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Friday’s Letter from America: The Story of Bernadette

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this week Bernadette gives her story on why they had to default on their timeshare loan. This is not a story that we are unfamiliar with, we have in fact highlighted this over the past few years from many of our US readers. It is just the latestNightmare on Timeshare Street stories which once again highlights the intransigence of Diamond and their behaviour towards “valued members”. The start of today’s article begins with a link to change.org, it is a petition for Michael Flaskey, CEO Diamond Resorts to remove his YouTube video. To members this video is nothing short of condescending towards members, Inside Timeshare urges you to login and sign, our US Cousins welcome all timeshare owners worldwide to sign. Please do so.

Please Sign My Change.org Petition: 

Remove Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey’s YouTube Featuring the Missouri and Washington State Attorneys General 

https://www.change.org/Michael-Flaskey-MO-WA-AG-take-down-YouTube

Why we had to Default on Our Timeshare Loan 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/UcPAt-4SAlBz3jsblcl5KhlF1CpjolRBrs-lnGEBh2ijYcycEz0v2E9vZgjQYLgA5sST6pU_xn4KxHpBQdM5ZyXzuSrYRgyWoLDjDe1vv9fnoIZGHlF5_gJOeePkTzgBue49feFF

By Bernadette in Oklahoma  

March 12, 2021

Is Timeshare Considered Real Estate Or Installment Loans?

There are waiting period requirements after foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure, short sale to qualify for government and/or conventional loans. However, there is no waiting period after a timeshare foreclosure because a timeshare is not considered a real estate loan. All government home mortgage programs consider timeshare loans as installment loans.

Read more https://gustancho.com/timeshare-foreclosure

I am afraid that the Missouri and Washington State Attorneys General offices and the former Arizona Attorney General are protecting corporations over consumers. With so many Attorneys General settlements because of complaints filed against timeshare companies, why aren’t there more Attorneys General warning about timeshare companies? At least the former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen issued a warning about deceptive timeshare sales.  

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/timeshare-troubles-what-to-do-before-you-buy-and-sell/4953/

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office advised me to retain an attorney after my timeshare complaint was dismissed. On the offensive YouTube former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods warns,

“The lawyers they hire no one has ever heard of…. some storefront clown……”

When I complained about what we were told, the response was that we signed a contract and we could have cancelled during the rescission period. Reading our contract would not have determined:

  1. It was not necessary for us to give up our deed and buy points to be released from our timeshare (a Las Vegas timeshare sales agent),
  2. There was no reason to buy Hawaii points to be able to be released from a contract (a Hawaii timeshare sales agent), 
  3. There was no reason to refinance to be able to walk away in 10 years (a Branson, Missouri sales agent).

Our sales agents never mentioned Diamond Resorts voluntary surrender program, Transitions, available for members in good standing. We were in good standing when we first inquired. Diamond launched Transitions in 2017. 

Frank and Betty were ages 88 and 89 at the time of their purchase. They ended up with a $197,000 timeshare loan and $19,000 in annual maintenance fees. 

https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2019/03/28/diamond-resorts-convinces-elderly-arizona-couple-buy-timeshare-frank-betty-lusk/3282776002/

Our Experience 

Sent to the following on October 25, 2020  

To Michael Flaskey, CEO, Hospitality, ARDA ROC, Barclay’s President’s Office, Association of Vacation Owners, Hawaii Attorney General, Missouri Attorney General, Nevada Attorney General and Oklahoma Attorney General

We attended meetings because of my husband’s debilitating medical hardship. I was worried about our ability to continue to pay annual maintenance fees. He had a heart attack in 2006 at an early age. We owned a deeded Polo Towers timeshare that we had purchased in Las Vegas in 2003. In October of 2017 my husband suffered a stroke that forced him to take early retirement. He worked as a supervisor at an Illinois state-run Mental Health institution.  

