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American Resort Development Association

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, over the past few weeks we have been publishing various articles on Bills which may have a detrimental effect on timeshare consumers. This week Irene Parker shares how she sees the legislation being proposed.

A Legislative Scorecard – Nevada Florida and Arizona

How to Connect Lobby Dots

By Irene Parker

April 12, 2019

VOTE “OPPOSED” TO NEVADA SB 348 UNLESS THE BILL IS AMENDED TO OFFER TIMESHARE BUYERS (NOT JUST THOSE RETAINING EXIT SERVICES), 24 HOURS TO REVIEW A TIMESHARE CONTRACT.

Review means an offer to be able to review a contract 24 hours before signing.

This offer should not be buried in fine print. Timeshare buyers who wished to waive the requirement could do so.

Rescission Period means the 3 to 10 days a member has to review after signing.

Nevada has an easy method to comment on the legislation. Select SB 348 and oppose the bill unless amended to allow a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a contract:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Why would the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), an industry-supported PAC, and ARDA ROC, (Resort Owners Coalition), be so opposed to offering timeshare buyers 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a perpetual contract with little to no secondary market?

A recent complaint received by Inside Timeshare:

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

The timeshare member identified six timeshare sales agents, of which five are repeat offenders, names well known to Inside Timeshare. The sixth is an up-and-comer who up-sold the senior in Hawaii at a prior update. On a subsequent visit to Hawaii, a family member accompanied the senior to a March 2019 “mandatory” meeting. The sales agent informed the senior that there is going to be a huge Special Assessment in the US program so the member needed to switch back to Hawaii from the US program for the eighth time in four years. If agreed to, this would have cost the senior over $60,000, pushing the loss to more than $400,000. The sales agent also told the family member and the timeshare member that he has a broker they could retain to rent and get money back and at some point in time, the points could be sold back. They added that purchasing these additional points would also allow the member to use points to pay maintenance fees.

I am 100% confident the timeshare company will tell the member that they signed a contract. They will file a complaint with the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED). NRED will provide the senior with a “You have no proof” letter.

ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson has been quoted, “The state should not be concerned with those who did not bother to understand the product.”

I wish the member’s story was unusual. At the Florida legislative workshop and at the Arizona hearing, lawmakers themselves reported how they had experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

An overlooked Nevada bill:  

Nevada Assembly Bill 438: Vacation and Timeshare Plans

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6835/Text

An OPC is a bird dog, if you will, hanging out at strategic locations, offering incentives to hear about something. NV AB 438 has no single sponsor. Many times I heard a member complain that they were not told it was a timeshare presentation. Nevada Assembly Bill 348 is an act relating to timeshare, providing the following:

Section 1 states:

1. The Administrator may impose a fine or suspend, revoke, reissue, subject to conditions, or deny the renewal of the registration of any representative if the representative has, by false or fraudulent application or representation, obtained a registration or is found guilty of (a) Making a material misrepresentation; (b) Making any false promises of a character likely to influence, persuade or induce another person to attend a timeshare presentation; (d) Must disclose that the promotion is for solicitation of timeshares.   

Florida HB 435: GENERAL BILL sponsored by freshman Representative Wyman Duggan profiled on LobbyTools.

Effective Date: 7/1/2019

At a Florida legislative workshop held March 12 in Tallahassee, the Florida Attorney General’s spokesperson admitted Florida received 1600 timeshare complaints annually in recent years, 700 so far this year, the bulk concerning the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. “We engaged 42, mostly about resales,” they added.

This is good news for perpetrators as they can be assured oral representation will be dismissed, despite a volume and pattern of complaints.

Arizona ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson assured those who attended the Arizona HB 2639 hearing that unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices are minimal because Arizona only received 250 complaints in a year arguing that allowing a buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract is not necessary.

The Arizona House Bill 2639 was aimed at alleviating unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. The bill included allowing a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review a perpetual contract. ARDA was able to get this item in the bill thrown out.

I wrote “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” so members foreclosed can explain to their lender how when “pitched heat” by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents, they can lose $100,000 or more in a week, one second after the rescission period ends because the resort can fall back on the oral representation clause. By their own admission, Florida’s timeshare division DBPR will fall back on it too.  https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-18/

From AZ HB 2639

Buyers often enter into timeshare contracts when on vacation, are encouraged to review documents after they return home from vacation, sometimes long after the rescission period has ended – leading to confusion, anxiety and costly fees that can last years.

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. 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, according to our 800 readers.  

When timeshare members receive their maintenance fee invoices, they are asked to make a $3 to $10 donation to ARDA ROC. 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.

Timeshare members that have contacted Inside Timeshare are not trying to weasel out of their contracts because they can’t afford them. They allege unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Our readers include doctors, lawyers, two private investigators, mortgage loan officers, professors, MBAs, war heroes, law enforcement professionals, criminologists (one a PhD), a detective who worked economic crimes under cover, and a contract specialist for ConEd, all alleging unfair and timeshare sales practices. What chance has the vulnerable?

All we ask is make it a level playing field, by providing disclosure, alerting the consumer – you cannot believe a word timeshare sale agents say because they could be “pitching heat.” Unscrupulous sales agents also harm honest sales agents trying to sell the product honestly. We’ve heard from a lot of them.       

The American Legislative Exchange Council

The reporter in this YouTube describes how lobbyists sit at the table with legislators filling in the blanks crafting desired bills tailored to their wishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MHYOB5uptc

Our volunteers answer questions about regulatory filings when members complain of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Many members have resolved disputes by filing regulatory complaints. Too many families have been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare, a product advertised to reduce stress.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

Other related articles:

Arizona HB 2639

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

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Thank you Irene, all we can hope for is that these Bills do not get through, timeshare consumers need protection not just from unscrupulous resale and exit companies but also from the industry as a whole. We have often stated that timeshare could be a good product, but as we know it is the way it is sold and the unfair conditions consumers have to put up with that are the problem.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare.

The Tuesday Slot: Arizona House Bill 2639

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker continues our articles on the Arizona House Bill 2639, with a contribution from Fran D, a Registered Nurse.

ARDA Timeshare Lobbyist Don Isaacson Opposes Arizona House Bill 2639 – A Bill to Safeguard Timeshare Buyers

ARIZONA TIMESHARE BILL PASSES OUT OF HOUSE COMMITTEE

By Irene Parker and registered nurse, Fran D

March 5, 2019

Arizona has proposed a timeshare bill to protect timeshare buyers, but this bill is being contested by timeshare lobbyists. If Arizona HB2639 passes, it would help to protect consumers from fraud and deceptive sales practices by allowing a 14 day rescission period, among other safeguards. Fran, an Arizona resident, hopes that by sharing her timeshare experience that took place in Sedona, Arizona, and Maui, Hawaii, it will help lawmakers understand what buyers face when purchasing a product improperly presented.    

Timeshare members pay $5 million in annual “voluntary” donations to ARDA ROC. ARDA is the American Resort Development Association and ROC is Resort Owners’ Coalition. Out of 717 timeshare families who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one member could tell me what ARDA ROC stands for.

Timeshares have little to no secondary market. ARDA ROC has launched 8 Tips to Navigate the Resale Market. I contacted 22 licensed brokers. Not one would accept a listing for my timeshare points, feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points too restrictive. For the members of my timeshare company, there is no resale market. http://www.ardaroc.org/timeshare-resales-resource-center.aspx

Many of the families affected by the lack of a secondary market for timeshares have been financially devastated. The majority of our readers have reported unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

ARDA – Is this is our voice?

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line, said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

“You read the documents,” said Isaacson. “And unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

Anyway, Isaacson argued that too much is being made of the issue. He said the 250 complaints a year to the Attorney General’s Office pale in comparison to the 600,000 timeshare units owned in Arizona.

















What Mr. Isaacson doesn’t understand, is that members are bound by the contract, despite fraud, with the vast majority of complaints alleging deception dismissed with “You signed a contract.” It’s not that buyers don’t understand the product. It’s that they understand the product as it is so often deceptively presented. Three major timeshare companies have received, respectively, over 2,000, 1,000 and 800 Better Business Bureau complaints over the last three years.

When buyers complain, they are typically told they signed a contract. How many people buy cars and houses without relying on reading every word of a contract, relying on the ethics of the real estate or automotive broker? It is only in timeshare that the oral representation clause is so abused and so overused. The industry itself calls deceptive practices “pitching heat,” a term unique to timeshare sales.

There are many ways to deceive, such as:

“This is a new program, so don’t say anything because I could get fired.”

Access to booking is not allowed until after the rescission period, so reading the contract would not help.

Wait until you make a few payments before refinancing – when banks don’t finance timeshares.

Fran’s complaint, recently sent to the Arizona and Hawaii Attorneys General, was dismissed by the company, responding that there were no misrepresentations. You be the judge. She will file complaints with the BBB, the FTC, the FBI at IC3.gov and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fran hopes ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson reads her complaint. She will be reaching out to the following Arizona representatives involved with the bill:

Excerpts from the complaint Fran filed with the Arizona and Hawaii AG offices:

  • We purchased 8500 points in Sedona Arizona April 24, 2017.
  • Purchase price: $29,955.00
  • Down payment: $6,150.00
  • Amount financed $23,805.00

Sales agent Eric told us that we were buying points at a low rate, less than $ 4 per point, and that “at this price the point value can only go up.” We could sell some points at a profit and keep the original base points for travel. Ultimately getting our entire purchase for free, he called it a “401-V”.  He said he would lock the price for one year in case we decided to get more points later to utilize our “401-V”. We have since learned Diamond points are virtually worthless on resale.

The forms were long and extensive. We asked for time to review the documents but were pressured into signing “today” or not get the price per point offered.  After seven hours, my husband got upset and left. Eric followed us to our room insisting that we sign. We thought that Eric must be telling the truth, because if he wasn’t, there would be some sort of regulation. We incorrectly put our faith in Eric.     

We were referred to ARDA. ARDA’s advice leads members to scams, as licensed brokers will not even accept a listing for Diamond points, feeling the restrictions Diamond places on the use of secondary points excessive.

Virginia Beach, August 2017

The sales agents in Virginia were also very high pressure. They told us what we bought in Arizona was not worth it for us and that we had to purchase another 8500 points in order to keep the price of less than $4 per point.  The agent said that after that day the price would be higher. We did not buy. Being deceived into attending the presentation, under the guise that we were getting an education toward our membership was unfair and deceptive. The insistence that we had not purchased enough points made us so angry we did not buy.      

Maui, Hawaii, February 12, 2018

We purchased an additional 5,000 points and switched our US Collection points to the Hawaii Collection to total 13,500 Hawaii Collection points.

  • Purchase price $56,510.00
  • Down payment of $2,731
  • Amount financed $47,713.00

We met with sales agent Sequan R. This again ended up being a hard sell when we told him that we were expecting more of an educational meeting. He said he would give us all the education we need as he had left the company to give independent conferences to teach people how to maximize and exit a timeshare through “Timeshare Confidential Seminars,” but said Diamond hired him back to the sell side of the industry. We were again told “You can’t travel to where you want to go with what you have.” We have since learned that 8500 points were enough points to meet our needs.

Sequan told us we could use a program called Club Combinations at least six times a year to rent out to generate income that would offset the cost of our mortgage. Sequan also told us that we are lucky that the agent in AZ locked in the price because points have already gone up to $8.00 per point so we could already sell points and double our money.  Sequan said that many more high income level people are coming into this resort for the investment which is why the company started the rental program. He said at that income level people want to see a good return on their investment. I told Sequan I did not have time to spend on rentals because I work a lot of hours. Sequan said that the company would appoint someone to help us so we could start to offset our cost right away. I asked Sequan what if they don’t help us. He gave us his cell number and said to call him if that happens. We called Sequan but there was no person by that name.

