshare because these members allege they were duped into signing up for high interest rate loans and credit cards. High 25% interest rate credit cards now can pop out on site like toast out of a toaster. Multiple credit cards are often opened.

As to a secondary market, we have heralded Disney Vacation Club as a company that allows an acceptable secondary market.

http://insidetimeshare.com/mid-week-report/

This is where the letter writer and I disagree. Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Judi Kozlowski of RE/MAX would argue Hilton also has a solid secondary market in that they don’t punish the secondary point buyer to the extent other developers do. Judi has been working the Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare resale market since the beginning of their current resale program.

“In my opinion, Hilton has the best resale market out there – the developer does not punish the resale deeded points buyer. Buyers of points on the secondary market are rewarded with the ability to join the Elite Club. They are still allowed to use the open season rates, trade internally and use RCI through Hilton.”

Third, I disagree with the letter writer in that he states ARDA has stated they want to fix the secondary market problem. I think that is old news from a 2014 RedWeek article. In recent statements, ARDA CEO Howard Nusbaum has stated timeshare is a right to use produce so members should not expect any value back. My rebuttal is that if timeshare is now defined as a country club of sorts, why is the contract perpetual? What country club is out there you can’t quit? What country club, except for the likes of Mar-a-Lago, requires an initial payment of often $50,000 or more?  What about the consumer that has turned over $50K to sometimes over $100K only to learn two weeks later they allege they were lied to as showcased in several of our Nightmare on Timeshare Street articles.

The letter writer mentioned Advocacy groups. I would like to make a distinction between real advocates and scam artists that call themselves advocates, including some law groups. We have 93 timeshare members helping other members I consider real Advocates. We also have 55 Advocates, including several attorneys and professionals, who donate their time pro bono to offer an assessment or opinion after the resort has denied the member relief.

Thank you to our letter writer and to all our Contributors. Your voice is important because one or two voices alone do not a concert make. Contact us or one of the Bluegreen or Diamond Facebook pages if you need assistance, would like to share your timeshare experience, or express your opinion.

pin up

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

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

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

There we have it, the end of another week and the start to what we hope will be a great weekend. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who contact us with information and enquiries, it is with your help we can bring those issues to a wider audience. Keep them coming.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend01

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Karen Garello’s Secret Shopper report, but as usual we look at what is happening in Europe.

During our daily searches of various timeshare websites and forums this particular article made us chuckle. It was published on the Travel & Leisure Group (timeshare resale) website under information and Timeshare Blog, it is an interview with Gavin Brown and his recent stay at Anfi, he is manager of the said company, obviously written by one of the employees who conducted the interview.

The piece starts out with Anfi Beach Club is known throughout the timeshare industry as a real gem”. It then goes on to describe the location, “Ideally located on a heart-shaped island in Gran Canaria”. Well straight away that brought everyone down laughing, the heart shaped island is a man made island which is situated between the beach and the marina. It does not have the room for the huge resort called Anfi! It does however have sunbeds, a cocktail bar and a restaurant. You can also hire the island for weddings, if you can afford the 12,000€ for the basic package.

heart shaped island Anfi
The heart shaped island at Anfi

It turns out that Mr Brown, who has been in the timeshare industry for years, has never owned a timeshare, (I wonder why?). Mr Brown stated that he always booked with online travel agents and package holidays, but due to sometimes being disappointed with room location and the standards of the hotels, he felt that timeshare resorts offered better standards.

Well, we can agree with that, so why did he choose Anfi? As he put it he has a great knowledge of Anfi, having sold so many resale weeks, so when “A fantastic week and apartment became available at a great price, and I couldn’t pass it up”. Although we couldn’t help wondering if he would have bought at the ridiculous prices direct from Anfi?

He then goes on with a wonderful sales pitch on how great the place is, the wonderful facilities and the great restaurants, with reasonable prices compared to other 5* resorts. Well sorry Mr Brown, but you can get even better food at even better prices by leaving the resort and heading to some of the local restaurants.

The article then ends with “If this has made you consider Anfi Beach Club, or any of the other Anfi resorts, why not call Gavin himself or one of his colleagues to discuss further”?

Could it be they have that many weeks on their books they need to do a sales drive to get rid of them?

The other point to remember is that when you buy resale you don’t get all the benefits as you would buying direct from Anfi. See the link to the previous article on Resale Vs Direct.

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=anfi+resale

It has also been announced that ABC Lawyers Ltd, another Mark Rowe company has bought Lansdown Financial Ltd, a claims company registered with the Ministry of Justice. This is another acquisition following that of Tucola Ltd and Justice4 Ltd, Mr Rowe is certainly expanding, the question is why?

After all, his past is not what you could call squeaky clean, there has been a lot in the press and on TV about some of his past enterprises, Monster Credits springs to mind. By purchasing a company already regulated by the MoJ it does save him the problem of applying to the MoJ for authorisation, then having to pass the competence and suitability assessment, which is not a simple task.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481751/CMR_Applications_for_Authorisation_Guidance_WEB.pdf

Going back to Anfi, although the courts are closed during the month of August, some staff are still working and issuing sentence papers from cases heard previously, this particular case was heard on 6 July. The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas awarded the former Anfi member 42,625€, again the infringement of the timeshare law was the length of the contract, being over 50 years in duration. So Anfi, do you continue to deny that you are losing in the courts?

So on with this week’s Letter from America.

Link to Karen’s first report.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Secret Shopper Questions and a Secret Shopper Report

two meeting

By Karen Garello, Secret Shopper Coordinator

August 18, 2017

Inside Timeshare encourages its readers to submit positive articles about timeshare experiences, so I was relieved to have attended a positive sales presentation at The Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, the presentation was followed by a less than positive customer service experience.

My Diamond saga began when I purchased a trial Sampler program I had not realized I had purchased until I returned home and saw a $3,995 charge to a Barclaycard. Diamond would not reverse the charge.

http://insidetimeshare.com/works-industries-not-timeshare/

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to attend a presentation as this is required when purchasing a Sampler. After I returned home from a Branson presentation, I attempted to access Luxury benefits but was denied access. Luxury benefits include luxury hotels, shopping and wine. When I contacted customer services at the Sampler department, asking why I was denied access, the customer service agent put me on hold for a long time while he called Branson. After completing his “investigation” he told me the reason I could not access Luxury benefits is because Branson reported me as a “NO SHOW”!!!