We met with Las Vegas Diamond sales agent Giovanni on November 26, 2018 to find out how we could sell the timeshare. Our oldest son doesn’t want the timeshare and our youngest son has autism. Giovanni told us no one would want our timeshare and our kids would be stuck with it if we did not convert to Diamond U.S. Collection points. He said Diamond would take back those points. We expressed our concerns about having two maintenance fees, but Giovanni said we would not have to worry about that. We ended up with two maintenance fees. We paid $13,590 to convert our Polo Towers points to Diamond points. The purchase price was charged to a Diamond Barclaycard.      

Next, on August 14, 2019 we attended an update in Hawaii with Diamond sales agents Jonathan and Kennedy in Honolulu at The Modern. They told us the agents in Las Vegas gave us wrong information because our sons would be stuck with U. S. Collection points unless we purchased Hawaii points. I was overwhelmed. I raised my voice and was escorted out. This meeting took five hours. We purchased 13,500 Hawaii points for $39,201. I had to borrow money from my sister for the down payment and the balance was financed by Diamond at 19%. By this time my husband needed a wheelchair to get through an airport. We had paid in full for the 2018 Las Vegas purchase. 

Still worried about our worsening situation, we attended an orientation on February 1, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. We met with Branson Diamond sales agent Christy. She said we should convert Hawaii Collection points to U. S. Collection points to reduce our 19% interest rate to 14%. Christy explained that this would create a bigger monthly payment but it would be better in the long run. I asked Christy if there was a way to get out of Diamond. Like the other agents, she said no, but we could drop out after we paid off the loan in 10 years. Christy advised us to go to a bank to get a lower interest rate. We tried two banks. Neither would refinance. Christy said we would get six months free interest with the Barclaycard and we could request an extension. When we contacted Barclays there was no extension available. She said if we didn’t switch to the U.S. Collection, we would incur a $3,000 Hawaii special assessment. There was no way I could afford $3,000. I would like to know if there was a $3,000 assessment. 

We converted to the Hawaii Collection and bought points for an additional $16,912. Our mortgage payments increased to $634.76, our maintenance fees to $900 (we still have the original Polo Towers deeded timeshare) plus $3000 (US collection). The amount financed increased to $56,113. I am 57 years old and my husband is 60. 

The response from Diamond 

When I called Diamond on September 24, 2020, a Hospitality agent asked me to give her two times to talk. I provided two times allowing a three hour window period. Over two days I spent six hours waiting for her call. On October 6 I sent her a letter to update her on my husband’s health because he had another ER visit. 

The Missouri Attorney General responded that it would be difficult to achieve a resolution and suggested we retain an attorney. The Hospitality agent suggested we apply for medical hardship. That didn’t feel right. I decided to launch my Change.org petition after listening to the following comments made on YouTube. 

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt states: 

“They (exit companies) directed consumers to pay a variety of additional expenses.” 

Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey states: 

“They are taking money from members that really have no idea why they are paying the money. They are adding more prices, more charges.” 

“They (the exit companies) are controlling the narrative.” 

If you post a comment, only Mr Flaskey/Diamond Resort and the person posting the comment can read the comment. The poster thinks their comment is available for public view.

If you would like to join our effort to affect change or share your experience, contact Adam Siler at [email protected]

We enjoyed our timeshare until my husband’s heart attack in 2006. I can only hope enough people join our cause to improve communication between those harmed and those who can make a difference.   

Air Force Veteran Adam Siler’s article, February 26 

https://insidetimeshare.com/a-new-friday-letter-from-america-veteran-active-duty-service-member-outreach/

A few comments following Adam’s article 

https://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-military-veterans-article-comments-begin-latest-anfi-appeals-dismissed/

Six additional comments 

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-more-veterans-stories/

Diamond Clarity™ Promise – DiamondRESPECT

https://www.diamondresorts.com/diamond-clarity

We know that first impressions are everything. That’s why we aim to consistently exceed expectations from day one. After listening to your feedback, we set about refining our sales and marketing programs with a single, defining principle in mind: Respect. Respect for your time… respect for your preferences and opinions… respect for what matters to you.

While other companies make promises, we deliver. 