Later we called and asked how to rent out our club combinations listings.  We were told there was no such program. There was no such thing as a rental program or selling of points for a profit.

Most buyers are on vacation without funds available for a large purchase, so end up signing off on high interest rate loans.  We went into debt to invest in Diamond’s timeshare points.

We had hoped for great vacations and the ability to sell some points for profit as had been explained.  Diamond’s motto “Stay Vacationed” for us means being held hostage. This vacation nightmare has become a major stress in our lives. Filing regulatory complaints is like having a part time job. I am a registered nurse and have spent many years working hard. My husband has worked hard for 40 years. We trusted the timeshare salespeople as we would trust any real estate broker, relying on the ethics of the real estate industry. It was a mistake.

Please do whatever you can to pass this bill and not allow ARDA, a paid lobbyist, to change your minds!

Thank you to Fran for sharing her timeshare experience. Inside Timeshare sent a draft of this article to ARDA. They did not respond. Of the 717 families who have reached out to us reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, 99 are veterans and active duty service members. Several of the veterans are disabled, five Agent Orange disabled.

Proposed Florida HB 435, in which developers are worried about members deceived by timeshare exit companies, is supported by ARDA. A recent Florida whistleblower lawsuit was filed on behalf of ten former Wyndham sales agents. The actions of deceptive sales agents also harm honest timeshare sales agents.

IMPORTANT LINKS CONCERNING ARIZONA HOUSE BILL 2639

Press Release: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-43/

To Track Arizona HB2639: Trackbill.com

https://trackbill.com/search/#/direction=desc&page=1&sort=relevancy&tracked&upcoming_hearings&type=bills&state=all&session&query=AZ%20-%20HB2639%20timeshare

Proposed HB Bill 2639

https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/1R/bills/HB2639P.pdf

Request to Speak for Arizona Residents

https://www.cebv.us/rts.html?fbclid=IwAR2784DcGDTFFg0hoQKi_WPJvhNaz7bvoPylIqRLxoBSStSdlH8Z3qGGD_o

The “Kill Bill” Guide – How it Works

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y4w31DQFznxoTDZDru86qzDoku3wuHaW/view

Coalition to Reform Timeshare









Preparing a narration for a governmental agency or a timeshare loss mitigation department is difficult for some due to age related issues or language barriers. We’re here at Inside Timeshare, along with our Supporters, to listen and educate. Contact us or one of these self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced if you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.  

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 Irene and Fran, it is now down to you the readers to do your bit and make your voices heard, this bill is to protect you the consumer, do not let the industry that has walked over you for years do it again.

In Spain, the law is on the side of the consumer, the industry is being taken to the cleaners after years of predatory selling, with many other European Countries with timeshare resorts looking to follow Spain’s lead. This is a result of the European Union issuing several directives on what timeshare is and how it should and should not be sold, which each state having to place this into their own laws, Spain was by far the strongest in its implementation. It took many years to get to this stage, but at least the consumer has the full protection of the law.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

The Tuesday Slot: Manifesto Part 1

After we published our interpretation of Florida HB 435, Inside Timeshare received the following Manifesto written by an Industry Insider. Part I examines the history of exit companies. Of note is the mention of the role private equity plays in today’s timeshare industry. Private equity firms played a major role in the junk bond debacle of the 80s and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 90s, so it is of no surprise to find private equity firms directing timeshare today. A junk bond or a subprime mortgage had some value for the borrower, but a timeshare contract, often adding up to $100,000 or more, is worth next to nothing should the borrower need to sell.

We look forward to Part II in which today’s author hopes to, “draw public comment for a new Business Proposal to remedy and resolve the issues.”

Florida HB 435 addresses timeshare exit services

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

MANIFESTO

Timeshare Exit Companies and the Future of Timeshare

WHAT DO THIRD PARTY TIMESHARE EXIT COMPANIES (“TPE”) TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE TIMESHARE INDUSTRY?

Part 1.

By Anonymous.

Our Questions;

 

  • Are Third Party Exit (“TPE”) companies selling a product that is largely undeliverable?
  • If the product is undeliverable are all remaining TPE’s simply exhausted Ponzi schemes awaiting implosion and bankruptcy?
  • How many Customers in the last 12-48 months have paid thousands of dollars for services yet remain unresolved, un-exited, un-refunded, and are still on the hook for their timeshares?
  • How large is this Exodus?

 

In this manifesto we shall attempt to break down into layman’s terms the causes and effects on the Timeshare Industry at the hands of the so-called third-party timeshare exit companies or “TPE’s” and eventually in Part Two, draw public comment for a new business proposal to remedy and resolve some of the issues.

We shall also reminisce at some of the more notable examples of earlier ill-fated timeshare exit businesses, all of whom reveal the starkest of similarities. In doing so, we will also be commenting on the chest-beater from the Industry in the form of a Sept 17th 2018 public release. Sadly, we shall also be debating the unconventional elephant that still sits in the room.

  • Why is there such resistance to owners exiting a Timeshare?  
  • Why is there no organized, unionized, “brand supported” exit & secondary market offering that satisfies the disposal needs of owners who are aged, retired, unwanted beneficiaries of, no longer travel or are on Federal poverty levels?  

 “On Sept 17th 2108 the Timeshare industry, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) and ARDA Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), have united to stop the misconduct of those deceiving timeshare owners into paying for illusory timeshare exit services through fraudulent means”.

I applaud the Industry on the use of the word “illusory’ as defined as: based on illusion; not real.” In what appears to be a long overdue case of karma, the timeshare industry is altruistically defending its long suffering, desperate “exiting and cancelling” owners from paying for illusory exit & cancellation services.  

(We don’t know who is more naïve; the Resorts for expecting that no one can ever get out of a Timeshare, or the deluge of Owners who paid upfront to try to get out!)

We speculate that in the last 36 months a crescendo aggregating to millions of owners had the audacity to want to end their Timeshare experience and as a result many hired Lawyers and Advocates and spent tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to get rid of their timeshares. Most of these fees were paid upfront, and most were promised that fees were 100% refundable if the exit contract expires and one still owns one’s timeshare assuming the Lawyer or Advocate is actually still in business!

Customers are asked to pay $7500 or more ‘upfront’ to be represented or advocated. Most marketers claim that there are magical back passages into resorts that take back the timeshares quietly in a forbidden black market open to only the special few. Marketers support this notion by suggesting that if the resorts were to publicly announce that they take back timeshares there would be an immense exodus of cancellations. No present evidence supports this tall tale.  

The Timeshare Industry is familiar with the exiting, canceling or generally getting out of a timeshare scam. As we can see Timeshares are complex and very sticky to get rid of. The Industry continues putting TPE lawyers and advocates out of business and into bankruptcy, yet the Industry cannot find a solution to the real problem – an evident immense Exodus.

Nothing, other than Moses leaving Egypt could be compared to the TPE Companies assault on popular branded timeshare owners in 2015 – 2018. All the major brands had rolled out vacation club programs with all types of new generation upsells and exchanges. Publicly traded companies in the hotel, recreation, leisure and timeshare industries had begun curiously separating their timeshare divisions into new public companies. Yet at conventions, the Resort Owners, Lawyers and Administrators all reported that their biggest headaches were the Exit firms. Their disruptive activities caused added administration issues, defaults, millions in lost revenues, angry customers all dealing with these flimsy cancellation letters from dozens of Lawyers and hundreds of Advocates interrupting contractual obligations and communication with the customers. They all knew where this would end…owners were paying thousands upfront for services that weren’t going to happen. Owners were routinely signing and notarizing Powers of Attorney to exit companies like they were signing Christmas cards! This wasn’t a cottage industry any more. It was an epidemic that had to be eliminated.

Apollo Global Management, owner of privatized Diamond Resorts (who as Merchant Bankers were possibly the first well-known brand to recognize the sudden disparity in results and the probable cause), began aggressively suing TPE Lawyers & Advocate Company’s in 2015. Apollo has made it known that they are preparing to re-IPO Diamond Resorts

  • The cause; The Timeshare Developer/Owner HOA true concerns are the financial effect that an immense Exodus of Owners and the sudden loss of payment of residual annual fees would have on the bottom line.
  • The effect; The Timeshare Industry has adopted a widely “illiquid” stance based on the capture of customers annual fees. The Timeshare industry survives in a very large part from customers annual maintenance fees.

Where did this idea of how to bilk the Timeshare Industry come from?  

In 2004, Uri Fried, an Israeli businessman and so-called inventor of the Third-Party Exit (TPE) business sent millions of postcards to timeshare owners inviting them to get rid of their timeshares for an upfront fee. Uri had formed over 50 straw buyers LLCs and began transferring thousands of unwanted timeshares per month into his LLCs. For several years Uri’s activity went relatively unnoticed by developers and resorts. Along the way Uri sold timeshares on eBay for $1 thus cementing the perceived market value of second-hand timeshare at one-dollar. None of Uri’s LLC’s ever paid a cent in maintenance to any resorts. Uri ended up serving a couple of years for $1.9m tax evasion.

In 2017 Uri settled all misrepresentation charges with the State of Wisconsin for $132,000 and received a lifelong ban from ever handling timeshares again. None of Uri’s ill-gotten gains were ever recovered.

Uri Fried woke the Industry up to the vulnerability of the Viking Ship LLC exit scam. The Resorts & HOAs were so fragmented. Collectively, they had no clue what Uri was up to. Uri’s customers owned everything and anything. Uri knew he was never going to pay a penny in dues or maintenance, so he stuffed them all into his defaulting LLCs. If the Resorts grew suspicious of the LLC name(s) Uri would simply create new ones.

Eventually the resorts smartened up and unilaterally responded by refusing to honor or acknowledge transfers to certain suspicious names and eventually certain transfer companies. The Developers had falsely believed that some level of organic secondary market had been occurring. As the industry is so hugely fragmented the major developers were fooled for a while.

As we shall see, the Viking Ship LLC model grinds slowly to a halt when the resorts block or refuses customer re-registrations and transfers. However, the TPE’s marketing machines continue “in almost every case” to sell new Customers on getting rid of their timeshares, in order to continue to collect thousands in what surely become ill-gotten fees, thus becoming a Ponzi scheme; whereby new monies pay off older refunds.

After the failure of Uri Fried’s business, an alternative Viking ship business became strongly marketed; Attorneys claiming to ‘cancel’ a timeshare.

On behalf of Owners who retained the firm, Castle Law (and others similar) wrote to the HOA’s and Resorts and in some cases Lenders, a series of scalding, lawyerly stamped, heavily embossed, important looking letters accusing and maligning the Resorts with allegations of much malfeasance, misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.  

Owners were claiming any or all of the following:

  • Told that this offer is good for today only.  
  • Told that timeshare is in hot demand
  • Told that timeshare is a great investment
  • Told that timeshare – like all real estate will appreciate over time.  
  • Told the timeshare presentation is only going to be 90 minutes.
  • Told the timeshare is in such demand it could always be RENTED for a profit.
  • Told that you are buying pre-construction and this timeshare can be SOLD for a profit after the next “phase.”  
  • Told that this week/resort is such a valuable week to all of the exchange companies that you can trade for “anytime, anywhere.”  
  • Told that this maintenance fee will not increase over time
  • Told you will be attending an “update” to discuss questions (also called a policy change, owners update, etc.… – later it was actually a sales presentation).  
  • Told that this is not timeshare but Vacation Ownership or Vacation Property.  
  • (You) were subjected to high pressure sales tactics or felt that you could not leave the presentation without purchasing timeshare.
  • The timeshare sales agents plied you with champagne (or other alcohol or drugs).
  • The timeshare sales agents assured you, you could cancel if we had second thoughts/buyer’s remorse.  