Had it not been for our Diamond Resorts member supported Advocacy Facebook, I probably would not have gotten the sales agent’s name, and I certainly would not have prepared a report.

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

Admitting deceit it seemed, the customer service agent said, according to the notes during the presentation (he initially said I had not attended), I had told the sales agent TK I had complained about the unauthorized charge to purchase the Sampler. I pointed out that I had used my American Express for all the charges I made at The Suites. Customer service said they will investigate further and get back to me.

Now onto my original article

buttons

Many timeshare companies already have Secret Shopper programs. Still, it doesn’t hurt for timesharing member Secret Shoppers to evaluate for other members how near or far a timeshare sales agent ventures from his or her script.

I guess I am not that secret of a Secret Shopper in that my name is on this article, so I hope the good experience I had at Diamond ResortsThe Suites at Fall Creek in Branson, Missouri wasn’t because they were aware of my Timeshare Advocacy Group™ position, Secret Shopper Coordinator. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

My presenter was TK Armstrong. She used to work for Bluegreen but joined Diamond because she said they have more resorts. TK and I talked for about 45 minutes. I went over my Polo Towers experience. She seemed sincerely concerned. She showed me a description of CLARITY™ Diamond’s new Enhanced Quality Assurance program. She was supportive of the program and said she was going to abide by it. She went over the Sampler product I did not realize I purchased until I returned home from Polo Towers. At least I know what I bought now.

We have three new Secret Shoppers. We will not identify them because they are, well, secret. After compiling over 100 complaints from readers who have reached out to Inside Timeshare for assistance, we have determined the most popular complaints involve the following:

  • Maintenance Fee relief program that do not exist,
  • The ability to sell points or weeks when there is no secondary market,
  • The value of travel awards,
  • Misrepresenting the value of using a credit card to offset Maintenance Fees,
  • Stating a lower loan interest rate can be obtained from a bank or credit union in order to escape high timeshare loan interest rates,
  • Oversold availability

We arm our Secret Shoppers with intelligent questions that, maybe because of being on vacation brain, people forget to ask. These are questions of course that any timeshare consumer can ask, so we share them with our readers. Transparency, honesty and accuracy are rated on a scale from one to five with a five being the most honest. Results are tabulated quarterly and sent to our team for review. After we complete our pilot program, we hope to submit the data to the respective resort for review.

Suggested Questions

  • May I take notes?

Qualifications

  • How long have you worked at this resort?
  • Have you worked at other resorts?
  • What did you do before you sold timeshare?

Consumer Protections

  • May I call my lawyer to discuss your proposal?
  • May I take the contract to my room so that I can have an adequate amount of time to review such a major purchase?
  • Are you a member? May we log onto your account so I can check actual availability and value? I am spending a significant amount of money on something I have not even attempted to use.

Resale or Exit Program

  • What happens if I can no longer use or afford the timeshare?
  • If I can sell it, how can I sell it? Who do I call? Can you give me a reference?

Note: Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask about the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the resale market and to see if they will accept a listing for the timeshare you own.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Maintenance Fees

  • Please show me in the paperwork the cap on maintenance fee increases. How much does a maintenance fee go up on average annually? Does it go up every year?
  • Can you provide a five year history of Maintenance Fee increases?
  • Is there anything I can do to offset Maintenance Fees?
  • If I can use my points for maintenance fees, how much per point are they credited?
  • Where in the paperwork can I verify this information?
  • If I offset Maintenance Fees with credit card purchases, please provide an example of the value of a $1 purchase and how many purchases it would take to pay off my annual maintenance Fee? (One member reported it would cost over $270,000 in annual purchases to pay a $2,700 Maintenance Fee!)
  • Can I rent my timeshare to pay Maintenance Fees?

Travel awards

  • If I can use my points for hotels, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for airline tickets, what is the value per point?
  • If I can use my points for a cruise, what is the value per point?

Loans

  • Where in the paperwork does it state my loan interest rate?
  • How much will I pay for the timeshare if I carry the loan for the maximum term?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my interest rate?
  • What is the interest and penalty if I miss a payment?

risk

If consumers must take out a loan to buy a timeshare, consider carefully the actual cost of financing a vacation at 12 to 18%. America is a buy now pay later society. I don’t think many financial planners would recommend financing a luxury item without comparison shopping. Well over half of the complaints Inside Timeshare has received involve high interest rate financing.

We hope Secret Shoppers create smart shoppers asking the right questions before plunging into a purchase so many of our readers have come to regret. Societal changes are influencing the wants and needs of today’s traveler. Are timeshares more flexible or less if you are locked into usage and maintenance fees increasing annually.

Our first Secret Shopper, Laurie Sabbagh, offered the first Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Secret Shopper report. She reported some good and not so good observations. Of merit is the warning to timeshare buyers to take the promise of travel awards a step farther and ask, “At what value?” In general consumers should buy a timeshare for its intended purpose which is to vacation at a resort. Here is Laurie’s report:

http://insidetimeshare.com/friday-review-news-across-ocean/

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have interest in becoming a Secret Shopper or would like to share a positive or negative timeshare shopping experience. There are several member supported Facebooks and websites where members can reach out to other members to share experiences. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ posts information from all sites. Our motto, courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, is –

knowledge speaks

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

Thanks to Karen for her Secret Shopper part II, also thanks to Irene as usual for the editing and coordination from the other side of the great lake. We have many more articles coming up in the next few weeks with part II of Hug Your Haters and a piece about the Castle Law Group lawsuit with Orange Lake. We will also be having another article from our Antipodean friends from the other side of the world.

So that’s it for this week, have a great weekend and we will be with you next week.

 

 friday dog

 

letter from canada

Friday’s Letter From Canada

Welcome to the first Friday’s Letter From Canada, Inside Timeshare is pleased to give a warm welcome to Club Intrawest Owners Group who have contributed this week’s article. As Usual we start off by looking at the European timeshare scene.