This is DiamondRESPECT: Transparency

  • We will provide clear, concise and consistent information at our presentations so you can easily decide whether committing to vacation ownership is the right decision for you and your family. 

That is all for this week, Inside Timeshare should be back as normal next week when we catch up on the latest news from the courts and some rather interesting developments in the world of timeshare.

Have a great weekend.

A New Friday Letter From America: Veteran & Active Duty Service Member Outreach

Welcome to the end of another week with Inside Timeshare, going away from our usual Friday review, we today bring you a “Letter From America” special. It is the story of “predatory” lending to service personnel and Veterans. Inside Timeshare has published on this subject in the past and we are pleased to publish this article by Adam Siler, (
https://www.military.com ) we also hope that his call will be heard and will be an instrument of change. Contact details are placed at the end of this article.

Predatory Lending Begins with Misleading Sales Tactics

A Veteran and Active Duty Service Member Outreach

By Adam Siler, Air Force Veteran

Email:
[email protected]

February 23, 2021

I am a Florida resident. I served eight years in the Air Force. I am writing to ask veterans and active duty service members to reach out to me through Inside Timeshare if you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices and lending

Veterans who served their country are often targeted. Harming veterans is wrong, but when an active duty service member is unable to refinance, they could lose their security clearances if they default. This makes timeshare a threat to national security. Payday loans have been deemed off-limits to the military.

Protecting our Protectors: The Defense Department’s New Rules to Prevent Predatory Lending to Military Personnel 

The term “predatory lending” describes a wide variety of unfair or abusive loan or credit transactions and collection methods.”

Predatory lending is a process that begins with misleading sales tactics directed at borrowers who may not fully understand all the provisions of the contracts they are signing. It ends with borrowers unable to repay the loans they have taken due to excessive fees and interest. (Dawn Goulet, Student Author, 2007)

There are extra HUD disclosures required for veterans buying homes. A timeshare can cost as much as a house. 

  • There is an Assumption Approval clause as per which the loan is not valid unless the Department of Veteran Affairs approves it.

I reached out to Inside Timeshare. I learned that what I experienced in 2020 is almost identical to what an Active Duty Navy couple experienced in 2017. This is beyond coincidence. Diamond Resorts believed our sales agent, despite the fact that he provided us with a handwritten illustration of a 7% interest rate, drastically lower than the 14% interest rate he knew we could not afford. 

An excerpt from the 2017 Inside Timeshare article published December 19, 2017

We knew we could not afford this vacation product at the interest rate being charged. In January of 2017 we purchased 7500 Diamond points at Virginia Beach Oceanaire Resort for $28,200. Our Loan Balance is $24,163.36 and the interest rate 15.99%. Sales agent Tony Jones said we would be able to refinance. He told us there were refinancing companies that specialize in timeshare. We have since learned banks don’t finance timeshares. We had questions and planned to refinance but decided to wait until the orientation. Tony never answered the phone.

We went to an orientation in Orlando at DRI Resort Mystic Dunes March 2017. Our sales agent was Jonathan Pineda. We purchased 4000 points for $15,732. This loan balance was $13,271.16 at 18.6794%. Like Tony told us, Jonathan said both loans could be refinanced and combined because other companies specialize in refinancing timeshares. It would be no problem to contact one of them after we made our first payment. 

Jonathan said that we needed to get to Gold so that we could pay our maintenance fees with points. We have since learned only Platinum members can use points to pay maintenance fees at $.04 per point (a worthless benefit). He said it would be worth it to spend all our savings so that we would not have to pay maintenance fees. We were not comfortable so we only bought 4000 points, which still depleted our savings.

Before reading about our experience, watch this YouTube. Imagine how we feel. Mr Flaskey said, “And they could have just called Diamond Resorts.” 

We have no choice but to default. A Diamond Hospitality agent I spoke with said that I needed more incriminating text messages from Jonathon. I reached out to Diamond Resorts for comment, but they did not respond. 

