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Attorneys General

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker looks at what constitutes proof when making a complaint, this is something Inside Timeshare has heard from the many readers who have reached out with their “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”, “you have no proof”. Attorney Mike Finn also gives his view on the subject, as usual his contribution is clear and concise.

Some Timeshare Regulators Respond: You have no proof

What is Proof? Strength in Numbers

By Irene Parker

Tuesday January 15, 2019

Rule 406 – Habit; Routine Practice

Evidence of a person’s habit or an organization’s routine practice may be admitted to prove that on a particular occasion the person or organization acted in accordance with the habit or routine practice. The court may admit this evidence regardless of whether it is corroborated or whether there was an eyewitness.

There are volumes of timeshare complaints and a sizeable timeshare exit industry created by the lack of a secondary market and by the practice of “pitching heat” which is defined by the industry as the practice of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. It is a term well known and unique to the timeshare industry.

Why do some state Attorneys General pursue complaints based on a volume of complaints, while Florida’s timeshare division, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) and Nevada’s Real Estate Division (NRED) dismissed all of our readers’ complaints with, respectively, “Verbal representations are hard to prove” and in Nevada, “You have no proof.”

Not all Attorneys General turn a blind eye. Outgoing Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen recognized the problem in Connecticut, nowhere near the hotbed of timeshare sales as Florida or Nevada. Still, any regulator speaking up to support the reduction of unfair and deceptive sales practices in the acquiring or the disposing of a timeshare is appreciated. Timeshare complaints rank second on the list of complaints at the Connecticut Attorney General’s office.  

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Timeshare-Troubles–What-To-Do-Before-You-Buy-and-Sell-504017151.html

So what does constitute proof?

After hearing from 659 timeshare members, including 94 veterans or active duty service members, the best item of proof I can determine from the illustration above is probable cause: facts and circumstances that would lead an ordinary person to believe. We have compiled a summary report of 71 highest loyalty timeshare members who all describe how they were up-sold into insolvency, believing sales agents who told them that by buying additional points they could sell points or be able to pay maintenance fees. These programs did not exist. I find it hard to believe anyone with an ounce of common sense could read this 135 page report and not conclude these previously loyal members had been duped. I have sent this report to Senators, but they seem to feel “They signed a contract” suffices. Influential lobbyists likely play a part.

I asked attorney Mike Finn about proof. According to Mike, proof is anything that a trial judge receives from the witness stand or by the introduction of a document. “It is up to the judge to decide what is relevant – the testimony can be either oral or documentary. A judge may or may not deem the testimony allowable as evidence, but don’t undersell oral testimony,” Mike explains. “As stated in Rule 406 above, is the evidence presented of a common theme or is there a consistent pattern of complaints? It may still be hearsay, which makes it less reliable or relevant, but a summary report from 71 high loyalty timeshare members, all testifying that they purchased for similar reasons, reasons that did not exist, may very well be credible. Trial judges have a lot of discretion or latitude to render a decision over what is relevant or not relevant. Oral proof can serve as proof.”

One obstacle is that about half of the 71 highest loyalty timeshare members signed a non-disclosure agreement. Does that mean they cannot share their experience in a court of law? According to Mike, “There are times when a disclosure can be made despite the witness having signed an NDA. Even if a subpoena cannot overcome an NDA, the fact that all of these people filed claims and prevailed after signing a confidentiality agreement, would present a common intent, plan, scheme or motive that encouraged unfair and deceptive sales practices. It becomes more relevant when the practice has been reported time and time again. Everything is possible, but may not be probable. Not all judges see things the same way, but common intent does follow the rules of evidence. Rules of evidence are reliable and courts use them.”

In Florida, a two party state, both parties must be aware of an in-person recording, making proof even more difficult to come by. In Nevada, only one party must be aware of an in-person recording. Members should consider recording their sales session in states where this is legal.

It seems we keep circling back to the court of public opinion. Let the timeshare buyer be informed that all complaints that begin with, “The sales agent said” will be dismissed with, “You signed a contract.” Then at least the timeshare buyer would know they cannot believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. That at least would be fair and not deceptive, a level playing field.

 There seems to be in the timeshare industry a corporate culture that promulgates deceit. The sales agent deceives, the company responds, “You signed a contract” and when this response is seconded by the state regulator, there is, in effect, no regulation. One former timeshare sales agent described this process as a hamster wheel of recycled inventory, leaving the young, the old, veterans and active duty service members in the wake of timeshare foreclosure. Families are financially and sometimes physically devastated. Many seniors have reported weight loss, inability to sleep, and in one case, a heart attack, when questioned about the financial harm caused by buying a timeshare. It is ironic that vacation plans are supposed to reduce stress.    