At the moment, which is nothing unusual for this time of year as it is rather quiet, that will change after the summer holidays when the maintenance bills start to arrive. That is when we start to see a lot of new or resurrected bogus companies start to appear.

bogus clipart

On the legal front, the courts in Spain have been very busy, with an almost daily announcement of cases being resolved. At the moment there seem to be two companies in the firing line, Anfi in Gran Canaria and Resort Properties / Silverpoint in Tenerife.

Anfi, which was the dream project of the late Norwegian Bjorn Lyng, who wanted to build a resort which was pure luxury, has for some time been on the receiving end of many claims for breaches of the timeshare law.

Many of these, involve the taking of deposits within the statutory 14 day cooling off period, contracts with a duration of more than 50 years and the floating weeks and points systems.

This week the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas has ruled on two case to the value of 44,131€ and 35,485€ respectively. In both cases the contracts have been declared null & void.

Resort Properties / Silverpoint have also had several rulings against them this week.

The first was at the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, the judge ordered the return of £22,736, this was followed by a Supreme Court ruling with the judge ordering the return of 37,400€.

Tenerife

We then had another Court of First Instance ruling of around 25.000€ and as we go to print our sources in Madrid have informed us of another 3 rulings by the Supreme Court. At the moment we have no idea of the amounts involved, but we do know that all contracts have been declared null & void.

On the fake law firm front, one gentleman has had lucky escape, he received correspondence from Armando Gareca Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family, who we highlighted sometime ago. He received notification to pay the initial procurador fees to get the case into court, but something made him suspicious. He did a search on the internet and found the articles posted on this website about them.

Needless to say he realised he was about to be the victim of an elaborate scam and has not gone ahead. He sent a message of thanks as this has saved him not only a substantial amount of money, but a lot of stress. This does go to show that you must do your homework before engaging with any company, especially if they have contacted you with a story that sounds too good to be true.

homework

Tauro Beach

The Anfi man made beach project.

It has been awhile since we had any news on this sorry subject, so here is the latest.

As we previously reported the beach has been fenced off denying access to the public, with security guards and police removing anyone who entered the beach. Although recently massive crowds have flocked to the area in defiance, a new strategy has now been implemented.

This new move has also had the impact of denying access to the homes of people who live there, all paths and access roads have now been blocked with rocks and other implements. Videos and photographs have been posted on facebook by one resident who has been campaigning against this project from the start and also published in laprovincia a Spanish newspaper.

This is another example of how a timeshare company behaves, not just to it’s own members but to the local community. It is also an example of how elected authorities view the people they are supposed to serve. Please show your support for the people and post your comments on the links.

Follow the links to view the posts from this local resident and the La Provincia newspaper.

http://www.laprovincia.es/gran-canaria/2017/07/20/grupo-anfi-cierra-acceso-playa/961620.html

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1491927374183912

https://www.facebook.com/naiana.rguezllavata/posts/1492232357486747

Now on with our latest contributors.

Club Intrawest v. Canada

Club Intrawest (Embarc)Timeshare

Must Pay Millions in GST Back Taxes

Following Recent Federal Court of Appeal Decision

gavel

July 21, 2017

On July 11, 2017, In a decision that will likely affect all timeshares and owners of timeshares with properties located in Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the Tax Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Club Intrawest v. Canada. In doing so, the Court of Appeal substituted its own decision to refer GST assessments back to Canada Revenue Agency for reassessment of GST just for services supplied in Canada in relation to vacation homes situated in Canada.  Federal Appeal Court Judges Nadon, Gauthier and Dawson agreed with the Tax Court’s finding that a principal-agent relationship does not exist between the club and its 22,000 members. This decision also confirms that members of Club Intrawest (now re-branded Embarc by Diamond Resorts International (DRI)) do not hold beneficial ownership in the real estate and equipment in vacation home resorts and do not control the Club.  The Court found that members merely own a right of occupancy in exchange for their resort points. This contradicts sales presentations, financial and marketing materials by Intrawest Corporation (“Intrawest”) and now DRI, to the effect that members have beneficial ownership of vacation homes and control the Club through election of the Board of Directors, responsible for managing the Club’s operations.  The ruling will require the club to pay reassessed GST back-taxes for tax years 2002-2007. The GST/HST tax liability for tax years 2008-2016 is unknown at this time.  All timeshare owners with vacation homes in Canada may be impacted by this decision and may also see themselves assessed for back taxes on the supply of services in Canada related to vacation homes situated in Canada.

“Based on a detailed survey answered by more than 400 members, I expect that the majority of our members will be shocked and disappointed that the court found that members have no beneficial ownership in the vacation homes.  About 79% of them remember being told by Intrawest and DRI sales representatives they would own a real estate interest in the resort properties. About 91% of members also remember they were explicitly told that members controlled the Club and that resort properties were vested in a trust for the benefit of members. The Federal Court of Appeal now tells us that no evidence was produced that ownership of these homes has been vested in a trust for the benefit of members”, says Patrick Cormier, Volunteers Team Leader of the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG) a grassroots movement of over 3400 members.  “However, it seems clear that the Intrawest/DRI-dominated Board of Directors anticipated the GST liability all along since it began accumulating a C$14 million reserve from members’ resort fees under a 2011 Board resolution without informing members until the CIOG raised the GST issue with the Board in 2016”.

Club Intrawest was established by Intrawest Corporation in 1993 as a stand-alone not-for-profit Delaware corporation, but with Intrawest in a controlling position. Intrawest ensured they had control of the Club in several ways, including by granting themselves (as “Declarant” member) a 15 times voting power advantage over individual members guaranteeing Intrawest and now DRI, ongoing and complete control over all aspects of the Club.  In addition, Intrawest and now DRI voted in their own employees on the Club’s Board of Directors to maintain a controlling majority on the Board, hired themselves as manager and pay themselves a guaranteed 10 to 15 per cent management fee on all financial transactions.  Club Intrawest (Embarc) members have no control of the club or effective means for recourse, even though members, other than DRI, own 95 per cent of the timeshare points.