Attorneys and Advocates, armed with Limited Power of Attorney, filed cease and desists on behalf of owners. Attorneys were demanding that the Resort have no communication with the aggrieved customer (s). Simultaneously, customers were instructed not to communicate with their resort, and to forward any communication from the resort to the attorney or advocate.

It wasn’t long before far less scholarly ‘advocates’ caught on to the jolly wheeze and suddenly millions of timeshare data records were for sale and hundreds of thousands of robo dialed calls an hour were being made to every timeshare owner looking for people who wanted to get out of their timeshares.

Unbelievably, millions of owners wanted out.

In the words of ReedHein dba Timeshare Exit Team CEO & timeshare exit Advocate Brandon Reed;

The reality behind the recent litigation is that resorts are leaving millions of consumers with no other options. Timeshare Exit Team exists because the resorts have created a problem without providing a solution. We hear countless stories from customers who were unable to even give back their ownership. Others have found that their timeshare investment was actually worthless when  they tried to resell it. Owners must have a way to safely and legally end their ownership when it no longer fits their lifestyle. Until that happens, we want to make it clear that we will not be dissuaded from continuing to advocate for consumers.”

Reed Hein are the guys advertising on TV. Estimates show that ReedHein is now the largest timeshare cancellation firm in the USA. We wonder what ReedHein is doing differently from Uri Fried, The Macmillan’s, ACC and other notable predecessors.       

Ok, why isn’t there a secondary market for Timeshare?

The Timeshare Industry publicly abhors any notion of a secondary market almost as much as the Wicked Witch of the West abhors water.

Why? …It’s so simple.

Let’s say you buy a Westgate ‘second hand’ at 90% off current Westgate prices from eBay.

  1. Westgate gets no new dollars from that exchange, Westgate gets a new Customer, the perception of “secondary market” timeshare true value is realized,
  2. Westgate takes on the risk that you will or won’t pay its annual fee’s.

Unlike the auto business, the timeshare core product is the same in “both Primary & Secondary Markets,” the most glaring disparity is price.

All the frontloaded exorbitant sales commissions, fees, marketing expenses and popping champagne are in the primary market versus a vast global array of venue choices at huge discounts available in the Secondary Market.

Sadly, developers use punitive measures to hamper and deter secondary market purchases of Points based/Club, Right to Use contracts by restricting further points accumulation (s), restricting booking access or exchange, restricting access to deed back and contract back programs, voiding visiting guest rental certificates and other contractual privileges. Certain developers’ restrictions have been described as downright draconian!   

The Industry publicly states in countless SEC filings that a Secondary Market would cut deeply into the Industries profitability. We can see why they would be worried.

In SEC filings:

  • “…the resale market for VOI’s (vacation ownership interests) could adversely affect our business” (Bluegreen)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market could negatively impact our sales” (Wyndham)
  • “the sale of vacation ownership interests in the secondary market by existing owners could cause our sales revenues and profits to decline” (Starwood)

Source – EDGAR.

In loosely translated SEC language that means the entire industry agrees with the notion that a secondary market should not exist, and they will stamp on the windpipe of any attempt to conjure a secondary market.  

This cannibalistic, illusory industry has a bone through its nose! As the industry makes sweeping, ubiquitous, cannibalizing, business decisions we urge serious consideration to the real threat to the future bottom line. As the Industry has discovered, there is a serious flaw to timeshare. Having built these lavish, illusory, granulated palaces, one must continue to sell to new mug punters who are still naive enough to sit through a bruising several hours long presentation and then when sufficiently punch drunk, pick up a pen and sign complex contracts that one has never read nor had the opportunity to do so, nor to many if read would actually comprehend. This is the sales model of the Primary Timeshare market? Is this the best they’ve got?

Possibly that’s the reason behind the aforementioned public company players in timeshare creating new public companies for their Timeshare only assets. Maybe they also see the writing on the wall of this woeful sales channel and are protecting their other core assets from devaluation.

After all, how many mug-punters could there possibly be?   

In a 2017 Orlando Sentinel News story, Mr. & Mrs. Morrison stated they are horrified by what they did on their last vacation to a Wyndham Resort in Orlando. They paid $25,000 to buy a timeshare, after a four-hour sales pitch that wore down the couple’s resistance and skepticism. Now they’re being hounded by people promising to get them out of the contract — if they pay an up-front fee. They don’t want to pay out any more money and aren’t sure who to trust. “We can’t afford this,” said Morrison, 69, who lives near Ottawa, Ontario. She says Wyndham offered to put them in a program that will eventually allow them to sell their timeshare, but they aren’t sure how long it will take. “Why won’t someone help us and put a stop to this?” she said. Wyndham didn’t respond to questions about the Morrisons’ case.

As if the Industry abandoning its aged, non-using, beneficiary owned and generally unwanted/unaffordable owners wasn’t bad enough, the Industry thwarts every attempt to stop an immense Exodus creating a need for Lawyers, Advocates and evidently miscreants and swindlers.

If Timeshare is an investment in making memories in people’s lives then shouldn’t it know when it has outstayed its welcome?

This of course is all karmically comical as the Timeshare Industry has cut its teeth on brutally sharp practices of high-pressure selling techniques, flogging its wares in well documented grueling four or five hour long “90” minute information breakfasts.

The Industry is undeniably infamous for pitching heat. Sales offices manned with trained professionals are often well trained in manipulative sales techniques. These timeshare hit-men pitch to the giddy, all too often inebriated, vacation-minded unaware prospects. It has been alleged that commission driven sales people often misrepresent overly complex customers contracts, agreements, loan documents, mortgage addendums all of which are tragically packaged by Closers, TO’s (Take Overs), Hail Mary’s and Managers at a table somewhere in a Timeshare sales room. Their only compensation is the commission from a sale.

Can you hear the champagne popping corks now?

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred attorney Judson Wheeler Phillips, founder of the Castle Law Group, on a myriad of charges relating to consumer fraud complaints. In the past few weeks, Castle Law Group has ceased business operations following federal lawsuits brought by developers against Castle Law Group and those acting in concert with the firm.

Wyndham’s pursuit of American Consumer Credit (“ACC”), ACC’s principal, Dana Micaleff and attorney, Michael Saracco, resulted in ACC filing bankruptcy on September 7, 2018. Attorney Michael Sarocco, stated that Canadian entrepreneur Micallef always had “good intentions”, however things fell apart when developers and resorts wouldn’t allow ACC’s clients to break their contracts.

Castle Law & Judson Phillips were among the pioneers of the timeshare law firm and the cancellation business. Castle law had dozens of tertiary businesses who were marketing Castle Law services. These marketing firms fed Castle Law with thousands of desperate owners who were willing to pay $7500 or more “upfront” to exit their contracts.

In order to understand the scale of timeshare in the USA, the Timeshare Industry does about a $9billion a year in gross revenue. About 9.4million ownerships exist. There are approximately 1600 resorts. Average maintenance is approximately $900 a year. The Industry aggregates approximately $8.5billion from maintenance annually.

A typical single resort’s simple deed math would look like this:

  •         Typical Timeshare Resort – Individual Condo Units Per Resort: 500 units
  •         Weeks for Sale Per Unit: 50 weeks 500 x 50 = 25,000 Weeks for Sale
  •         Average sales price per week: $ 25,000
  •         25,000 weeks’ x $25,000 = $ 625,000,000 developer receipts
  •         Plus 25,000 weeks x $900 maintenance p/a = $22,500,000 per year.

In a new improved version of Uri Fried’s Viking LLC scheme; David and Cindy Macmillan sent millions of solicitation postcards and letters to Timeshare owners enticing them to attend informational meetings that led to “exiting their timeshare with 100% money back guarantee.”

The MacMillans ran a bunch of Viking Ship LLCs and their own transfer company in a timeshare transfer operation that resort owners alleged was bilking the industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of about nine years.

In 2008, spurred on by a failing economy and the USA housing crisis, the MacMillans operated over 65 straw buyer LLCs claiming that in exchange for several thousand dollars upfront, owners could be released from any timeshare contract. The MacMillan’s prize-winning company based in Torrance, California held sales meetings for owners by the bus load. Hundreds would cram in waving their credit cards in readiness. The MacMillan’s charged $6000 or more and allegedly mishandled over 120,000 timeshare contracts before becoming the target of the Attorney General of California. RICO allegations from Plaintiff Wyndham Hotel & Resorts proved undefendable. The MacMillans were banned from the business. They didn’t pay a single cent to the resorts in maintenance. Most of MacMillan’s eager customers found they were still on the hook for their timeshares. David MacMillan filed bankruptcy in 2016. Once again millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains went unrecovered. In a karmic twist of fate, Macmillan’s own transfer agent transferred thousands of the Macmillan’s Viking LLCs timeshares back into the original owners’ names before leaving the scene of the crime and left the Macmillans to take the fall.          

By 2014 Timeshare Exit marketing companies had mushroomed up all over central and south Florida, Tennessee and Missouri. Most of the new crops were marketing firms owned and run by seasoned telemarketing recidivists or by ex-timeshare sales people, some of whom had access to valuable owner data. The marketers, mostly acting as advocates, fed a variety of attorneys and both shared in the customer fees.  

In call center parlance this new business represented a new ‘data’ vertical. Call centers that had previously run ‘data’ looking for mortgage consolidation or debt relief were suitably adaptable for Timeshare Exit marketing. The busted timeshare Resale/Rental telephone scams that had left many recently unemployed in south and central Florida simply redeployed themselves. Some sales people told sad stories of repenting for all the lies they had told while selling Timeshare.    

In Phillips’ case, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Phillips after reviewing upwards of 18 client complaints, many of which made similar allegations of fraud, highlighting a pattern and practice of misconduct. In its ruling, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Phillips “poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Central to the series of complaints were allegations that Phillips and his business partners misled and/or defrauded consumers by taking exorbitant fees from timeshare owners for purported timeshare exit or cancellation services based upon fraudulent and misleading representations.

The ACC case is based on various legal theories, some of which are founded in Federal law, known as the “Lanham Act of False Advertising”. The case remains pending against Micaleff, individually, and Saracco, individually, although an automatic stay has been issued relative to ACC in the U.S. District Court action as a result of the bankruptcy filing. That, however, has not deterred the prosecution of the case. As of today, there is a motion pending against Micaleff and Saracco to punish them for, among other things, failing to appear for a deposition.

The Industries press release further commented;

“The constant pressure that our member companies, owners and federal and state agencies are putting on disreputable timeshare exit companies has again produced a positive result for the consumer,” said Robert Clements, ARDA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“We are committed to protecting our owners to ensure they aren’t taken advantage of,” said Michael Brown, President and CEO of Wyndham Destinations.”

Diamond Resorts implemented an aggressive litigation strategy in pursuit of third-party exit companies for their nefarious and unlawful conduct in an effort to protect the interest of their members who were promised outcomes that could not be legally accomplished.

The number of customers who “wish to exit” an owned, fully paid up timeshare is an immense Exodus. Far higher than was ever imagined or projected by the industry. The elephant in the room is that there is still no safe exit from unwanted timeshares and no robust market with which to capture and reposition the unwanted timeshares.

