The Tuesday Slot: Florida House Bill 435

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we have a look at proposed legislation in Florida describing stringent requirements on entities providing timeshare exit assistance, including law firms. Florida House Bill 435 was submitted by Representative Wyman Duggan, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Inside Timeshare here and abroad receives a daily diet of timeshare members describing how they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, and are then dismissed by the timeshare company with an over-reliance on the oral representation clause.There is an abundance of the Pot calling the Kettle black. The FL HB 435 Summary I would describe as “Gobbledygook”.

Definition of Gobbledygook

Language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usu. hard to understand.

or

Unintelligible or nonsensical talk or language  

Having spent a large portion of our time chasing down fraudulent exit companies, we here in the UK would welcome more stringent laws governing exit companies, but we encourage lawmakers to consider listening to the timeshare member, in addition to taking orders from industry lobbyists and developers. For instance, how about allowing the timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract? If we want to talk about unfair practices, forcing a buyer to sign the same day after enduring a tag team of aggressive and sometimes dishonest agents, that have kept the buyer typically for four to eight hours, is unfair.

We will be publishing a number of articles about this bill due to its complexity and its apparent desire to maintain total control over the buyer without access to any outside help if the buyer has been defrauded.

Florida House Bill 435: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

GENERAL BILL by Duggan

(3)(Line 157)In the course of offering or providing timeshare exit assistance or relief services, a timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider may not:

b)(Line 163)Solicit, charge, receive, or attempt to collect or secure payment, directly or indirectly, for timeshare exit assistance or relief services before completing or performing all services contained in the written agreement for services.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

Last Action: 1/30/2019 House – Referred to Business and Professions Subcommittee; Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee; Commerce Committee

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

February 5, 2019

By Irene Parker

I’m not an expert in proposed legislation, but after studying the 22 page draft of Florida HB 435, it seems that if this Bill is enacted, it will leave the timeshare member at the mercy of their timeshare resort. Based on complaints from 676 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, timeshare companies have not been owner orientated in terms of dealing with owners reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The majority of complaints have been dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Many members have had disputes resolved, but only after repeated rebuttals and the filing of regulatory complaints.

I found the Florida HB 435 summary incomprehensible. The PDF file of the actual proposed bill is linked above. I have broken the summary down piecemeal, which helps a little.   

Vacation and Timeshare Plans;

Provides services included in timeshare exit assistance or relief services;

provides prohibitions for timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider;

requires certain disclosures in general & purchaser-specific commercial communications;

provides requirements for oral or audible communications;

requires written agreement to provide services;

provides requirements for written agreement;

provides requirements for when specific entities are providing relief;

prohibits person from providing assistance or support to timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider if person knows provider is violating law;

provides exemptions;

requires certain records be maintained for specific duration;

provides requirements for timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers;

provides criminal & civil penalties;

provides that purchaser or owners’ association may bring action for damages against resale service provider or timeshare exit assistance or relief services provider.

The timeshare lobby ARDA and the timeshare industry have yet to acknowledge unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the timeshare sale, despite numerous Attorneys General investigations, BBB complaints, and lawsuits too numerous to mention. The internet is flooded with complaints.

Where are the lawmakers looking out for consumers who have been victimized by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, managers and VPs? The amount of money lost to timeshare exit companies pales in comparison to the amount of money timeshare members say they lost because they believed a timeshare sales agent. This legislative action would be completely unnecessary if only the timeshare resorts were responsive to owners’ issues. Why would timeshare owners voluntarily fork over thousands of dollars to these third parties if their resort had properly dealt with their issues rather than rule the customer is always wrong because they signed a contract.  

Timeshare members and owners, who own resort interests at American Resort Development Association (ARDA) resorts, pay a ‘voluntary’ fee to support ARDA ROC, who purports to represent timeshare members. This Bill is a perfect example of owners paying to have their rights further impaired if this Bill is successful. While I understand timeshare exit scams are out of control, treating the symptoms without looking at the cause is illogical and irresponsible.

The Bill was submitted by Wyman Duggan, freshman House of Representatives, elected 2018, profiled on LobbyTools. Lobbytools? Contact Representative Duggan if you would like to voice your opinion.

District Address:

Suite 104

4114 Herschel Street

Jacksonville, FL   32210-2200

Phone: (904) 381-6011

 

Capitol Address:

402 South Monroe Street

1101 The Capitol

Tallahassee, FL   32399-1300

Phone: (850) 717-5015

Email: [email protected]

ARDA is a lobby organization and a Political Action Committee (PAC).  The ROC in ARDA ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA does lobby for members when an issue affects both the developer and the member. One example is a proposed $300 exchange fee the Virgin Islands wanted to impose a few years ago. However, when the issue at stake benefits the industry, timeshare members are short changed, with no voice in legislative changes. Name me one real timeshare member or owner involved with this legislation.