Our Experience 

We first bought a Sampler (trial product) at Diamond’s Cancun Resort in Las Vegas in 2018. On March 6, 2019 at Diamond’s Kitty Hawk Resort we changed our Sampler points to 7,500 ten year term points. 

On June 2, 2019 we attended a required new member orientation at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes Resort in Orlando. We thought we were to be trained on how to use points. We were informed that because we did not attend an orientation within 90 days we lost our price freeze. We were never informed of this. I broke down in tears because I felt we could lose everything we had wanted to do to vacation with our family.              

At a subsequent meeting at Mystic Dunes on July 20, 2020, we met with Jonathon Pineda. Jonathon said he was not a sales agent. He then worked out the numbers to transfer our term points to annual points and buy 30,000 U.S. Collection points. 

Jonathon said refinancing would be no problem with our credit rating. He said he used to do stuff in the finance world. He set up an appointment for August 17 at 6:00 pm to make some calls. His exact words, “Let me get with you and we’ll make some calls.” 

Jonathan estimated a 7% loan rate, as opposed to Diamond’s proposed 19.99% interest rate. I cannot include the actual proposal with his notes because of a disclaimer. I am subject to penalty if I show the proposal to anyone not employed by Diamond Resorts. This would be comparable to a potential buyer offering a proposal to buy a house, but not allowing anyone to review it. The purchase price listed for 22,500 points was $219,150. Our actual purchase price for 30,000 points was $67,157. The disclaimer: 

This document contains proprietary information belonging to Diamond Resorts. Distribution of this information to unauthorized persons, including but not limited to persons not employed by or agents of Diamond Resorts or to persons not listed on this option is strictly prohibited and subject to penalty.       

Jonathon wrote on the proposal:

½ 12.99 $520 ½ 3 letters i.e.: 7% = $194 loan 

The $67,157 was financed at a 14% interest rate. At 14% the monthly payment is approximately $1,043 per month ($58,000 is interest). At 7% the monthly payment would have been $780 per month ($26,500 interest). That’s a big difference. 

Jonathan told us he would do the paperwork to help us use a Barclaycard “benefits card” to cover about 50% of our maintenance fees. He explained this as a program between Diamond and their partner Barclays Bank. The 2500 written on Jonathon’s illustration was presented as $2,500. My wife and I both clearly understood this.  

Jonathan wrote out benefits A – D, highlighting in red the real maintenance fee relief program which is of such poor value to be of little benefit.   

Benefit 1: Wait 12 to 14 days (the rescission period is ten business days)

Benefit 5: Event of a Lifetime

Jonathon said we could go on “Events of a Lifetime” (EOL) promotions and not have to attend a sales presentation. Jonathon said this was one of the great benefits of Gold loyalty level. He advised that I could go on the “soon to be updated website” to view scheduled events. The website update never happened. A Diamond coordinator later said any EOL requires a presentation and that you can’t see EOLs on the website. You have to call to book them.

As we talked with Jonathon, he would go into his bosses’ office, Chris LeBlanc. He returned excited because he received approval for a lower price saying we were part of a Legacy contract from another member.  

Jonathon told us not to say anything about the Barclay maintenance fee relief program or the refinance when we signed papers or they would “kick it back.” He said it had something to do with underwriting. 

When I followed up to refinance Jonathon said he could not talk to us because his son had a terrible car accident. He texted me pictures.  

We went back to Mystic Dunes in November of 2020 to speak with Jonathon but he was not in. I asked a manager from a previous meeting about how to get out of the contract because we could not afford the interest rate. We spoke with Chris LaBlanc. He told us he sent a message to the finance department and someone would contact us. We asked about the Barclaycard. Chris said he saw nothing in our file about a Barclaycard. 

We later learned that banks don’t finance timeshares. A sales agent should not assume a buyer is qualified for a low interest personal loan or a home equity loan. We do not own a home so a home equity loan was never an option. We could not refinance. There is no way to offset 50% of maintenance fees. 

In going through my packet of information, I found Diamond’s Clarity Promise of Respect for the Customer and an assurance that we would be provided transparent and accountable information.   