In light of the recently filed Florida House Bill 435, one must question the fates of the remaining exit and cancellation firms including; Resort Release LLC, The Newton Group & Reed Hein AKA Timeshare Exit Team amongst others.   

It is obvious by the recent advertising budgets expended on TV, Radio and all other assorted media, along with the number of employees and general expenses to run these TPE’s that there are probably millions of Owners who have already paid Fees to exit or dispose of a timeshare in the last 12-36 months that are as-yet unresolved and may begin actions suing for refunds. The Term of a TPE’s contract generally offered is 12-18 months. We are sure many contracts have now been extended far beyond their legal limits. All the previously named TPE’s and Law firms offered a 100% refund upon eventual nonperformance, assuming they were still in business.

By monitoring the largest TPEs on social media and by paying particular attention to present and past customers reviews, it is evident that satisfaction is extremely low and that refunds are aggressively being sought. How many hundreds of complaints like these does it take before another AG steps in or another exit company gets driven to bankruptcy by an aggrieved resort or the FTC?

Here’s what we know.

Exit firms can’t get rid of your timeshare unless the resort ‘wants them back.’ Most Timeshares are indeed worthless. All timeshares come with some form of annual cost. In light of 2018’s vacationing and travelling popular habits, the notion of paying an annual fee is not popular or appears economically attractive.  

It may well be true to say that all TPEs charge upfront fees for truly illusionary services because they now know within a moral certainty that their customers will get nothing for their money.

One would have imagined that Timeshare Developers, being an enterprising bunch, would have figured out how to ‘selectively take in’ enough exits & cancels to quell this Exodus problem. This sensible move would have made the TPEs redundant and quickly ended the third party exit business by allowing worthwhile and fitting exits for owners, for a small fee.  

This, however, further highlights the possible size of the immense Exodus problem.

Thank you to our new contributor, at some point he will reveal himself, but we look forward to Part Two of the Manifesto.

Remember if you are unsure about any company that has contacted you, or that you have found yourself on the internet or from an advert, then contact Inside Timeshare.

If you purchased your timeshare in Spain or upgraded after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if you have a valid and viable claim then Inside Timeshare can point you in the right direction.

 

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.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America by our very own Irene Parker, this week we revisit our series on the 3 Rs and 1F of Timeshare, but first a word of caution brought about by some very disturbing emails received by Inside Timeshare.

These emails are all concerning companies our readers have paid to “relinquish” their timeshares, all being told that the “exit notification letter” being sent on their behalf is all that needs to be done and they are now timeshare and maintenance free. They are told they should not engage with the timeshare company or need to pay any further maintenance fee.

Unfortunately this is not the case, several of our readers have paid a certain company who shall remain nameless at present, but they know who they are, to exit their membership with Diamond, around three years ago. These readers are still getting demands for maintenance fees along with a surcharge for interest. They are also being threatened with court action and a debt collection agency.

The company concerned with these exits tells the clients that they are free of their timeshare  and to “DO NOTHING, PAY THEM NOTHING”. “That Diamond would not take court action because they knew they could lose given the dubious selling practices and the fact that no court would allow a company to insist on payments for a product the owner cannot use”.

We know that Diamond does chase unpaid maintenance, the debt is usually passed to Daniels Silverman a Market Leading Debt Recovery Agency, based in Liverpool. So it is not Diamond who take the “debtors” to court, but Daniels Silverman on behalf of their client Diamond.

If you are told to stop paying your maintenance fees until you have official notification from your timeshare company that your contract and membership has been cancelled, then failure to pay puts you in breach of contract.

It is also known that Diamond will not deal with these “exit” companies, they have their own system in place and will deal direct with the member. Remember no matter what these companies tell you, they are not “lawyers”, they do not know timeshare, all they know is how to take your money.

Now for this weeks Letter.

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (prior revision February 16, 2018)

Resolution
Relinquishment
Refund
Foreclosure

By Irene Parker

November 16, 2018

Our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates brace for when timeshare companies hit the “send” button as millions of maintenance fee invoices hit inboxes.

February 16, 2018, when this article was previously published, we had heard from 300 readers since we began counting January 2017. As of November 14, 2018, we have heard from exactly 600 readers.  Not one of our readers was aware of the limited to no secondary market for a timeshare. This often triggers a complaint.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, or if a member requests an attorney, we refer to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help. Seeking legal counsel is the right of every citizen if they feel they have been harmed, as is filing regulatory complaints.    

If you have a complaint, our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because no one wins them all.

Timeshare companies cry, “Don’t call an exit company! We have your best interest at heart!” What the timeshare company means is:
Don’t call an exit company because it interferes with our recycled inventory process! Let us foreclose! We make collection calls to you no more than twelve times a day. (Six to each spouse, as has been reported)
When exist companies boast, “We can guarantee you release!” beware that that guarantee may include foreclosure. You don’t need to pay anyone to foreclose.  
Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-11/

Our goal:  Convert an angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused member into an empowered member. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has 44 core advocates, including a team of reporting advocates to answer questions about regulatory and, if needed, law enforcement filings. All of our Advocates are unpaid.  

The First R: Relinquishment

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:
A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund may be achieved. The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort, followed by the filing of regulatory and law enforcement complaints.

The timeshare lobby ARDA has a Code of Ethics. Not one of the 600 members who have contacted us could tell us what the letters ARDA ROC stand for, yet collectively give about $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opt-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member. Despite our advocates and members forwarding approximately 200 complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response.

ARDA’s Code of Ethics:

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including Minnesota AG Lori Swanson:  
“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”
Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages writes: “Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—and details of misconduct are kept private,”

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.
http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

According to the FBI agents and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points. With little enforcement in some states, deception prevails. Families after family have no option but foreclosure, if they have a loan outstanding. Most members contacting us do.        

The Third R

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

I ALWAYS tell members when they say, “After we signed we read all these negative complaints!” that there are just as many and more who use and enjoy their timeshare.  

    Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau, Attorneys General, and lawsuits.

If you foreclose, there will be a hit to your credit score, but if you feel you are a victim of unfair and deceptive sales practices provide the credit rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.     

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some common questions we are often asked about the foreclosure process:
Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees, loans or both?


Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees or loans?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?  

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never. A foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about five years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/can-a-timeshare-hurt-my-credit-score

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

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 Irene, useful as always, in the Tuesday Slot next week, we will have another “Secret Shopper” report, edited by Pete Gibbes the Secret Shopper Coordinator, so join us for another insight into the murky world of a timeshare presentation.

Don’t forget the book by Wayne C Robinson, Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale, with the forward by Irene Parker, you can obtain your copy from the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the last Friday’s letter from America for August, this week Irene Parker reviews the similarities between victims of the Catholic Church and Timeshare victims, it looks at how speaking up can make a difference. But first a couple of items from Europe.

Another company offering discounted travel has come to our attention, Advantage Group British Travel SL, according to Spanish company records the registered address is:

C/ LA GAVIOTA 14 – APARTAMENTO 1-19, LOS ABRIGOS (GRANADILLA DE ABONA)

This address is actually an apartment block, no sign of any office in the street.

Telephone number (34) 922 456 773

The company was registered on 24 October 2016 with the administrator being one Victoria Hughes and the secretary one Caroline Elizabeth Docker.

It appears that they use OPC’s on the street with the ubiquitous scratch cards to lure holiday makers into a presentation. This will involve several hours of high pressure sales to get you to part with a significant amount of money for a membership to another dubious “discount holiday club”.

You will then get access to the following website

www.toptraveleurope.net

This can only be accessed once you have joined and received your code and membership, there is also a £75 a year administration fee.

Now the name of this company reminded us of another several years ago called British Travel based at the Centro Comercial Fañabe Plaza, which is also the base for Monster Travel, Sell My Timeshare and other Mark Rowe enterprises.

The director of British Travel was Paul Hughes, which was also a “discount holiday club”, but was pitched as a travel agency, where you could get discount from 25% to 80%. Obviously Victoria Hughes is more than likely his wife and is now the  front for this company, we also know that Caroline is linked to paul as they are facebook friends.

So beware the ticket touts and the offers of great discounts!

We have also been informed by one of our regular readers who had dealings with the fake law firm in tenerife, Legalidad Abogados, part of the Litigious Abogados family, of another email being received about his court case against Diamond.

This has caused us a great deal of hilarity, the case was supposedly heard on 24 July 2018 and the director of Diamond Resorts International pleaded guilty, just like all the timeshare directors in these cases from this fake outfit. You will never believe who they named as the director, MARK ROWE!

Well we all know that Mark Rowe is not a director at Diamond, he runs his own little empire featuring Monster Credits, Rewards and Travel, Hollywood Marketing and off course ABC Lawyers to name but a few.

So if you are reading this Mark, congratulations on your employment at Diamond and what a shame you ended up in court!

Now for today’s article.

Timeshare Predators compared to Catholic Predators

By Irene Parker

August 31, 2018

There are many good Catholic priests, sisters and nuns, especially Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister of Erie, Pennsylvania, speaking out on what has been the pervasive Catholic culture of institutional cover-up.

Sister explains,   

Pedophilia, the abuse of children, has finally unmasked for all to see the operational principles of an organization that has been able for years to ignore, reject– even disdain–the cries of multiple other groups of the ignored and abused.

It is clear now, in ways it was never clear before, how much damage is done to the church itself, ironically, by the kind of silence that makes it impossible for the church to admit its weaknesses, to deal with its questions. . http://www.joanchittister.org/

Something clicks inside a victim when they have had enough. Some timeshare companies employ the same tactics as the church. As timeshare members alleging fraud read through this, they will have no trouble seeing similarities. I advocate on behalf of timeshare members alleging fraud, alongside 44 Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates.

The Catholic scandal ultimately led me to timeshare advocacy. Turning anger over child abuse outward led me to CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in foster care, where I learned how to write court reports for Family Court. When timeshare members contact me, their complaints are often confusing and lengthy. I listen to their allegations, transcribe, and return to them their complaint in court report format. Other advocates answer questions that come up when members need to file regulatory complaints

A life’s journey can take many twists and turns. My life changed dramatically after a trip to Peshawbestown, Michigan to meet with tribal spiritual director and peacemaker Paul Raphael of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Peacemaker Paul was one of nine male children who attended the Holy Childhood School of Jesus in Michigan where Indian boys were sexually abused by three School Sisters of Notre Dame nuns in the 1960s and ‘70s. I contacted him after reading a four part article about the abuse. By part four I was livid.

Unholy Childhood, June 29, 2008

https://www.northernexpress.com/news/feature/article-3760-unholy-childhood/

Grand Rapids Michigan investigative reporters met with Sister Laura Jean Spaeth of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Milwaukee. Sister Spaeth was skeptical about the credibility so the reporters interviewed a total of 80 former students to verify the abuse.

“My answer was if it was just one person, that would be a legitimate argument — but we interviewed 80 people and we heard a consistently recurring story,” Golder said. “And it was troubling to me that the leaders of the order, sought to dismiss what we were saying based on the other problems in their lives,…but it was clear to me, as people told the same stories over and over, that it established a pattern that was factual.”

In 2008 I was practicing for a pipe organ exam at the cathedral for an American Guild of Organists exam. Patrick Cooney was Bishop then. Stunned after speaking with Peacemaker Paul, I wrote Bishop Cooney a letter asking if I could arrange a meeting. Peacemaker Paul resisted saying, “How will that help us?” I said it wouldn’t but it would help the Bishop because he cares and hearing directly from Peacemaker Paul could possibly help Bishop Cooney stop a potential abuser.  