About the Club Intrawest Owners Group (Embarc), (CIOG)

The CIOG is a grassroots movement of over 3400 members who are banding together seeking fairness and transparency in their Club’s operation for all 22,000 members.  The CIOG is disputing and challenging unfair actions of Intrawest Corporation, Diamond Resorts International and their domination of the Club’s Board of Directors and Management Company. The CIOG came together as a volunteer group in December 2015, following Intrawest’s announcement of the sale (without member input) of Club Intrawest’s management to DRI. Following the sale, DRI rebranded the club to Embarc and fully controls the not-for-profit timeshare.  For more about the group, visit

www.citheownersgroup.org.

Judgment of Federal Court of Appeal:  see link

http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/fca-caf/decisions/en/item/232795/index.do

canadian flag

Clearly this is an evolving story. Inside Timeshare will continue to monitor and report ongoing developments.

Other member sponsored Diamond Advocacy groups include:

DRIP launched by over 1,000 British Diamond members

http://drip.enjin.com/

Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Group and because timeshare concerns are bigger than any one resort Timeshare Advocacy Group ™

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

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

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

Some of the points in this article regarding the judges decisions are very similar to those from the Supreme Court in Spain. Especially on the system of “points”. The Spanish Courts also agree that they are not owners but members with only a right to use, it makes us wonder if the Spanish rulings may have had an effect on this?

Anyway thank you to our Canadian cousins or should we say “Canucks”, we look forward to more contributions from you. Also a great big thanks to Irene who is helping to make this happen. It is through articles like this we make the world smaller and help timeshare owners no matter where they are. So welcome to the global timeshare family from, The Philippines, Australia, USA and Europe. We now need some from South Africa!

Have a good weekend and don’t forget to do your your homework!

weekend cat

timeshare-rentals-by-owner-287

Monday, The Start to Another Week.

We finished last week with the announcement of 6 sentences from the courts against Anfi, we start this week with news just in from our contact in Madrid. We also start this week with an article from Irina Allen, who has featured before. But first the Judgement.

The Supreme Court has made yet another ruling against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this ruling the court has awarded a british client a substantial amount, reportedly around £32,000. At the moment we are not sure what the ruling was comprised of, but going by previous ones it will probably be for the perpetuity contract. When the sentence document becomes available we will publish it here.

So we wonder what is in store for the rest of the week, now on to Irina’s article.

Diamond Resorts Suspended my Account worth over $500,000

For posting one RedWeek rental ad as my sales agent advised

ethics

By Irina Allen

July 17, 2017

Inside Timeshare first published my Diamond Resorts story January 2017 after Diamond suspended my 139,000 points, falsely accusing me of renting points for commercial purposes.

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

I was expected to make monthly mortgage payments of $2400 a month and pay $29,000 in maintenance fees during the one year suspension. Diamond is able to rent my points for promotional purposes during the suspension period.

Ironically, I replaced the points I had promised to friends and family by renting points on RedWeek. I also lost thousands of dollars on airfares that had already been booked as my account was suspended without warning. I am not the only member hurt by Diamond’s change in rental policy.

I was accused of opening an Airbnb account. I have never had an Airbnb account, but Diamond Resorts told me they were not required to provide any proof despite my common last name. My attorneys are working with Airbnb to prove I never had an Airbnb account. I have given Airbnb permission to share my story with their international news community.

I don’t want to get bogged down in details so suffice to estimate I paid $5 per point for my vacation points and with closing costs the figure is closer to $6 per point. According to our Facebook posts, a Diamond point sells for about $4 a point so I also feel I overpaid. At 139,000 points we are talking about a serious amount of money – over $500,000.

After contacting an attorney and filing complaints with the FTC, CFPB, AGs and the Real Estate Departments of AZ, HI, NV and CA, I found our Diamond member sponsored Advocacy Facebook. At least this provided some support as all the regulatory agencies ignored my complaint.

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

Alarmed that others could be victimized, I became an administrator for Timeshare Advocacy Group ™, hoping timeshare owners and members from other timeshare companies will reach out to us when facing problems or have concerns about their timeshare membership. I have learned Diamond Resorts is not the only timeshare company exhibiting what I feel is predatory behavior.

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

It is unfathomable any corporation could exhibit such blatant disregard for a customer. My situation is very bizarre. In addition to a suspension, I experienced a 17% increase in maintenance fees while the actual increase was only 6%. I only found out about this by reading a post on our Advocacy Facebook page. Diamond automatically corrected their “error” (only for 2017) after receiving correspondence from my attorneys.

Many do not even believe me. I am grateful to Senior Correspondent Jeff Weir of RedWeek for the two hours he spent interviewing me, even though he initially decided not to publish our interview. After Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to RedWeek, Mr. Weir requested a copy from my editor Irene Parker indicating he would publish our interview.

One can find hundreds of Diamond rental ads on several commercial websites. I do not know why I was targeted for placing one ad without providing any evidence of commercial use. I am a professional. I bought Diamond points to share with my friends, family and clients.

Here is the current Diamond rule:

2.5.1 A Member is not prohibited from periodically renting the Accommodation reserved for the Use Period or the reserved Other Redemption Opportunity pursuant to these Club Rules.

However, the use of Points to reserve Accommodations or Other Redemption Opportunities for commercial purposes or for any other purpose other than the personal use of the Member or the Member’s family and guests is prohibited.

Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.

Members who are primary developers of Club Resorts (that is, members of the Diamond Resorts International group of companies) and providers of Other Redemption Opportunities are specifically exempted from this restriction, and are entitled to use their reserved Accommodations and reserved Other Redemption Opportunities for promotional, rental, or other commercial purposes.

Here are a few of the Diamond rental ads on the RedWeek online website. Not only are there hundreds of ads, but many of them are for prices greatly above maintenance fees and could therefore be considered “for profit”.

Timeshare Rentals – Timeshares for Rent By Owner | RedWeek

https://www.redweek.com/timeshare-rentals

Diamond Resorts International

Kaanapali Beach Club

Lahaina, Hawaii

stars 51 reviews

255 rentals available

$132 – $500 /night

12 resales available

$600 – $15,000

Daytona Beach Regency

Daytona Beach, Florida

stars 7 reviews

I don’t expect Ebay, VRBO or other non-informational platforms to post a warning. However, RedWeek is an informational resource for vacation timeshare members and owners. I feel RedWeek should post a warning that Diamond Resorts does not allow rentals given the consequences can spell financial disaster.