Another question raised is whether the buyer signed under duress, after hour’s long sales sessions, provided only a 20 minute signing period for a buyer to review a document that the best lawyer could not review in less than a few hours.

Where do we go from here?

Strength in numbers – Keep sharing your stories.

We hope regulators, lawmakers and Wall Street will not turn a blind eye. We have heard form 659 readers, and these are only the readers we have followed along with resolution or lack of. There are thousands of Better Business Bureau complaints, lawsuits and Attorneys General investigations involving thousands of timeshare buyers. Let’s hope greater awareness will at least alert the consumer, the deck is stacked against them.

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/

Thank you Irene and also a very big thanks to Attorney Mike Finn, Inside Timeshare is sure this article will help to explain to our readers the problems that many of them face when filing complaints. This is a huge problem not just in the US but also in Europe and the rest of the world. The one thing that can be said is that Spain has brought in laws to regulate the sale of timeshare, the industry had plenty of time to get their house in order, but as we know they thought they were above the law. Now they are finding the full wrath of the law and it is costing them millions.

For those who purchased timeshare in Spain, they now have the courts and judges on their side, no longer can the sales agents use misleading tactics to gain a sale. We are also seeing a very significant drop in the sale of timeshare, with many sales decks being closed down. The unfortunate side effect of this are the number of bogus claims companies getting on the bandwagon, using the law to dupe the unsuspecting owners. Many of these have been set up by former sales agents and managers and in many cases using stolen data of their former clients to “scam” them out of yet more money.

Whether you attend a presentation for a timeshare, receive a call about claiming or relinquishing or even find a company on the internet or advert in a publication, the advice is always the same, do not commit to anything until you have done your homework.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, today in her article Irene Parker continues to address a very serious problem that of timeshare foreclosure, especially for seniors. Inside Timeshare has been highlighting this problem for some time and we will continue to do so.

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders

When and Why Some Timeshare Buyers Have No Choice

The Heartbreak of Senior Timeshare Foreclosure

We had to do a reverse mortgage on our home as a result of these timeshare purchases because our social security income was too low to cover the total charged on both Barclay cards. A reverse mortgage was the only way we saw to deal with the financial distress.  My credit score was 817 the day we met with the timeshare sales agent but it has gone down considerably after that purchase.

A former Army Captain, Vietnam

By Irene Parker

December 18, 2018

Over the past year I have received calls from mortgage brokers calling on behalf of former timeshare members trying to buy a house, battling the decline in their credit score due to timeshare foreclosure. When I explain to the lender that consumers are often left with no choice but to foreclose, due to no secondary market and the contract perpetual, the call has always ended with the mortgage broker convinced.

Six grown children, alarmed and astonished at the deceit their parents described at the hands of timeshare sales agents, have connected to bring to light unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Their parents are being driven, or were driven, into timeshare foreclosure. They possessed credit scores over 800 until they were up-sold into insolvency, now trying to understand how our country could leave senior after senior financially devastated. Two of the six families have previously published articles. On Friday we publish an article submitted by a third family, her parents financially and physically devastated because they believed a series of timeshare sales agents. We have received 20 complaints directed against their sales agent. He earned $2.4 million selling timeshare points in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. The complaints are similar or identical.

If you buy a house, car, or boat, and there is loan outstanding, you can still sell the asset. Timeshare companies themselves don’t want the timeshare back because, when no longer wanted or needed, a timeshare is a liability. What would happen to the primary housing market if we suddenly learned there was no secondary market? Damages suffered by senior timeshare members, often accumulating points over several purchases, are commonly $100,000 to $300,000 or more, easily the cost of a home. Often the  report of deceit happens at the last one or two purchases, because a level of trust developed over the years until they purchased for reasons that did not exist – programs that would relieve them of maintenance fees or allow them to sell points. Members reaching out to us all report that they were told at purchase the timeshare would be easy to sell, it is real estate, an investment.

When the buyer has experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, the result exacerbates the financial disaster, as has been reported by many of the 626 families that have reached out to us angry, overwhelmed and desperate. Some have learned within 24 hours after the rescission period, what they bought was a far cry from what was described.   

Such deceptive practices are known within the industry as “pitching heat” and the answer to complaints are routinely dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” In Nevada, all complaints we have received that were submitted to the Nevada Real Estate Division quickly received a “You have no proof” denial. In Florida, the response has been, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”

Fine, but why not let the consumer know a timeshare sales agent can say anything to make a sale. Let the consumer know they can’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. That would at least be transparent. Florida is a two party state, so consumers are not even allowed to record. How is proof even possible?