Wounded Souls July 8, 2008

https://www.northernexpress.com/news/feature/article-3251-wounded-souls/

“There have been up to 400 reports nationally of sex abuse by nuns,” said David Clohessy, former national director and spokesman for SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The laws are written in Michigan to protect perpetrators and those who are doing the cover-ups. There have been efforts in the Michigan legislature over the past five years to get those laws changed, to be more victim-friendly, but in each case the bishops and the bishop’s conference spent a lot of resources to get those laws defeated,” Clohessy said. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Clohessy

After experiencing a timeshare bait and switch, I wrote to ARDA, The American Resort Development Association, explaining my concerns. I thought they would be grateful someone brought criminal actions to their attention. I did not hear from ARDA except for an auto-reply. Approximately 200 allegations of fraud have been sent to ARDA over two years – and no response. ARDA does not mediate disputes, but they have a code of ethics that is being violated, based on member reports.

According to Dr. Amy Grant, University of Central Florida, who presented at an ARDA World conference in 2017.

“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

Victims need to file regulatory complaints, lobby lawmakers and reach out to the media. I attended a Catholic conference where victims and clergy met to address the problems. It is only through the courage and fortitude of the Sister Chittisters of the world, change happens. It is unclear if the Pope or ARDA have really accepted the reality of Social Media because victims no longer need be silenced and isolated.

This article does go to show that only by speaking up and working together can any real change happen, these cases of abuse, although very different in nature, in the church and timeshare have one thing in common, both want you to remain quiet and say nothing.

That’s all for the month of August, the courts in Spain are about to start hearing cases again so there will no doubt be some interesting news on the legal front. Also during September Inside Timeshare will not be publishing regular articles as I am on leave and spending some quiet time with a large family reunion.

Have a great weekend and remember, any company that contacts you regarding your timeshare, do your homework before you do any business with them.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome once again to Friday’s Letter from America, this week is Earth to ARDA, it is an open letter to Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth, it is jointly written article by Eron Grant and Irene Parker. Inside Timeshare can also report that the US team have had three resolutions this week. Diamond  is Listening. So well done all the US volunteers.

justice2

This week has been a rather busy one for the courts in Spain, with three sentences from the Courts of First Instance, two from the High Courts and ruling number 90 from the Spanish Supreme Court.

Anfi have had three judgements against them this week two at the Court of First Instance and one at the High Court. In the first two, Court Number 3 at Maspalomas, GC found for the clients, declaring their contract with Anfi null and void. This case was highlighted in the Tuesday Slot with Irene on 6 March.

The second case, held at Court Number 4, again in Maspalomas, another Anfi member had their contract declared null and void. Ordering the return of over £15,000 plus legal interest.

In the High Court Number 5 in Las Palmas, the judge again declared an Anfi contract null and void, with the return of over £14,000 plus appeal legal fees and interest.

In the same court another timeshare company Airtours has had one of their contracts declared null and void, with the judge ordering the return of over 12,000€ plus legal interest.

At the Court of First Instance Number 4 in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, Club la Costa has been ordered to return over £19,000 including legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null and void.

In the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, another historic ruling, bringing the total number made by the Highest Court to a whopping 90!

This was against the Tenerife operation Silverpoint, again the contract was declared null and void with the return of over £10,000 plus legal fees and interest. There will be full article on this and another Supreme Court ruling next week, so keep an eye on these pages.

All these case have been brought on behalf of the clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, no doubt the clients and the lawyers will be celebrating this weekend.

cla-brochure

In other news, we had an enquiry into another company contacting Club Class members, this call was from a Madeline Swann of Gateway Services, apparently based in Telford. In the call she is telling the client that there is a payment due from the banks for being mis-sold his Club Class membership. All he needs to do is pay a certain amount by bank transfer to a Santander account to have the money released.

Haven’t we heard this one before?

On searching for this supposed company nothing came up, no company house records, nothing. So if you get a call from this Madeline Swann or anyone else saying they are from Gateway Service, do let us know. Remember, there will not be any money waiting for you from the banks or the courts.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Protest photo

This photo was posted on a Diamond sponsored member Facebook page, but removed. If you see these members at a resort near you, please send them to:

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

Earth to ARDA: WE GIVE – ARDA ROC – A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. BLUEGREEN DOES TOO

TO: Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs,

Howard Nusbaum, ARDA CEO,

Peter Roth, media contact

From: American Resort Development Association‘s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They are one of 23 Diamond Platinum members alleging they were fraudulently up-sold into financial disaster. Roy and Lillian Simmons first submitted their demands to Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department on January 8. Tuesday’s article describes what happened:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Next, they filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau the end of February. The BBB closed their complaint in two days because a Diamond Hospitality agent from the Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department responded, “They signed a contract.” As Mr. Simmons describes on the YouTube, they were told Diamond shares were going to go up and split and they could make $3,000 to $4,000 a week renting Hawaii points because Hawaii points are so valuable. Mrs. Simmons is too devastated to have taken part in the YouTube production. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons have a daughter. On March 6, their daughter Angela filed a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov against three Diamond sales agents, one in Hawaii and two in Orlando. She also filed a complaint with the FTC. Today she will refile a complaint with the BBB again asking, “What?”

You can file a complaint with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but since companies like Diamond and Bluegreen service the timeshare loan, members don’t even know the name of the lender unless the borrower has a lower credit score. Quorum Credit Union handles the lower score people. You have to select a lender from the CFPB drop-down menu. Timeshare companies are not an option.

Onward with complaints, they will file with the Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota and Nevada Attorneys General. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014. Then there’s the state real estate division in Florida and Hawaii against Diamond’s Hawaii sales agent John Jessup and Florida sales agent Rafael Carerra.

If Diamond won’t help them, it’s possible the Simmons will lose not only their vacation points, but also their home, according to their daughter Angela. Angela said the $2,700 a month Diamond loan is a significant portion of their retirement income. It’s doubtful any of the filings will have an effect. Angela is surprised all of this is like a ten hour a week part time job.

Like Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, the Simmons are supported by Whistleblowers of America, an organization dedicated to seeking justice for military and government workers.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Kevin and Brenda Hopkins describe their extraordinary sales pitch:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-39/

Some Peasants Revolt

By Eron Grant and Irene Parker

Friday March 9, 2018

meeting in office

Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth,

We are educated professionals, two among thousands demanding accountability, transparency and respect. Two of 44 Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates who have listened to 326 Diamond members allege predatory sales tactics that has caused financial disaster for hundreds of families, the possible loss of Military Security Clearances, ruined vacations, ruined honeymoons, damaged credit reports, members alleging they were over promised and oversold on availability, the ability to sell points, pay maintenance fees with programs that do not exist, the ability to rent points and the ability to lower interest rates, as in the case of Active Duty Navy members Amanda and George Jones. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Lawmakers are beginning to listen, a few Attorneys Generals are listening (not Florida or Nevada), regulators are listening, and the FBI is listening. ARDA is not listening.     

Sure, there are 9 million happy timeshare owners who own and enjoy their timeshare. They might not have been affected by a life crisis, only to learn their timeshare has no secondary market, or been sold or up-sold by a deceitful bait and switch. By your own accounting, 83% of timeshare owners are happy. That leaves 1,530,000 members that are not happy. Over 900 Diamond members complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s office accusing Diamond and their sales agents of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. Complaints to our Advocacy Group have not diminished since Arizona Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. The AOD is linked at the bottom of the press release.

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

Early complainers consisted of over 1,000 British Diamond members crying foul.

DRIP Enjin: http://drip.enjin.com/

Our Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook launched by an economics professor has over 1,000 members. It’s hard to find Disney Vacation Club complaints.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Here’s what happened to Mark and Eron   

YouTube produced by Doctor and Ms. Mark Grant

Our Timeshare Nightmare of a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

My husband Mark and I have kids. We are working professionals. We said we need to travel close to home. Our Diamond sales agents said, “No problem!” Grapevine, Texas Great Wolf Lodge sounded great! It was a bait and switch….

Most people don’t pull their kids out of school to take them to Great Wolf Lodge, so we searched Friday to Monday three nights:

April 6 – 9 Family Suite (6)

19,700 DRI points required @ $.22.5 maintenance fee $ = $4,432 for three nights.

As opposed to Booking.com April 6 – 9 Family Suite

 $819.97

101.67 ($33.89 per night service fee)

106.59 (13% tax)

$1,028.23 for three nights

This is not an ARDA’s Code of Ethics concern? I ask again:    

red dress

What ARDA Code of Ethics?

The ARDA Code of Ethics was designed to encourage an honest and fair competitive landscape for the vacation ownership industry, while upholding the highest forms of integrity, dignity and propriety.

Let’s review this Code. I actually read it.

Code of Ethics: Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Answer:  ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics. The Code consists of not only general conduct requirements, but also specific requirements for members to adhere to when transacting with consumers, standards for disclosure of information to the public, rules regarding resort management, base guidelines for resale activities, as well as administrative procedures for interpretation and enforcement of the Code.

Note from Eron and Irene: Diamond points have no resale activity. We think this is something a consumer might like to know before signing a perpetual contract.

Question:

What can be done to a (an ARDA) member whose actions are in violation of the Code?

Answer:  If a member is determined to be in violation of the Code (of Ethics), ARDA may take the following actions:

  • Privately or Publicly Admonish the Member
  • Prepare a Letter of Censure
  • Place the Member on Probation
  • Suspend the Member from ARDA Membership
  • Terminate the Member from ARDA Membership

Note from Eron: In addition to Diamond members giving ARDA ROC a million dollars a year, Diamond President Ken Siegel sits on ARDA’s Board of Directors. Diamond members are billed $7 for a “voluntary opt-out” donation from members who in all likelihood cannot even tell you what ARDA ROC stands for. I know I had no clue what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.    

Question:  Who do I contact if I have questions about the Code?

Answer: After reviewing the provisions of the ARDA Ethics Code, if you have questions, please call 407-245-7601 and ask to speak to the ARDA Ethics Administrator, or e-mail [email protected].

Note from Eron: After waiting 4 months for a response from Julie Schwartz (not Lobbyist and General Counsel Robert Clements because he would not take my call), I’m not feeling optimistic about making a phone call to ARDA’s Ethics Administrator. The fact you have to email customer service is not a good sign.

Note from Advocate Irene: I have sent ARDA about 100 of our most grievous complaints from Diamond Resorts members, seniors in fear of losing their home, military members in fear of losing their Security Clearance, alleging they were victims of fraud for profit. Not a word other than through the timeshare grapevine, “She’s writing articles for people.” No I’m not. I edit articles submitted to Inside Timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has received 340 reader complaints, 78 since January 1. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook page has over 1,000 members, Bluegreen members’ Facebook 800 (they are trying to keep their membership below 800).

Question: Does ARDA support the consumer?

In our opinion, only when the issue at stake is in line with developer’s wishes. One Advocacy Group banned ARDA from attending their meetings after a 2015 Florida bill was passed making it more difficult to get out of timeshare contracts due to nonmaterial errors.  

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

If the wishes diverge, lobby dollars go to work:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Question:  What does ARDA do with the information it receives from the general public regarding the potentially unethical conduct of its members?

Note from Eron: Nothing – My non-response from Julie Schwartz, ARDA-ROC Consumer Support representative serves as an example:

Answer:  ARDA does not mediate or arbitrate individual disputes between consumers and ARDA member companies. When we receive information regarding a potential violation of the Code we forward those complaints to the company for their consideration and resolution.