Diamond’s policy is clear. Either there is a rental policy or there is not a policy. With the consequences of violating the policy so severe, why does RedWeek not post a warning? More importantly, why does Diamond not allow members, many struggling to pay maintenance fees, to post rental ads on RedWeek?

“RedWeek advises members to check with the resort before renting,” stated Gary Prado, spokesperson for RedWeek.

Why would anyone check with Diamond Resorts before renting, especially those who had been renting for years, and why would anyone check if there are hundreds, if not thousands, of rental ads all over the internet?

I opened a RedWeek account on the advice of a Diamond Hawaii sales agent and attempted to rent some points. I had not even heard of RedWeek until the sales agent recommended the site based on her personal experience. She said many Diamond employees rent on RedWeek to offset maintenance fees. I was never paid for the RedWeek rental so I gave up the idea of renting.

I am one of 18 Platinum members who have contacted Timeshare Advocacy Group ™ alleging deceptive and bait and switch up-sells. Like the others, I accumulated 139,000 Diamond vacation points due to aggressive selling. I agreed to take over 42,000 Diamond points from the secondary market on one condition – I do not have to buy any additional points. As the Diamond agents promised, “due to my Platinum status, owning at the time 75,000 points, I would be allowed, as a onetime courtesy, to transfer contracts without being required to purchase additional points.” In 2013 this was a common practice.

Diamond refused to honor their promise after the transfer. I was told I had to buy 23,000 points in order to use the transferred points without the secondary market restrictions. I could not use the points due to layers of restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points. Diamond is the only major timeshare that cannot be listed with any of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association as the members feel Diamond’s secondary market restriction are more onerous than Diamond’s major competitors.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

group

Speaking with other families affected by the sudden change in Diamond’s rental policy, I asked:

  1. Are you not allowed to rent or has DRI just made it more difficult?

They have made it very difficult because we can’t advertise.  They also tried to ban us from using upgrades for rental weeks (making it harder to rent for more than cost) and they also started charging a fee to add guests.

Diamond maintains that they have the right to change the rules.

This is the crux of the matter. Would you buy a timeshare if you knew the timeshare developer could change the rules pretty much at any time for any reason?

Diamond stands to make a huge financial gain by forcing owners who relied on rental strategies into foreclosure. This is financially devastating for families because they are required to pay maintenance fees they can no longer afford for the high volume of points these members own. Diamond then “takes back” the points and resells for full value.

muscle

If you or someone you know has a timeshare concern, contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Advocacy Groups.

Bit of a horrendous story, doing only what she was advised, how many times have we heard this type of thing from sales agents? You believe them because you trust them, they sound so genuine, then bingo! You are the one to be made out to be in the wrong. So thanks Irina for that little insight, we look forward to your next article.

Timeshare needs to change, it is not the product most of us thought we were purchasing, the truth is hidden, is any wonder that timeshare has a bad name and reputation?

If you would like to share any of your experiences contact Inside Timeshare and we will work with you.

Have you been contacted or thinking about contacting a company about your timeshare, but don’t know if they are genuine? Then send us an email or comment and we will point you in the right direction, remember it is better to spend time checking than even longer regretting!

 

help1

The Wednesday Post

This week has been a rather quiet week on the legal front, yesterday it was announced that the High Court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife ruled against Resort Properties / Silverpoint yet again. In this case the judge ruled against the points system which the contract contained. The contract was declared null & void with the award of over 44,700€ plus legal interest being made.

As this article was being prepared this latest news came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again it was against the above company Silverpoint. This brings the total against them from this court to 11 rulings. Details at present are not available but the contract was once again declared to be null & void, with the return of over 20,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases as usual were brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, who have now got around 50 rulings from Spain’s highest court. Quite an achievement.

We have also this week received more enquiries about Abogados Amable & Garcia, one of the family of fake law firms which are part of the Litigious Abogados family. Luckily these readers found the article in time and have not parted with any money. It is only a matter of time before a new name appears, so if you have received any correspondence from a law firm in Tenerife which state you can be included in an upcoming trial against your timeshare resort, let us know.

Now on to Wednesday’s article from Irene.

Can the CASA Family Court System Work for Timeshare?

How members helping members can change the timeshare world

hands circle

By Irene Parker

July 12, 2017

Inside Timeshare is honored and proud to be part of a movement. Our Timeshare Advocates deserve a pat on the back as we hear from more and more members either resolving issues concerning their timeshare, so they can continue to use and enjoy their vacation plan, or at least be able to get out from underneath a dream vacation that turned into a financial disaster.

Aristotle Onassis, husband of Jacki O, once said he made the most money on ideas that were very simple – only no one had thought of them before.

Such a plan is logical, effective and offers a cost benefit in that it takes some burden off the courts, the families affected, and most importantly, the trauma and stress resulting when, as NBC Lester Holt described in his Dateline title, “The state steps in”, removing a child or children from their home for often over a year.

Timeshare is not as gut-wrenching as foster care. There is nothing as profound as telling a mom or her children parental rights have been terminated. Money can be replaced, but a child cannot. However, more than once I’ve been told of elderly widows considering suicide because of a vacation plan she could not get rid of and was not able to maintain due to the loss of a spouse. Frantic, desperate, angry, confused and overwhelmed are but a few adjectives that could describe many of the calls coming into Inside Timeshare.

CASA works even better for Timeshare members

Anyone who works for a nonprofit can attest to the challenges of keeping volunteers motivated for an extended period of time. Our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ volunteers are often victims themselves, so we have a built in motivation factor. There is also the empathy and understanding that exists when someone knows exactly what it feels like to be victimized.

casa

What is CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates?

(CASA in some states is called Guardian ad litem)

CASA is a nationwide movement that started in 1977 when a Seattle juvenile court judge launched a program by recruiting court appointed volunteers to advocate on behalf of a child or children in state care. Examining an often convoluted family tree to decipher what went wrong and how to prove a child has been abused or neglected is a daunting task. A CASA volunteer is trained to be a detective of sorts, gathering information from all facets of the child’s life.

After gathering information, the volunteer prepares a court report letting the judge and interested parties know what outcome the child wants to see happen and what the CASA feels should happen. One judge told me she almost always takes the opinion of the CASA over the opposing counsels.