I appealed to the following: Mr Michael Flaskey, CEO, Mr Jason Gamel, ARDA, Mr Kenneth McKelvey, ARDA-ROC, Association of Vacation Owners, Nicole Drayson, Federal Trade Commission, Military and Education, Mr. Jay Mayfied, FTC, Lending, Charles Thomas, Inside Timeshare, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) https://www.facebook.com/CFPB/ Florida Attorney General’s office.  

Diamond offered to reduce our interest rate to 11% from 14.73%, reduce the price per point, push the maintenance fees back one year, and push the use of points back one year. Refinancing at 11% is of little help, plus we expected to receive $2,500 from Barclays to offset maintenance fees.

The Mission  

I hope you can see why I am asking for Veterans and Active Duty Service Members to join my efforts to have Veterans Affairs look into timeshare lending. There is too much opportunity for smoke and mirrors. I have been reaching out to other veterans and have learned what happened to us is not uncommon.  

The FTC’s definition of an Unfair Practice:

First of all, the injury must be substantial.  

Second, the injury must not be outweighed by any offsetting consumer or competitive benefits that the sales practice also produces. 

Finally, the injury must be one which consumers could not reasonably have avoided.19 

https://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/1980/12/ftc-policy-statement-unfairness December 18, 1980

In timeshare, buyers are demanded to buy the same day. 

Find me at Inside Timeshare 

Or email: [email protected]

Adam Siler     

Thank you Adam for a very enlightening article, to all our readers Inside Timeshare asks you to share this story on all social media to help Adam in his quest. You can use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will ensure that your emails will be passed on to Adam or you can email directly to the address above.

Have a good weekend.

The Tuesday Slot: European Resort Owners Coalition & Misinformation

Back in April 2019, Inside Timeshare published the news of a replacement for the liquidated and discredited TATOC (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees), which as you will remember was fronted by the also discredited Harry Taylor, or was it, Henry Taylor? The name of this new “organisation” is the European Resort Owners Coalition or EUROC, it’s purpose according to their own website “is to represent the interests of its members and act as the official spokesbody for current or potential issues relating to timeshare ownership”. But the question is are they actually representing the interests of timeshare consumers rather than the “owners” of the resorts and the management companies that operate them?

With the demise of TATOC, the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) along with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) worked together to form the new organisation, which incidentally bears a resemblance to ARDA ROC (American Resorts Development Association Resort Owners Coalition).

The RDO awarded a grant of 97,000€ and ARDA $150,000 respectively, which according to the RDO they will eventually “become self-sufficient”. So the question is how long will that take and will the two “trade bodies” still be funding them the same way as they did TATOC?

But what is the reason behind this new “initiative” of the RDO?

Well, the most telling part is in a statement they made when announcing the funding:

“The industry trade association RDO (Resort Development Organisation) is unlikely to be seen by the authorities and regulators as truly representing owners. When EUROC talks to regulators, it will speak on behalf of thousands of timeshare owners and homeowner clubs across Europe. Where appropriate, EUROC will work alongside the Resort Development Organisation (RDO).”

(Quote is taken from the TCA Article of 10 April 2020)

This is in fact very laughable, the RDO actually admitting that no one is taking them seriously or even being seen to be representing the interests of consumers. We use the term consumers as that is what they are, they are not “homeowners” as ARDA and the RDO would have you believe, perpetuating the old myth that when purchasing timeshare you are purchasing “property”.

Just as TATOC bowed down to the will of the timeshare companies it appears that EUROC is also doing the same.

In a recent letter to Marriott’s Club Son Antem “owners”, they give a warning about the number of “claims companies and fake law firms” targeting timeshare “owners/members” with cold calls regarding mis-sold timeshare and illegal contracts. (Contrary to popular belief, cold calls are not illegal).

This in itself is not a bad thing, but it is the nature of what they are saying that is the problem along with the fact that they are also including the genuine law firms in their statement.

According to the letter, it appears that EUROC is following the same line as the RDO in denying that many contracts sold and signed after 5 January 1999 are illegal under Spanish Timeshare Laws.