Note from Eron:  Who sits on your board and gives you a million dollars a year.

It is then up to the respective parties to resolve any potential dispute. Information submitted by the public may be used by ARDA to act against members when there is a consistent pattern of business practices that are in violation of the code.

Note from Eron: What about the 900 Diamond members who complained to the Arizona Attorney General? Better Business Bureau lists over 1,000 complaints.

Don and Irene Parker’s Diamond experience:

Like Eron, we purchased points for a specific location, New York City. Our daughter lives there. Like Eron, we learned it would cost approximately $8,500 in  Diamond maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at the same hotel, same time for $950 through an online booking service. I checked year round.

Next, we attended a predatory sales presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach in Orlando. I spent three decades in sales selling everything from pianos to stocks and bonds. I know a predatory sales agent when I meet one. Thoroughly disgusted, we went back to our room at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, and saw the Queen of Versailles, a FOX News Property Man segment about Jackie and David Siegel, the owners of Westgate timeshare building their 90,000 square foot home. We were in the process of moving from Kentucky to Venice Florida, so it just seemed natural to write an article called “The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles” describing wealth out of touch with reality.

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

One true benefit of owning Diamond points has been developing relationships with other professionals, over 1,000 of us, who have bonded together like a band of brothers and sisters, to fight widespread timeshare corruption we feel is so ingrained in the timeshare industry, it is accepted and considered normal, kind of like #metoo or sexual abuse, as happened at Michigan State. Look how long that went on.

At least timeshare members are finding each other now, no longer silenced and isolated. When timeshare members need a voice, they can contact Inside Timeshare. We can help.

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

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

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

 

If you need any information about this or any other article, company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or advertising in the press, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

It pays to do your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company, not all are what the say.

Have a great weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Fridays Letter from America

In this week’s Letter from America, we welcome Lisa Ann Schreier to our pages, she is the author of two books the most well known being Timeshare Vacations for Dummies. In this article Lisa gives a very good insight into the timeshare industry and how it is weighed in favour of the developers and not the consumer. But first a quick look at Europe.

timeshare for dummies

This week has been rather quiet, although we have received several enquiries on companies contacting our readers, these are still being researched, but all are offering something similar, claiming your money back with a relinquishment or that your resort has already been found guilty and there is a substantial amount of money waiting for you at in the Spanish Courts. All you need to do is pay the tax!

Obviously this does set the alarm bells ringing, as unless you have actually employed a lawyer, given authorisation for them to act on your behalf, had all documents translated and the case filed on your behalf at court, then none of the above is true. We will be publishing when the research is done.

Some news from mainland Spain came in this week, the Court of First Instance in Fuengirola has declared a contract with Heritage Resorts null and void. The UK clients have also been awarded their purchase price back which amounts to over £8,000, also a return of maintenance fees paid amounting to over 8,000€, plus legal fees and legal interest, then to cap it all the judge ordered that the deposit paid within the cooling off period be returned back double, this comes to over £12,000!!!

Now on with our first article from Lisa.

lisa ann

Timeshares have long suffered from a negative image, brought on for the most part by the outdated and heavy handed marketing and sales practices that are still in use, despite what those in charge of ‘spin’ in the industry would like us to believe.

However, as 2018 dawns, it’s becoming clear that the developers and the national association that protects those developers have carefully crafted an environment where they reign and consumer protections are dangerously close to non-existent.

We’re not just talking one concerning developer practice here, but rather a carefully orchestrated business model that puts consumers at a clear and some would say, illegal disadvantage.

Consider this:

—At least one major developer, has a clause buried in their contract that bans any owner from starting or joining any class action lawsuit, forcing them instead into arbitration which in their case, they pre-selected the exclusive filing location or venue, making it costly and inefficient for the consumer and is so knowledgeable about the pool of available arbitrators from experience in using them, that they can in part control the outcome by striking any proposed arbitrator that hasn’t previously ruled in favor of the developer. The one shot that a consumer can’t compete in that game.

To protect themselves, within that clause the developer states that a consumer may ‘opt out’ of that restriction if they notify the developer within 30 days of purchase. Talk to 100 of their owners, and 99 of them are unaware of this.

Another developer, now exiting the industry themselves and formerly based in New York City, wrote their contracts in such a way that unsuspecting owners literally gave the developer the right to change the Offering Plan several times annually without owners’ knowledge or advisement. Changes were made with the New York State’s Attorney General’s office as well as with New York City Real Property Records to change the type of deeds the owners held.  You guessed it; the changes that were made inevitably favored the developer and put the owners at a disadvantage.

—Then there is the inability to access or use what you purchased until well after the rescission period. In the United States, there is a legal rescission or cooling off period which ranges from 3-10 days. On the surface, that sounds like adequate consumer protection. But dig a little deeper as I did in this article I wrote for Senior.com

https://senior.com/timeshare-industry-keeps-rescinding/

and you’ll see that while almost all developers pressure you to purchase within the scope of a 2-5 hour sales presentation; promising you the price is for ‘today only’, they are under no obligation, legal or moral, to process the paperwork giving you access to what you purchased within that same legally mandated rescission period. Additionally, developers are getting ‘creative’ in how they give you the legal paperwork concerning the purchase and the rules concerning rescission. Several developers now routinely use a CD ROM or a tablet of some sort, both of which are difficult at best to access while on vacation.  

—Check any timeshare contract and you’ll find the ‘oral representation clause’.  This nifty clause, also known as ‘the salesperson can lie all they want during the sales pitch’ clause allows salespeople working on behalf of timeshare developers to say whatever is necessary to obtain the sale during the course of the 2-5 hour sales pitch and be under no obligation to live up to any of it. To wit; one major developer is telling unsuspecting consumers that they’ll be able to ‘cash in their timeshare points’ at $.30 per. When the owner attempts to cash those points out, they are of course told that no such program exists.

—Most salespeople extol the many virtues of timeshare ownership, among them being the ‘full bundle of rights’ that being the ability to use, exchange, rent, sell or will their interest. Ah yes, the ability to sell. What they don’t mention is that in the majority of cases, the resale timeshare market is so depressed that there are hundreds of thousands of owners who are listing their timeshare for sale for less than  $1,000 and in many cases for nothing after spending upwards of $20,000 for their ‘piece of paradise.’ (In 2016, the average price of a timeshare was over $21,000)

—The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), funded by timeshare developers and exchange companies among others, has a Code of Ethics.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

However, several high ranking members of ARDA including at least one serving on the Ethics Committee, have been copied on at least 80 and as many as 100 detailed complaints from one consumer advocate on behalf of owners. ARDA’s response?  They have ignored every single complaint. What, I ask you is a Code of Ethics good for if it’s not enforced?  The answer of course is ‘window dressing.’  It looks good but is in fact empty.

Skeptics of the premise that the consumer is clearly at serious disadvantage in timeshare matters will fall back on the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer beware. Defenders of the timeshare industry will point out that more than 7 million people own timeshare. However, even a cursory look behind the numbers will reveal an industry that consistently struggles against a negative image and furthermore, steadfastly refuses to do anything to change that, relying on the fact that consumers can not possibly read, understand and agree to language contained within mounds of paperwork signed while on vacation.

The timeshare industry has cleverly written their own rules. I’ve yet to find another product that has been able to do that and whose rules of governance so clearly disregard common legal and moral obligations to the consumer.

For timeshare and the vacation ownership industry to survive, some drastic steps must be undertaken, including sales and marketing methods of attracting new owners along with creating sustainable owner programs that show consumers that they are indeed a real stakeholder.

Lisa Ann Schreier has been involved in the timeshare community since 1998. After cutting her teeth as a timeshare salesperson and manager at a number of Orlando area resorts, she grew increasingly frustrated with the antiquated marketing and high pressure sales techniques that were (and sadly still are) the norm in the industry. Seeking to be a catalyst for positive change, she wrote ‘Surviving A Timeshare Presentation…Confessions From The Sales Table’ and ‘Timeshare Vacations For Dummies’.  She is a frequent contributor to major media outlets and a sought after speaker at consumer advocacy groups. In addition to her articles at Senior.com, she is the lead timeshare advocate at Elliott.org. Her ‘tell it like it is’ blog about timeshare issues is a source of solid information and continues to alert consumers to the myriad of less than reputable companies and practices.

Lisa’s blog can be accessed at:

http://www.thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com

Twitter users can follow her at @LisaLooksAt

Questions?  Looking for assistance?  Email Lisa at [email protected]

Thank you Lisa, we hope to publish more of your insights in the future.

If you have any question or need any advice about any article published or about any company that has contacted you but don’t know where to start, contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to help. Remember, doing your checks before hand will save you a money and a lot of stress!

Have a good weekend.

weekend

More Nightmares on Timeshare Street

Today’s article is rather disturbing, it highlights how members of the armed services and veterans are being targeted by unscrupulous sales agents. For people who put their lives on the line, this behaviour is particularly obnoxious.

Timeshare Wars

Samuel Melendez, our Advocacy group thanks you for your service to our country

troops

By Irene Parker

Diamond and ARDA seek to destroy me. I know that sounds melodramatic, but sources tell me it’s true.  I’m confident this will happen sooner rather than later. The industry and ARDA’s answer to our advocacy efforts is to behead the messengers rather than examine the business practices of top selling agents. I’m told one executive even commented, “They are victimizing the uneducated,” in regard to Timeshare Advocacy Group™ and our efforts.

Please read the American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA) Code of Ethics and Eron Grant’s article about the code before reading the following ten reader reports about their allegations of deceit.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

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

Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen each give $1 million a year in the form of voluntary “opt out” donations to the timeshare lobby, a PAC, called ARDA ROC. Members are told it is a nonprofit that helps timeshare members. It is doubtful many members even know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for. Marriott’s contribution is an “opt in” donation. It took several calls to have my $7 removed from my account. When I called in November, I was told it was a delinquency. Having researched timeshare for over two years, I was able to determine the $7 was moved from one account to another. I suspect it was to have me forget about it as it mushed into the 2018 invoice.    

In a span of ten days, Inside Timeshare has been contacted by seven active duty and retired military, describing how they say they were defrauded by predatory timeshare sales agents from four companies.  A 100 page summary of 249 complaints against timeshare sales agents and companies is available upon request by regulatory authorities. Of the 249 complaints, 233 are against Diamond Resorts.  I am a Diamond member. I did not choose to do business with Diamond. We were acquired in the ILX Arizona acquisition. If I were instead a Bluegreen member, 233 out of 249 complaints would be against Bluegreen. Bluegreen members have their own Advocacy group supporting members who want out of their Dream Vacation that can become a Nightmare when a life crisis occurs.  

troops2

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defense. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  Amanda Jones, featured in Tuesday’s article, has suggested individual base commanders be informed in the hope they will ban service members from attending timeshare presentations and events. “The Diamond sales agent that sold us points said he was a Marine. If he is not, that’s stolen valor. Base commanders need to be aware of the predatory nature of timeshare sales. My husband George and I, Navy computer technicians, feel we were victimized.”   

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

If seven members of the military, describing how they say they were defrauded were not enough in a week, Gay and Ed Brewer called me yesterday. My husband and I owned a bioavailability pharmaceutical research laboratory, but I have heard more grave medical conditions in the last two years assisting timeshare members, than I did in ten years as president of our company.   

Gay Brewer, 74 and Ed Brewer, 77

First, here is Diamond’s Rebuttal to my article written for Jim Cramer’s TheStreet about Apollo’s acquisition of Diamond dated June 30, 2016.