The CASA sticks with the child, interacting with the biological parents, foster parents, social services, schools, therapists and even medical doctors until permanency is  achieved by returning the child to his or her biological parents, or termination of parental rights and hopefully adoption.

It’s not hard to imagine how this process could be applied towards the timeshare member victimized by deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. Some timeshare members have multiple contracts that have been purchased over a period of years. It has been helpful to have a volunteer walk that timeshare member back to the beginning to determine, when and where, in the life of the member, did their vacation plan go so wrong.

The most successful outcome is returning a previously happy customer back to the state of mind they were in before they were deceived so that the timeshare company keeps the customer and the customer can again use and enjoy their timeshare as they did before.

Bluegreen members support other members on this Facebook

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

Diamond members support other members on this Facebook

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

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

A sharing of information from all Facebooks and from non-timeshare owning Advocates, like attorneys who tend to not buy timeshare, is posted on the Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook, administered by Irene Allen.

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

It is hoped there will come a day when timeshare developers recognize that a product only sold through deception and a same day sale might be a product nearing the end of a maturing life cycle. Companies like Disney work hard to protect their brand and Hilton is known for a somewhat consumer friendly secondary market, although several Advocates will take exception to this statement arguing that no timeshare has an adequate secondary market.

Probably the most common comment we at Inside Timeshare hear is, “At least I know I am not alone.” Proactive action, working with a volunteer towards timeshare resolution, relinquishment, refund or even foreclosure, takes the problem from the unknown to the known. Consultants and behind-the-scenes Advocates add an additional layer of advice and protection. One very important consideration is that many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed” deed-back firms that often prey on those already victimized. From this standpoint, the developer, the timeshare lobby, and the members are on the same side.      

Once again thank you to all our Contributors. Contact Inside Timeshare if you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.

not alone

Inside Timeshare cannot stress enough that doing your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company is paramount. If you need help or advice on how to do this just contact us and we will either find out for you (if we don’t have them on file already), or point you in the right direction.

homework

Since posting it has just been brought to our attention that the Litigious Abogados Family do in fact have a new member, Amador Gameca Abogados, which is a very similar name to a previous article published on 1st June, Armando Gareca Abogados. The website is the same layout as all the others, it even show the same logo a Armando Gareca Abogados. The photos of the lawyers are the same one we have seen on previous incarnations, these you will probably find can be downloaded from the web.

This is their website.

http://amadorganeca.com

So it just goes to show that the above picture is spot on. More on this is it comes in.

letter from america

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome back to Friday’s Letter from America, last week we did change it to Australia to welcome our Aussie contributor Justin Morgan with his first article, which happened to coincide with Irene Parker’s first anniversary. Today we hear from our first Bluegreen owner, who also happens to be a detective in law enforcement, so this proves that all are vulnerable to the smooth talking sales staff.

Irene reported just as we were about to publishing today’s article, that four Diamond Members have been able to resolve their vacation issues this past week. Members tell us they appreciate having a human instead of a department to talk to. Previously members complained of continually having to start over with seemingly endless departments.

We hope other timeshare developers follow suit as timeshare complaints are widespread.

Now we have a look at what is happening in the European world of timeshare.

The National Police in Spain have busted a major scam being run from the Costa del Sol, they raided several premises and homes in the Velez Malaga – Torre del Mar area. Around 40 were detained, they included a husband and wife, son and daughter-in-law, along with it is reported two lawyers. The detained are mainly British, who have run several businesses in the area over a number of years, these targeted mainly British timeshare owners.

Police raid

The scams involved timeshare resales, holiday packages and discount clubs, this has over the years netted millions of pounds, with the police recovering around 100,000€ in cash, expensive watches, jewels and several high end cars.

It is believed the companies, which are well known by Inside Timeshare and other similar sites, are, Halfmoon Holdings, Excalibur Sales & Marketing, Blue Chip and Rosedale Marketing. The only problem is, when one of these raids takes place and they are put out of business, there are many others ready and waiting to fill the gap. No doubt, we will see a series of companies offering to help victims get their money back, for an upfront fee obviously. So readers beware!

Follow the links to read the stories in the UK tabloids.

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

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

On the legal front, it looks like those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been busy this week, with several announcements of cases won.

We started the week with a judgement from Tenerife against Resort Properties / Silverpoint followed on Tuesday with news that the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas GC, awarding a client who purchased at Anfi, over 59,000€ with their contract being declared null & void. Once again the court ruled that the contract was longer than the stipulated period of 50 years.

On Wednesday, the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, again found against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, in this case the judge ruled the contract was missing information which is required by law, the period again was longer than the 50 years allowed, plus deposits were taken within the 14 day cooling off period.

The British client will now receive over £14,000 plus legal interest and has had their contract declared null and void.

On Thursday there were two announcements the first from Tenerife, the Chayofa Golf & Tennis Academy, was ruled against by the Court of First Instance, the contracts signed under the company United Sales 1997 Ltd were declared null & void. Again the infringements were the perpetuity contract and the illegal taking of deposits, the client will now receive over £9,000 plus legal interest.

Malaga Court

The second was from the High Court in Malaga, Club la Costa was found guilty with the contract being declared null & void. One of the main aspects of this case is the company is a UK registered Limited one, Club La Costa Leisure Ltd, which was probably an attempt to bypass Spanish law. As we have seen in the past, some companies have used this along with the clause that “this agreement and contract is subject to UK law and the jurisdiction of UK courts”, but it is evident now that this does not wash, if the timeshare was sold and the contract was signed on Spanish territory, then clearly Spanish law will apply.

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

Typically our Inside Timeshare readers don’t contact us to report positive timeshare experiences so our email inbox often looks like the cartoon above. Today we hear from a Bluegreen member who found promises made did not meet what was purchased. Not as familiar with Bluegreen we checked internet sites and determined Bluegreen is a company that could use a customer satisfaction evaluation.  

Bluegreen members can join a member sponsored discussion Facebook consisting of 770 Bluegreen members. More and more timeshare members are launching sites where members can advise other members.

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is an umbrella organization consisting of volunteers stretching from the EU to the US and beyond including contributors from the Philippines and Australia. A few complaints have little or no effect, but a volume of complaints, especially directed against individual sales agents, can paint a pattern of deception.