Now, this actually goes against what we already know from the many court cases that have taken place and been reported not just by Inside Timeshare but also Spanish newspapers and television.

It is also a fact that Marriott themselves admitted that they had been losing cases in the Spanish Courts for the sale of illegal contracts. It also set aside $16.3 million to cover litigation costs in the US and Spain. The admission which came in a financial statement reported in Market Exclusive (see link below) on 7 July 2018.

Market Exclusive report

https://marketexclusive.com/marriott-vacations-worldwide-corporation-nysevac-files-an-8-k-other-events-4/2018/07/amp/

Original Inside Timeshare article

https://insidetimeshare.com/marriott-admit-losing-in-spanish-courts/

On this point, we leave you the reader to make up your own mind as to what the truth really is.

Another “misleading and untrue” statement made by EUROC in paragraph 5 (see PDF of the letter), they state that it is “illegal to pay any upfront fee” for taking up legal services.

The question is if it is illegal for a law firm to take upfront legal fees, how is the case ever going to be prepared and eventually end up in court?

We also have to ask the question what legislation are they using to state that it is “ILLEGAL” to pay “upfront legal fees”, they show no link to any legislation either in Spain, the UK or Germany?

Inside Timeshare has even asked several lawyers for confirmation and they know nothing of any legislation.

We all know that lawyers need paying to do the work and bring a case to court, so is this just another attempt to stop the growing number of “consumers” who are taking the timeshare companies to court?

The letter also urges “consumers” to report any calls along with details to Timeshare Business Check, a website run by Kwikchex which is another company funded by the RDO and ultimately the industry. (see the link to a previous article on Kwikchex below).

https://insidetimeshare.com/kwikchex-chris-emmins/

EUROC also states that they and the Timeshare Task Force, another Kwickchex and RDO funded enterprise work very closely together to combat “fraud”. They are not doing very well considering the “frauds” have been perpetrated by RDO members, Silverpoint and Azure are two very prominent cases in point, yet nothing has ever been said or done about these companies by either the RDO or TATOC.

It is also interesting to note who the directors of EUROC are, first, we have the FNTC or the First National Trust Company based in the Isle of Mann, then we have Paul Gardner-Bougaard who was also associated with FNTC and is now the director of the RDO.

Another director is Susan Kathleen Barnet, who is also listed as a Director of Diamond Resorts European Collection Ltd.

Richard David Coles, who was a former director of The Timeshare Association which was also part of TATOC.

John Micheal Davey, a former director of Diamond Resorts European Collection Ltd.

Another director with links to the timeshare industry is Philip Micheal Broomhead, who has many directorships most of which he is resigned from, but they do include Club Cala Blanca Ltd, First National Trust Company which are still active and many more including Los Claveles Ltd, of which there are several companies listed. Full company details and list of officers can be found on the links below.

Company House Registration for EUROC Ltd

https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/11687730

https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/11687730/officers

Just on the information, we publish here, it certainly does appear that EUROC is for the benefit of the industry and not the consumer, it is just another “smoke & mirrors” attempt to reduce the number of cases for illegal contracts getting to courts.

If they are so concerned about saving the industry, which already has a very negative reputation they are too late and the use of untrue information to timeshare consumers in order to sway them away from seeking legal redress puts them in the same category as the scammers they claim they are trying to protect consumers from.

We all know that the holiday industry has been suffering for the past year and timeshare consumers are still having to pay exorbitant annual fees, even though they are unable to use their membership. By using these methods to stem the tide of litigation and the loss of maintenance fees is nothing short of scandalous and holding consumers to ransom.

If an association formed with the purpose of “protecting” consumers interests cannot get their facts right, who does the consumer turn to for the TRUTH?

8 April 2019 article on the formation of EUROC

https://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-19/

25 July 2017 article on TATOC and Kwikchex

https://insidetimeshare.com/tatoc-gone-kwikchex-set-new-helpline/

If you would like further information on your legal rights and whether you have a valid and viable case, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Translations of this article

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