It is also incorrect to state that Diamond Resorts is “not interested” in liquidity in the resale market for timeshares because the company profits from “reclaiming” vacation ownership interests that are defaulted on by the customer. To the contrary, Diamond Resorts understands that customers experience life events that change the circumstances from when they originally purchased vacation ownership interests. That is why the company not only permits resales, but we also recently announced a new “Transitions Program” to launch soon, and will allow those in good standing to relinquish their points to the company in a simple, safe and respectful manner.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html#2

The snag is “in good standing” because almost all timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare say they were pressured into high interest rate loans. All timeshare companies can and do cancel loans. I’ve come to learn it is a matter of who wears down whom first.

According to Gay Brewer,

Ed’s heart stopped beating three times this past year. He has had a prior heart attack. He has had a Pacemaker defibrillator implanted which has fired three times. He cannot fly on an airplane or be exposed to high altitudes. He is monitored 24/7 by a Holter monitor. We had to evacuate our California home due to the Liberty fire. At present we are receiving 12 collection calls a day (six each) from Diamond’s collection agents.

Deneice Vargas, another Diamond member in foreclosure (her husband Louis is diagnosed with Bell’s palsy), told me “When DRI Consumer Advocates are not busy advocating for members by researching and providing the member’s initials on the fine print, in response to “the sales agent said”, they make collection calls.” The oral representation clause may make this legal robbery, but Social Media is eventually going to catch up. Several attorneys have told me the oral representation does not allow timeshare companies to get away with sale agents who lie, but there is virtually no enforcement. State enforcement is spotty at best.

The Brewers were Monarch owners. Like so many, they were told they had to give up their deeded week. This was not true. Four or five contracts later, after the last up-sell at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort, they decided they regretted buying points due to disappointment in availability. While I find good value in Arizona and Orlando using points, limited availability is a major complaint voiced by Diamond and Bluegreen members. The Brewers have written to DRI Consumer Advocacy:

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy

We are asking our loans be cancelled due to medical and financial hardship. We were told we would not be able to use our Monarch week unless we bought DRI points and that our Monarch week was worthless. We were never told of the option to deed back the week to DRI. Due to the burden of medical bills, we have not made payments since July and will not be able to make future payments.

We contacted Exit Timeshare as they guarantee timeshare release but they said they would charge us $28,000. I contacted Irene Parker. She told us to contact Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy instead. She said DRI Advocates have helped many in our situation. We were not aware there was a DRI Advocacy program.

Please contact us as soon as possible. It was never our intention not to meet this obligation, despite the fact that there was never adequate availability when we tried to book and we were never told of the option to deed back our Monarch week. We have learned that on TUG Timeshare Users Group, DRI is accepting more than 95% of requests, if in good standing.  

Thank you for your consideration.

Gay Brewer

army

Samuel Melendez Response to DRI Advocate Ben from Irene Parker

Mr. Melendez, DRI Complaint #207/233, is the eighth Platinum member to contact Inside Timeshare alleging financial institution fraud, deceit and bait and switch by DRI agent Rick Casper. The depth of corruption and the degree of criminality is now over my head, based on Karen Varten’s and Samuel and Delores Melendez report preceded by 231 others. Mr. Melendez and Ms. Varten have both reported a negative outcome.  

The Melendez family Edward Jones financial planner contacted me, so I am responding on the family’s behalf. I retired from Edward Jones Hawaii. Their EDJ financial planner had researched timeshare a little and found a law firm offering legal assistance for well over $10,000. He asked me if he should refer the family to this lawyer. I have nothing against the firm he mentioned, but I told the EDJ broker to hold off because I have referred seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy and they have helped all of them. They reported a positive outcome, albeit one needed the assistance of the Arizona Attorney General. What did Mr. Melendez receive from their Diamond Consumer Advocate as a response? Basically, they received a reminder of the oral representation clause, and their initials on the fine print, despite seven other identical Rick Casper complaints from members who received positive outcomes.

I spent a good two hours on the phone Monday with the FBI. My new neighbor is a federal prosecutor on sabbatical from California. I asked him for advice, but he only knows about murders. After speaking with the FBI (for the fourth time), and a few lawyers, I am convinced the oral representation clause does not hold water when used to hide behind. The FBI explained what it’s going to take, so we are filing complaints first on the FBI website IC3.gov and then orally, on the FBI tip hotline, found on the FBI website. Rick Casper is not the only DRI sales agent pitching bogus resale and maintenance fee programs that don’t exist. We have recently received complaint about a Las Vegas sales agent by the name of Adam Mendenhall offering point upgrades that would allow paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point. This program does not exist. DRI sales agents that make $1 to $2 million a year in commission tend to get more attention.  

One of our core advocates is a Tampa detective. She has advised us to file with the Nevada Real Estate Division. She was duped by Bluegreen. Like the detective, Scotty Black, DRI Complaint #164, works in law enforcement and has a MS in Criminal Justice. At least I have some help.

George and Amanda Jones, DRI Complaint #211, a married couple living in Virginia, are Navy computer technicians. Scotty, George and Amanda cannot afford their timeshare because of being told it would be easy to get their timeshare refinanced at a lower rate because the DRI sales agents told them there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares, among other allegations. Forced into foreclosure, they could lose their security clearance and their job.  

Last week I was contacted by seven members of the armed forces, active duty and retired, four DRI complaints. Only the Air Force is not represented. Karen Varten, DRI Complaint #219, a Platinum up-sell, was contacted by DRI Marketing San Diego, hosted by Florida DRI sales agents in Virginia. Karen owned 57,000 points. She was told if she bought 25,000 additional points (totaling  82,000), if purchased today, she would have double points so 165,000 points to cover all maintenance fees and still have points left to travel. What was the response to her complaint? She was provided her initials on the contract.   

Preying on the young and old is bad enough, but Mr. Melendez taught our young men and women in the army how to defend themselves against biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. He sent a lot of those young people to war, and some of them did not return, protecting (alleged) predators like Rick Casper and, as the reports below offer compelling and compounding evidence, Diamond Resorts as well. Circumstantial evidence is still evidence.

Mr. Melendez has filed complaints with the FBI and the BBB. In the unlikely event DRI will help this family, please contact him by Wednesday, before we publish this article. There would be nothing that would make me happier than to end the year with a happy outcome for someone who spent 21 years teaching soldiers how to be protected from biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, instead of forcing this family to fork over – more than $10,000 the family will need to pay an attorney to get them out of this mess if DRI does not help them. After the last Rick Casper up-sell, their monthly payment has escalated from $431 a month to $2200. They told me they told Mr. Casper they were worried about passing this burden on to their heirs.  

All of the Platinum members listed below liked DRI, but now tell me they think this is the most crooked company in existence. I feel a little like Martin Luther, thinking the Catholic Church would appreciate his exposing corruption in the Catholic Church.  ARDA has had the same reaction as the Pope did then. A copy of all reports is sent to ARDA’s General Council and CEO in the hoping they will read their Code of Ethic.  

Irene Parker

Seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells totaling $819,000 including Mr. Melendez $133,000.

1 CL $75,000

During our meeting we were told about all the new changes that had been discussed at the Dinner that would allow us to sell our points. My husband has Cancer so all that was going through his mind was trying to make a choice that would help me later on if the Chemo doesn’t work and when Rick Casper convinced him this was the answer that’s all my husband heard. When we were in that office he was Stage 4. He has Colo-rectal Cancer that has spread to his Liver and Lungs. Our Las Vegas trip was something we wanted to do before my husband started his treatment.

I don’t understand how the DRI finance team could even approve us for a $75,000 loan for Timeshare Points when we had been turned down from two different companies while trying to refinance our house just this past year. Both requests were for under $100,000.

2 Nancy Callahan, age 69 $142,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

3 KK, age 61 $117,000

We have a picture of Rick and pitch

Questionnaire sheet last two questions: Had you attended dinner? What is your exit strategy? Apollo had dinners informing members Cloobeck was leaving.  Not everyone heard the presentation so Rick was talking to members Platinum about the Legacy program. He said DRI never allowed you to sell points. This will. He knows real estate people can get $5 on resale for DRI points. New members are paying $9 so if you buy at $4 it is easy to sell. He had contacts that he could set us up with. 12/29/2016

4 RB, age 66 $75,000

Mr. Casper said on at least four occasions I was eligible for a Pool Party Upgrade that would provide an exit strategy. He said the program was about to expire so I needed to write a sentence that said I wanted to do this and he would get the purchase approved. I never received a copy of the sentence. The purpose of the purchase, according to Mr. Casper, was to make my existing points more valuable. Mr. Casper went on to explain that this exit strategy would allow me to monitor and sell the points. He mentioned that he is a family man and does not want to pass his points and maintenance fees on to his kids.

5 JH, age 56 $132,000

“The main benefit that he presented was the ability to convert points directly into cash at $0.30 per point. If at any time during the year we had leftover points we could be reimbursed for those points in cash.  All we had to do was contact Dan Percy and he would process the transaction and put the money on our reloadable Visa card.”

I continued to ask questions about each benefit so that I would be certain.  I worded questions differently to see if I would get the same answer.  I threw out this scenario; “If at the end of the year I have 30,000 points still sitting in my account, you’re telling me that I can get reimbursed cash for these points at $0.30 per point.”  His response; “Absolutely – You contact Dan Percy and he will load $9,000 onto the Visa card.” We purchased 40,000 points to get us to the level of “Super Platinum”.

6 AC, age 68 $55,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

We purchased an additional 20,000 points on July 16, 2016 for $55,200 from Richard Casper, at Cancun Resort, Las Vegas. The reason we purchased these points is because Rick told us if we went from Gold, to Platinum status, he could sell the points if we needed to. In addition, he told us we could substantially reduce our maintenance fees by submitting receipts to him for goods and services. We have never seen a tangible way to reduce our current $8,685 maintenance fees.  

We contacted Richard Casper by email on April 7, 2017 because we need to sell the 20,000 points. We received an autoreply stating to contact VP Dan Percy. We talked with Dan Percy on April 14, 2017. He stated that Diamond Resorts sales personnel don’t assist people who need to sell points and are not allowed to provide any company names that buy and sell timeshare.

In addition, during our sales presentation with Richard Casper July, 2016 we asked about combining our eight contracts. He advised that any free and clear points sold on the resale market will have the same benefits except loyalty level as long as no more than 20,000 points to one individual and it would be better not to combine the points. He stated that many Gold owners would be happy to buy 20,000 points at the lower price to become Platinum owners.  

7 JM, age 61 $90,000

Rick Casper was introduced to me as a Platinum specialist. Mr. Casper said I made a big mistake buying Hawaii points and a bigger mistake transferring the 20,000 points I bought in Daytona, due to a class action lawsuit against DRI members causing exorbitant increases in maintenance fees because of storm related beach erosion.  

Mr. Casper said I had to transfer back to US Collection and if I owned 100,000 points I would be unofficially known as a double platinum member and I would be able to sell any unused points in November and December each year back to Diamond at 30 cents per point, as DRI could sell those points annually to other members. Mr. Casper said this was closely regulated by the authorities. Mr. Casper said by selling these point back to DRI at 30 cents per points I could pay some or all of my maintenance fees for that year and any years to follow. Mr. Casper said this would allow my children not to have to pay maintenance fees.  

