Many people have found themselves in financial difficulty due to huge finance agreements sold to them by the timeshare sales staff and the ever increasing maintenance payments. Usually this is down to a change in circumstances, either from illness, loss of a job or a change in jobs resulting in a severe cut in wages.
Some who are in arrears in maintenance have to this stage because they have listened to bad advice, “Just don’t bother paying they won’t do anything, that’s what I did”. Others because they believed their timeshare had been transferred by a company they paid, only to find that either the timeshare resort does not recognise the transfer or it was never done.
Timeshare companies will sell the debt to a collecting agency, they will hound you and threaten court action, which is why many end up paying it.
In this article from Irene Parker she explains the problems in the US, it may just sound very familiar to our readers in the UK.
Timeshare Debt Collection
Life after Foreclosure
By Irene Parker
May 30, 2017
The flood of Inside Timeshare reader responses concerning timeshares and what to do when your resort denies your release, request for refund, or loan cancellation has been eye-opening. We have heard from a surprising number of timeshare members in their 60s and 70s with high US credit scores around 800 considering foreclosure for the first time in their life.
Out of 58 formal complaints and request for relinquishments filed in the US and EU, 42 allege they were victims of deceit and bait and switch. The remaining 16 requested relinquishment. Voluntary surrenders or “take back” programs are evaluated case by case. Some of the 42 members were offered surrenders but could not tolerate the non-disclosure agreement, especially the clause that states the member cannot say anything negative about the company. They wanted refunds if they felt they were deceived or a victim of a bait and switch.
We should not harp on the elderly being targeted. At least a third of the approximately 80 timeshare members who have contacted Inside Timeshare are 40 years old or younger. The youngest was 19 and pregnant when she signed a timeshare contract after a six hour presentation.
Continuing on after the 3Rs or F of timeshare we previously reported on –
We move on to the cheerful calls from the debt collectors and what happens during the foreclosure period. The shortest timeshare debt collection period seems to be 60 to 90 days and the longest 180 days. If a timeshare company is worried about reporting a high default rate to the investment community, one way to lower that statistic is by lengthening the debt collection period.
It’s been surprising to learn how many of those in timeshare trouble are financing a vacation at a 12% to 19% interest rate. The emphasis in a sales presentation is on the low monthly payment. If someone does think to ask, “At what interest rate?” typically the answer is, as in the sales presentation I attended, “Don’t worry, when you get home you can get a home equity loan.”
An instant credit card is often used to finance the timeshare down payment. When you buy a house, there’s a reason why banks won’t let you borrow the down payment. That reason doesn’t go away when you buy a timeshare for $20,000 to sometimes over $100,000, but credit card companies and lending laws have helpfully aided and abetted timeshare lending.
I have come to the conclusion placing credit card applications in the hands of a thousand timeshare sales agents is like sending a thousand three years olds into Toys R Us unsupervised. Inside Timeshare has published several timeshare lending “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles. There have been so many it has turned into something of a series authored by our readers.
Once again, I turned to the Finn Law Group Learning Center to better understand timeshare debt collection.
Timeshare attorney Mike Finn agreed with my assessment concerning overzealous timeshare lending cramming third party loans into the deal. “An additional point to be made in this regard is that their efforts are contrary to Federal law (Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which requires the new debtor to receive in writing PRIOR to the loan being funded a written summary disclosure statement summarizing the deal points. This procedure is never ever followed by the timeshare industry and why the practice is permitted is beyond my grasp.”
“Timeshare buyers need to think beyond the down payment and loan payments. “Maintenance fee rates may far exceed the annualized cost of inflation,” Mike added.
“To make matters worse, resorts sometimes categorize timeshare loans as “mortgages”.” What this means is that if you stop making payments on your loan, it may be reported to the credit bureaus as a mortgage foreclosure. Many resorts try to pick the category that does the most damage to the consumer.
Finn Law Group helped timeshare owners settle a class action lawsuit against Bluegreen Corporation. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and Equifax Information Services, LLC in Best and Snapp, et al. v. Bluegreen Corp., et al.
The plaintiffs alleged that when they were delinquent, Bluegreen sent a series of letters advising them that they were terminated from the Bluegreen Vacation Club and the status of their accounts may be reported as foreclosures to the credit agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida debt collection laws. While the companies did not admit liability, the more harmful “foreclosure” category was deleted from over 11,000 individuals’ credit reports, replaced with the less damaging “settled for less”.
First and foremost, avoid timeshare transfer agents offering a “guaranteed” release in exchange for an upfront fee which can easily run into the thousands. Our previous interview interviewing an HOA Collection agent tells why.
Consumers need to be wary of television celebrities like popular financial expert Dave Ramsey, paid to endorse timeshare transfer companies with lofty sounding names. Some of these transfer agents may be legitimate, but heed the warning of our HOA collection agent above. Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, also explains why:
According to Mike Finn, bankruptcy is a worst case solution.
“Timeshare consumers can face a steep financial burden which can lead to a ruined credit score, and, in some cases, the need to file for bankruptcy. For more on the complexities of what happens to your timeshare and timeshare debt in bankruptcy, we encourage you to read on over at NOLO or The Bankruptcy Site,” said Mike.
“Failure to pay timeshare loans before bankruptcy can be reported to credit bureaus as delinquencies or even foreclosures, both of which can negatively impact your credit and make it extremely difficult to secure the 580 credit score that the FHA requires for its low down payment advantage.”
So if you are in this situation, what’s next? What can I do to save my credit score?
Sun Trust Bank offers these words of hope and encouragement
“Now, if you were deceived or otherwise legally abused in the purchase, you can file a complaint against the seller. Each state has a different process so you’ll have to contact your state’s attorney general to determine the jurisdiction. Have a narrative of your complaint and a copy of your contract when filing. The agency will contact you if it finds a valid violation of real estate statutes (or sometimes banking statutes), especially if it involves deceptive sales practices. Collectors must legally back off in such under-dispute cases, though many don’t.”
“By the way, consumer complaints about abusive debt collectors have nearly tripled in less than a decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re exceeded only by identity-theft cases, says the FTC, which has sued about 200 collection companies since 2010. Many have been banned from doing business. “
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this helpful advice concerning what a debt collector can and cannot do.
Our Advocates are here for you if you are concerned about your timeshare. By accumulating a volume of timeshare accountings, we can better recognize patterns of deceptive and predatory lending practices. The following Facebook was launched by Diamond Resorts members working with the company to resolve member issues.
Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for this insight into the problems of debt and also Mike Finn if the Finn Law Group for his legal contribution.
If you have any comments about any article published we would like to hear from you, your contributions are welcome. Also if you require any information about any company that you have had contact with, but are unsure how to check them, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.