A complaint process has evolved over the past year. Working through resort representatives, volunteer Advocates assist other members as we work through the “3 Rs or F of Timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always serve your best interest. I have not been able to get the $7 donation removed from my account.   
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. Given the CFPB’s diminished capacity, file with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby efforts. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to stop venting and act. This is one example of a military family that was able to resolve their dispute through Timeshare Advocacy Group™ http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/ and a hat’s off this 4th of July week to all those who serve in the military.
  • Last on the list is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation. Tennessee, Colorado, New York and Arizona are four states where Attorneys General have opened timeshare investigations       

law enforcement

Our Bluegreen member complainant works in law enforcement. Lela Renea is a detective appalled that, even though she works in law enforcement, alleges she became the prey.   

Lela purchased 6000 Bluegreen points in Las Vegas March 2015 for $8,200. Lela alleges she was a victim of deceit and bait and switch for the following reasons:

  1. Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  2. Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  3. Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  4. Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  5. Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  6. Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  7. Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

Lela has sent Bluegreen a demand letter requesting a refund. She will be filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies if her demands are not met. Lela will become an Advocate.

Lela’s friend and co-buyer contacted Pinnacle Vacation to do a transfer but Lela is worried Pinnacle may be a scam.

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/bluegreen-vacation-club-c4809.html

lawsuit

The following lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen but was dismissed October 2016. It voices many of Lela’s complaints. Again, the problem is the oral representation clause that timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group has frequently described as “a license to lie”.

The BlueGreen Vacations Timeshare Sales Tactics Class Action Lawsuit is Kyle Miles, et al. v. BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-00937, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The plaintiffs are represented by Todd M. Friedman and Adrian R. Bacon of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman PC.

BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit that accuses the timeshare company of using “hard sell” tactics and misinformation to convince consumers to enter into timeshare contracts.

During the timeshare presentation, the plaintiffs were reportedly informed that, if they were not satisfied with the timeshare contracts BlueGreen was selling, BlueGreen would buy back the contracts.

According to the timeshare class action lawsuit, BlueGreen also misled the presentation attendees by representing that the timeshare contract’s maintenance fees would not increase, when in reality, the maintenance fees increase on an annual basis.

However, the plaintiffs allege that the terms that were actually contained in the timeshare contract are different than the terms promised during the timeshare presentation.

They also claim that they were pressured to open two BlueGreen credit cards and to put the entire $5,000 down payment on the cards.

advo

Our local Florida news station today reported vacation rentals, as opposed to hotel bookings, have increased from 50% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. Our readers continually express disappointment and dismay over what they describe as an escalation in deception and overly aggressive timeshare selling. These are mostly members who were happy with their timeshare until deception set in. We want timeshare to be a healthy and robust industry. If the developers and lobby organizations don’t heed the damage being done by sales agents “pitching heat”, one wonders how the industry can survive in the millennial’s world.

Inside Timeshare thanks Lela for coming forward. We look forward to a new collaborator as a lot of what we do requires the skills of a detective. It did not take long to explain the basis of an IC3.gov complaint to Lela.

So there we have it, another week over in the timeshare world, with some good news for many and the start of a judicial nightmare for others. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who sent in the information which helps to form our articles, again thanks to Irene for editing the US contributions, together we are making a difference.

weekend

 

letter from australia

Friday’s Letter from Australia (No, you have read that correctly)

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from (America) now Australia, this is just to confuse our American cousins, the reason is that we welcome our first Antipodean cousin to our pages. Justin Morgan, makes his debut with his first contribution to Inside Timeshare. It is ironic that it happens to be on the first anniversary of Irene Parker’s very first article, which was about the acquisition by Apollo of Diamond.

Since her first article, Irene has been a major contributor and very much a driving force in bringing the problems of owners in the US to the fore. She has also become a very valued friend not just to myself but to all those she met while visiting Gran Canaria.

But enough of that, how about some news of timeshare in Europe?

Diamond Resorts has had a battering in the courts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance has secured a victory for one of their clients with the High Court declaring their contract null & void, with the return of over 29,000€ plus legal interest. In this case the court stated that the contract did not contain specified information required by law, with the product being the points system which the Supreme Court has deemed illegal due to their lack of tangibility.

This is the fourth verdict delivered against Diamond by the Tenerife courts this year, which our sources indicate is just the tip of the iceberg!

justice2

Anfi, based in Gran Canaria is on the defensive, it would seem they are already sending out new contracts after the vote last Friday 23 June, which coincided with another defeat at the High Court in Las Palmas. In that case the court declared the contract null & void as it was for more than 50 years.

As this is being written, the news has just arrived from our contact at the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, that another contract has been declared null & void, with the client being awarded over 35,000€ plus legal interest.

At the same court yesterday Palm Oasis / Tasolan, were ordered to repay over 31,000€ and declaring the contract null & void. In this case the court ruled against the points system, which it deemed as selling nothing but promises.

On the Tauro Beach project, which has been the subject of many articles, it seems that the beach is still closed to the public, although many people are ignoring the fences and entering the area. There still seems to be no indication when this area will be fully open to the public, it may not be for sometime yet as there are several court cases pending.

So now on to this weeks article.

Who is Apollo? What is Apollo?

Two Diamond Member Consumer Advocates offer their opinion

Up Down

By Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan

Introduction by Irene Parker

June 30, 2017

In honor of my one year anniversary writing for Inside Timeshare, it is only fitting to revisit Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts as Apollo’s Diamond acquisition was the subject of my inaugural article June 30, 2016.

http://insidetimeshare.com/700-2/

I had been shouting my timeshare concerns from the rooftops since my husband I attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation July 2015 at Diamond’s Grand Beach Resort, which ultimately led to our appearance on the FOX News show Property Man, interviewed by Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

The first I heard from Diamond was a year later in reaction to my Apollo article written for Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money’s investment news service, TheStreet. Diamond contacted TheStreet demanding a rebuttal. Diamond members are still waiting for Transitions, a relinquishment program that must still be in development.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html

Diamond boasted 11 quarters of robust earnings growth until shortly after the Apollo acquisition announcement. A delayed 2016 second quarter earnings report was attributed to accounting irregularities.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/13702895/1/diamond-resorts-international-s-second-quarter-earnings-reversal-is-worrisome.html

According to a May 2017 KROLL Bond Report, Diamond’s default rates remain elevated.