“You are really passing your children a bill.  We have a new program if you reach me in November to let me know what you did not use. Diamond will buy them back at $.30 for that year only to, ‘put them back in the kitty’. We need the points because we can sell them to other people who need them.” He illustrated the money we would be paid on a piece of paper.  “What are you waiting for? This is a no brainer,” he said. Mr. Casper convinced me to return to the US Collection the 20,000 points I had transferred in Hawaii 2015 due to beach erosion. I purchased an additional 30,000 points. I now owned 115,000 points.

In November 2016 I called Rick Casper to inform him I had 80,000 points I wished to cash in so that I would receive $24,000 (at 30 cents per point) as Mr. Casper illustrated during our sales presentation.  However, he denied any knowledge of any such arrangement. I explained I had a guest with me at the time, S L, who heard everything he said.  .

Mr. Casper said the reason for the 30 cent per point program was due to the sale of Diamond to Apollo. Mr. Casper said Mr. Cloobeck wanted to do something for members who owned over 100,000 points to show his appreciation so he included the 30 cent per point program in the terms of the Apollo buyout.  SL and I clearly remember this conversation

My current loan payment at the time of the presentation was $1,650 per month. Mr. Casper multiplied that by 12 totaling $19,800 in payments annually plus $14,000 per annum in maintenance fees or $33,880 for annual maintenance fees and loan payments combined. He divided this figure by 12 resulting in $2,816 per month. In the 50,000 additional points Mr. Casper offered, he stated it would only cost an additional $400 per month or $4,800 per year. If I sold back the additional 50,000 points at 30 cents per point I would receive a check back for $15,000.

As stated previously, when I contacted Rick Casper to sell back 80,000 points, he acted as if he did not know what I was talking about. I own a truck leasing business and S is a secondary school teacher. In no way did we misunderstand the figures above.  

There was undue pressure to open a Barclaycard. I explained that I did not need an additional credit card. Rick Casper insisted I open a Barclaycard. I feel the Barclaycard is part of the strategy used to play out what I consider to be a con. 

I then spoke with Dan Percy and then Seth Johnson. I thought Mr. Johnson and I were close to a resolution when he suddenly stopped responding to me.   

At a meeting in Palm Springs, CA between Christmas and New Year’s 2016, we met with someone who seemed to be an ombudsman about the poor accommodation we had been assigned. During the course of our meeting I mentioned Rick Casper. She closed her book and said, “This meeting is over.”  I asked several times why and she finally said Rick Casper was under investigation.

I want to return to the 50,500 points I originally owned prior to the deceitful sales. I was not unhappy with Diamond until the deception started.

8 The first Monarch complaint I read in 2015 back in the day when I thought the Cancun Resort was in Cancun.

Burns

Former DRI CEO David Palmer’s friend from ADW Capital, recommended Diamond’s stock because there is no secondary market. This is a mock interview I published after reading the above complaint, shortly before I received an executive perk agreement leaked to us about how Diamond founder and former CEO Stephen Cloobeck was allowed, as a perk, 50 hours use of the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet with the flight crew, for non-business use. Last time we checked, Mr. Cloobeck is running for Nevada Governor, lauded for donating $400,000 to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management, is worth $6.5 billion, according to Bloomberg. David Palmer earned $19 million in two years, a small portion of the wealth generated for his family during his tenure as DRI CEO.  As a former stockbroker and financial planner, I have nothing against generating great wealth, but not like this.

Diamond’s response to the six military who say they were defrauded: Free tickets for military members for their next event.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker: Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, in this article Irene Parker looks at the Marriott Vacation Club and the law suit for racketeering.

First some recent news fro the Supreme Court in Madrid which came in this morning, this is the 73rd ruling by Spain’s Highest Court.

Another Silverpoint contract has been declared null and void with the British clients set to receive over £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

No details are yet available, but as with other cases the main infringement is likely to be a contract over 50 years. The one important factor is that these contract contravene the Spanish Timeshare law 42/98.

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

Part I – The Manhattan Club and the possible dismantling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker/

Part I describes how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club timeshare members after a battle that lasted almost three years. ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, seemed to be on the side of the TMC developers. In today’s article we look at ARDA’s involvement in the Marriott Racketeering lawsuit filed May 2016. Timeshare members should research ARDA ROC before making their voluntary donation which appears as an “opt in” or “opt out” donation on their maintenance fee invoice.

In the Marriott racketeering lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Anthony and Beth Lennen, challenged Marriott’s points based system. Once again ARDA’s lobbyists are at the forefront.

“This was bigger than a lawsuit,” Hunter says. A negative ruling “could have a consequence of being devastating, conceivably, to the industry.” Florida Trend

I can imagine slave traders and slave owners making the same argument ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter makes in opposition to the challenge to the points based timeshare product.The legal structure of the points based timeshare product is complex. It seems the points based programs are not products that should be associated with real estate. It would be as if a country club charged me closing costs for joining their right to use program. Bluegreen seems to employ a similar model. As usual, I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group if he agrees with me.

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” Mike explained

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

Is timeshare deemed real estate when it comes to charging buyers fees associated with actual real estate, but not real estate in matters having any control over the property? Is this a case of having your cake and eating it too?

I asked timeshare member and economics professor Michael Nuwer to review the amended Marriott lawsuit complaint filed October 25, 2017 by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Newman Ferrara LLP. The complaint suggests suspicious legislative maneuvering intended to circumvent the lawsuit. The amended complaint addresses the Marriott-forced law changes in 2013 and 2017. The recent (2017) amendment to the Florida Timeshare Act purports to exclude pre-existing weekly owners as “interest holders” and pre-existing Condo Declarations as “encumbrances” with regard to sales of multisite timeshare plans that use pre-existing timeshare estates. According to the complaint,

“It allows massive profit-making – including administrative fees, closing costs, recording fees, transfer taxes, maintenance, assessments, and title insurance premiums.” Amended Marriott complaint 6:16-cv-00855-CEM-TBS

“As far as I know, none of the trust fund based timeshare systems “convey real property interest,” said Michael. “Ownership is a “beneficial interest” in the trust fund, although a recent ruling in Canada found the Diamond Resort Embarc members don’t even have that.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

“If Florida law requires a real property conveyance, then I think there could be a problem,” Michael added.

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and timeshare advocate, circulated a similar argument at the last two Nevada legislative sessions, proposing greater disclosure, but again ARDA’s lawyers fought against the members. The legislation proposed would have allowed better disclosure as to the lack of or limited secondary market and the fact that timeshare today has nothing to do with real estate. Timeshare agents typically inform buyers during their presentations that they are real estate agents, further enhancing a false security that the buyer is protected by real estate rules and regulations.  Even the name reflects the change. Fixed week timeshare buyers were “owners”. Points based buyers are “members.”

I have been researching timeshare since attending an astonishingly deceptive sales presentation July 2015. Like peeling an onion, I discovered at timeshare’s core, the points based system provides a recipe for deceit. As the Lennen complaint describes, point programs began in 2008 when timeshare developers did not know what to do with aging, foreclosed or repurchased inventory.

Inside Timeshare has received 216 US timeshare complaints from our readers, the majority concerning points. Not one of the 216 members understood, at the time of purchase, the difficulty selling their timeshare. Of the 216 complaints, 201 allege deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. Of the 216 complaints, only two came from a Marriott member. It saddens me to see Marriott singled out when the entire industry may be guilty of selling a product that is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

The Marriott racketeering lawsuit was first reported by Paul Brinkmann May 2016 at the Orlando Sentinel

Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS

According to the suit, Marriott (NYSE: VAC) timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate. Despite not actually being real estate owners, the lawsuit says, buyers are still paying closing costs, recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

Marriott has argued, in its motion to dismiss the case, that “plaintiffs have misread the statutes that they assert have been violated” and “the allegations are without merit and the MVC Plan fully complies with applicable law.”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-rico-20160524-story.html

Except it seemingly did not fully comply with applicable law, so ARDA lobbyists and industry executives forged ahead to initiate legislative changes that would change the definition of “beneficial interest” so that Marriott would comply.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-comptroller-marriott-rico-20170113-story.html

The following excerpts are from a November 23, 2017 Florida Trend article. The full article is linked below. In bold is my emphasis.

“Engineering the Law” Politico

However, Marriott began fighting the suit on another front. The company turned to the Florida Legislature, acting through the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry. At the time, ARDA’s chairman was Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacations’ president and CEO.

In both provisions, the lobbyist, Gary Hunter, of Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee, included extra sentences saying the changes were meant as “a clarification of existing law” — an effort to ensure Marriott could use them as a retroactive defense in the Lennen lawsuit.

ARDA sent more than talking points and issue briefs. A few days after Hunter sent in the additions to the bill, the organization gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and another $25,000 to a committee controlled by Senate Republican leaders. In April — on the same day that both the House and Senate scheduled the legislation for floor votes — ARDA gave another $10,000 to the state Republican Party. (ARDA, which represents a heavily regulated industry and works on legislation every year, is a reliable source of money for the state GOP, which controls all levers of state government. The organization gives more than $100,000 to the party and its affiliates every year.)

The legislation passed both chambers in late April, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law a month later. After the legislation passed, ARDA gave another $50,000 to the fund controlled by Republican Senate leaders.

Two weeks to the day after the bill became law, Marriott went back in court in Orlando, alerting Judge Mendoza to the new Florida law whose provisions “go to the very heart” of the case. “These clarifications of existing law … decimate much of the complaint,” Marriott’s attorneys wrote.

A spokesman for Marriott declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the legislation. But Hunter, the lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association who worked the bill, says the goal of the legislation isn’t just to help Marriott defend itself. It is, he says, meant to protect the entire timeshare industry from similar attacks in the future, should a judge, who is unlikely to be familiar with the history and intricacies of timeshare law, interpret state statutes in a way that no one in the industry ever intended.

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23307/engineering-the-law-marriotts-class-action-timeshare-battle

Florida Republican Representative Mike La Rosa, Oceola County was one of the lawmakers behind the amendment along with Republican Senator Travis Hutson, St. Johns County. Representative La Rosa is a member of ALEC. Senator Nan Orrock of Georgia has described ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.”

https://www.alec.org/person/mike-la-rosa/

After the legislative amendment was made, Mr. Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel once again picked up the thread:

A third-party observer, Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the timeshare law changes are suspect.

“It has the appearance of unethical influence, the appearance anyway,” Wilcox said. “The question would be, does it represent misuse of office or conflict of interest? Is it meant only to benefit those corporations and change the rules of the game?”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-legislation-20170719-story.html

Legal Dept
It’s not unusual for Florida to spearhead legislation that ultimately gets rolled out nationwide. Like the 2017 Florida amendment, in 2015 Florida passed a bill that alarmed advocacy groups. Advocacy groups felt the 2015 bill made it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts. This new amended 2017 bill is also expected to be rolled out nationwide. ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter is instructing Senator Hutson to remove language from the proposed 2017 Amendment that provided that the law applied only to Florida properties. He called the language “non-substantive” clearly intending to broaden the reach of the amendment to cover properties from single-site timeshare plans outside of Florida (which make up the bulk of MVC Trust properties).

Timeshare, in my opinion, is virtually an unregulated industry. There is no federal enforcement, and some Attorneys General may be influenced by lobby dollars. Florida is a timeshare Mecca with billions of tourist dollars flowing into the state. As mentioned in Part I, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014.   

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

How will it end? I fear big money will get its way at the expense of middle class timeshare buyers, even it means labeling a duck a goose.

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member sponsored self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share.

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Thank you Irene and all who helped with this article, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group for his legal views, this will certainly be of interest not just to those across the Great Lake, but also those owners in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments on this article or any other timeshare matter, please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to help.

 

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