Howard Nusbaum, the president of ARDA, was recently quoted in a Consumer Affairs article claiming, “The vast majority of people are happy with their timeshare.” If so, why is there a sizeable timeshare exit industry? In the same article, Diane Burkhart explains how her parents were sold five timeshare contracts from the age of 85 to 88. Diane’s parents are #57 of a summary report of 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members who have contacted Inside Timeshare describing how they were up-sold into insolvency. They say they purchased additional timeshare points promised maintenance fee relief that was not forthcoming or the ability to sell points, widely reported to be worthless. The maintenance fee in 2018 for 50,000 Diamond timeshare points was $8,631.  

The lack of a secondary market breeds the timeshare exit industry. I contacted 22 of the 60 plus members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association (LTRBA) asking to list my Diamond points. LTRBA members charge nothing upfront to list a timeshare. They refused to even accept a listing. Desperate timeshare members waking up to the realization that there is little to no secondary market turn to exit companies. Approximately 200 of our readers, timeshare members, sent their complaint to ARDA ROC. ARDA ROC does not resolve disputes, but has a Code of Ethics. Members feel the code is being violated. At best has been an auto-reply with tips on how to sell a timeshare.

The only timeshare member to receive a real response to her complaint from ARDA ROC was Elaine Lim. If Elaine Lim forecloses on her timeshare loan it could jeopardize her job and her career as she has top security clearances. Her response from ARDA ROC was, “This has been resolved” even before the company contacted Elaine. The company response was basically, “You signed a contract.” http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-32/

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC, When I questioned my $7 donation, prior to my becoming more involved with this industry, I was told ARDA ROC is a nonprofit that helps members. Timeshare members collectively give ARDA ROC approximately $5 million a year. I have yet to meet the timeshare member who can tell me what ARDA ROC even stands for.

Why doesn’t the legislature own up to unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Why point the finger only at exit companies?

ALEC pictured above is not the name of a lobbyist. It is the name of another PAC, the American Legislative Exchange Council one Senator describes as a “Corporate Bill Mill.” The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit across the table with legislators filling in the blanks on desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

How about a parallel timeshare Bill with the same wording to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices? Disgruntled timeshare members who have reached out to us are not financial deadbeats trying to weasel out of their contracts. They are medical doctors, lawyers, mortgage loan officers, professors, teachers, MBAs, PhDs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist, all alleging fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. The perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market is a recipe for financial disaster. Many families are financially devastated.   

Florida HB 435:

The Legislature finds that purchasers who are in

(109) default of their obligations to pay assessments, real property taxes, or other sums due, or to pay amounts due under a mortgage, lien, or encumbrance against their timeshare interests, or who may no longer desire to own their timeshare

interests, may be vulnerable to fraud, deception, and unfair practices with timeshare exit assistance or relief services providers.

122 to prohibit representations that tend to mislead; to prohibit or restrict unfair contract terms;

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of fraud, deception, and unfair timeshare sales practices. We are not focused on getting members out of their timeshare contacts, although members have had disputes resolved as a result of filing regulatory complaints.

Prior legislation, making it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts, was passed in Florida in 2015. This drew sharp criticism from advocacy groups:

A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature that would loosen a cap on timeshare assessment fees and make it tougher for buyers to get out of contracts has drawn criticism from timeshare owners’ attorneys and advocates.

The lawmakers and the industry’s trade association, the American Resort Development Association, describes the legislation as a bill that modernizes state law. Gregory Crist, chairman and CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, sees it otherwise. “This is a developer-sponsored bill that strips away at consumer-protection mechanisms,”

Meanwhile, attorneys and timeshare owners have questioned a provision that reduces liability for timeshare developers if they make errors in contracts. Errors or omissions that are considered “non material” would not allow purchaser-cancellation rights after 10 days. Stargel said the legislation is meant to keep timeshare owners from getting out of their contracts by finding minor flaws in them. It is meant to cover only technicalities, she said, not major problems.

Last month, some members of a House civil justice subcommittee expressed concern that there is no clear definition of “nonmaterial.” That kind of murkiness will “lead to increased litigation,” said attorney Patrick Kennedy, who represents timeshare consumers

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-timeshare-bill-20150312-story.html

Other related articles:

http://www.timeshare-info.org/2015/04/mixed-reviews-from-industry-experts-florida-bill.html

http://insidethegate.com/gatehouse/2015/04/florida-usa-timeshare-news-april-18-2015/#sthash.41Peggzh.dpbs

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

Here are some Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced. Get involved. Let your voice be heard. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

We seek to provide timeshare 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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to all those who have had a hand in the making of this article, your views and insights are greatly appreciated. Now to all our readers, read the bill in the PDF format below and see if you can fathom out what it all means!! Do let us know, we would love to hear from you and publish your thoughts and comments in our comments section.

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00435/?Tab=BillText

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/435/BillText/__/PDF

Remember to also contact Representative Duggan and voice your opinions direct.

 


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