The collateral pool of DROT 2014 – 1 has experienced elevated levels of defaults, which similar to certain other vacation ownership companies in the industry, Diamond Resorts attributes to an increase in the number of borrowers who have been solicited by lawyers to get out of their timeshare and/or have sent Diamond Resorts “cease and desist” letters.  

https://www.krollbondratings.com/announcements/3705

A National Mortgage News article appeared indicating the interest rate on the Apollo acquisition was raised due in part to the earnings restatement. Earnings had to be restated back to 2014 resulting in an earnings decline from the prior earnings report. Since the merger was announced as an all cash $2.2 billion deal, I did not understand the comment about the raised interest rate.

advocate 1

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

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

Timeshare Advocate Michael Nuwer explains. I now understand what it meant when Diamond owners were informed Diamond is owned “by an affiliate of an affiliate of funds.” It’s pretty high finance.

Apollo Global’s acquisition of Diamond Resorts was organized as a “leveraged buyout”.  Here’s how the deal worked:

Apollo created a shell company called Dakota Parent. Four of Apollo’s investment funds own this company. Dakota Parent created a wholly owned subsidiary called Dakota Sub. Dakota Sub borrowed $2.2 billion dollars (a big chunk of it, $1.1 billion, from the four Apollo funds) and bought 100% of the DRI shares — 72.7 million shares at $30.25 each. Then DRI merged into Dakota Sub, changed the company name to Diamond Resorts International, and thereby took on all Dakota Sub’s debt. This is the way leveraged buyouts typically work. Former Diamond CEO Cloobeck used the same structure when he bought Sunterra in 2007.

Now that all is said and done, DRI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dakota Parent. The equity in Dakota Parent is owned by the four Apollo funds. Diamond has $2.2 billion debt on which it must make interest payments. The primary lenders are the four Apollo funds. They are in for $1.1 billion, $500,000,000 at 7.75% and $600,000,000 at 10.75%. The secondary lenders are in for $800 million, and another $200 million is secured by some DRI assets (I think they are consumer loans).

There are two ways Apollo makes money on this deal assuming all goes well. First, the four Apollo investment funds receive interest income out of DRI’s cash flow. They are guaranteed $103,250,000 per year. High profits or low profits, it doesn’t matter, Apollo gets paid. Further, the Apollo investment funds own a claim to all the equity growth of the company (that is all value over $2.2 billion). Thus, if they can sell the 72.7 million shares for $45 each, not an unreasonable number if all goes well, Apollo’s capital gain will be about $1 billion.

Aussie Flag

From Justin Morgan Australia

As a tax accountant, finance planner, part time private equity guy, I completely agree that the Apollo deal will only end in debt being laid upon Diamond members, for the benefit of those who arranged the details of a LBO merger that, when combined with the liabilities of the timeshare structure that utilized Association Board powers and targets them, it becomes a lethal mix that allows financial dealers to write their own checks bigger each year. It seems there is no end to how high they could simply raise their own salaries, pay-outs and ‘returns’ towards simply legally expecting members to pay their share of these increased contributions.

In the economy, we have certain protections such as Trade Practices Acts, Fair Trading Laws, financial regulation, monopoly laws…All this is designed to prevent abuse of market power. In my opinion, I would characterize this Diamond set-up as worse, because there is NO market that is anything other than what DRI, and the timeshare industry in general, allows. It is engaging in practices specifically designed to restrict the market to only it and its approved associates.

I feel this exploits consumers at near will, and I wonder where Apollo will set their ceiling …Looking at how the deal was structured, they see huge opportunity to lend to a membership base locked up in dubious legalities and unfair contracts. All this would not be legal in Australia. I’m amazed at how it turns out to be in the US. And I write this from Mexico, where it is well known what happens when dangerous cartels form and throw their money around here.

Circumstantial evidence is that the proof is in the pudding, but proving it in the US, where the banks and private equity already got away with much…well, I can only hope that the powers that be realize that it won’t get better if they keep allowing the average consumer and householder to be abused by what is, in my opinion, predatory sales and lending.

If the new DRI were to strip assets, it’d be left holding the large liabilities, but that is usually the reason why they then go back to legacy members warning of bankruptcy if they do not buy more points. It looks like the new DRI is just financially ‘creating’ this balance sheet to look exactly how it should look to siphon off more money from members. They already have their interest windfall. Next would be the stripping, and finally, the call for more contributions to boost management revenue…all this whilst the members are forced into more debt.

This is a strategic type play from the banking world, but DRI and private equity were some of the quickest learners out of the Great Financial Crisis. Many learnt how the banks do it. Private equity rushing into timeshare is the new rush to create financial instruments that creates only ‘liability’ for the timeshare owner. The financial guys profit from the creation of liability, which is their ‘debt-holding’. In a near zero interest rate environment, Apollo is looking to create the debt, then shift it across to the membership…effectively, they’ve already done it. Now they must get their $1.1bn back, and the result is just pure profit for the financial players. This could turn out to be a textbook case of why this must be stopped immediately. It will possibly play out over years.  Bravo Irene for taking a stand. I will support your efforts however I can. You’ve struck here what I believe is the actual core of the New Timeshare. The Old Timeshare was less sophisticated, but for those of us who know that private equity in this industry is licking its lips over several recent acquisitions, the old caveat of “buyers beware” may even be too late.

Teacher

Thank you to Michael and Justin for their reader responses which are possibly the most sophisticated reader responses in the history of Inside Timeshare. More and more timeshare Advocates are coming forward bringing their expertise and experience to the timeshare table.

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebooks or websites if you need timeshare assistance or can become an Advocate.   

So there we have it, another week over in the murky world of timeshare, Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for her efforts in bringing so many people together to share their views and experiences.

To our latest addition to the Inside Timeshare family, a very hearty welcome and we hope to hear more from those in the “Land Down Under”, who we do tend to forget share the same experiences as us in Europe and the US.

It’s Friday, the weekend is here, so break out the BBQ’s and let’s PARTY!!!!!!!!

barbie

  • 1
  • 2