At the end of this article I list several Attorneys General settlements and lawsuits supporting my claim that the finger needs to be pointed also in-house, instead of solely at timeshare exit companies. The timeshare developer created this timeshare exit scam nightmare. Timeshare companies list in their annual reports that a viable resale market is a risk to their (stock) investors. Not all exit companies are scams, but many are. An FTC report on exit and transfer scams:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+scam+report&op=Search&affiliate=justice

I liken million dollar deceptive timeshare producers to a baseball player like Jose Canseco, breaking the performance enhancing drug rules to earn millions, while other teammates earn far less because they did not break the rules. Honest timeshare sales agents are harmed by the actions of the dishonest too.    

According to GustonCho Associates, “Many consumers purchased timeshares in the 2000’s when the real estate market was hot.”

  • After the 2008 Real Estate And Mortgage Meltdown bankruptcies and foreclosures soared to historical highs
  • Among foreclosures were consumers who purchased timeshares and could no longer liquidate the timeshares and had to go through timeshare foreclosures
  • I get many calls by home buyers who were told by banks and mortgage lenders that they do not qualify for a FHA Loan because they have a timeshare foreclosure
  • Timeshare owners were told that there are mandatory waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan
  • This is not true and unfortunately, these loan officers who are telling home buyers that there is a waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan do not know what they are talking about
  • There is no waiting period to qualify for a FHA Loan with a prior timeshare foreclosure
  • Timeshares are not considered real estate loans
  • Timeshare loans are considered consumer installment loans under HUD FHA Guidelines

Read more https://gustancho.com/fha-loan-with-timeshare-foreclosure

We have also received requests for help from the millennial generation. Seniors often tell me that at their age, they don’t care what happens to their credit score, but for the younger buyer, a timeshare foreclosure at a young age can also be financially devastating.

Not one member who has contacted Inside Timeshare realized their contract was perpetual or that there was little to no secondary market.    

The Foreclosure process is gruesome. There will be threatening calls and the hit on the credit score. Timeshare today is broken. When sales agents can lie and laugh about it, at the expense of the young and the old, financially devastated by their vacation plan, something is very wrong. Too many families have been financially harmed by an industry run amuck. Rising loan loss provisions are just a number on an annual report to Wall Street and the developers. To us, they are broken families.   

Lawmakers, heavily influenced by the industry, don’t seem to care because timeshare buyers don’t typically buy a timeshare in the state they live in. Attorneys General try to protect the public, but the settlements achieved so far have been mere speed bumps in extraordinary revenue streams.  

A few of the Attorneys General investigations and settlement and lawsuits:

New York Attorney General reaches $6.5 million Manhattan Club Settlement

https://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club/

A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Attorneys General on the side of timeshare owners:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, as reported by Business Den reporter Amy DiPierro, concerning Highlands Resorts in Colorado and Sedona Pines in Arizona:

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III settled with Festiva timeshare for $3 million:

https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/38312

Alongside AGs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducts an ongoing investigation of Westgate timeshare as reported by Matthew Zeitlin at BuzzFeed:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.dwoQKVw3QQ#.doJ0ka1K00

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced that Welk Resort Sales, Inc., a California corporation that sells timeshares in Branson, has entered into an agreement to pay $18,000 in restitution to Missouri consumers who purchased timeshares from Welk.

https://themissouritimes.com/21184/release-attorney-general-koster-obtains-restitution-for-consumer-victims-of-timeshare-sales-company/

HARRISBURG – The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has reached a settlement with Florida – based BlueGreen Corporation that addresses complaints about the company’s alleged use of deceptive “contests,” misleading sales presentations and improper contracts in the marketing and sale of timeshare vacation packages in Pennsylvania.

http://www.pacast.com/press_releases/1272_OAG_BlueGreen_feed.pdf

Arizona AG issues an $800,000 fine and an Assurance of Discontinuance against Diamond Resorts

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

Bluegreen stock downgrade August 17, 2018

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Shaun Kelley downgraded Bluegreen Vacations from Buy to Underperform and decreased the price target from $26 to $19.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/bluegreen-vacations-interrupted-sell-side-190725946.html

Self-help support 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/

Where are you?

Thank you Irene, as usual you have highlighted very well a severe problem and explained it in a very simple manner. In this Friday’s Letter from America, another new contributor Brenda Santos, highlights the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” of her elderly parents at the hands of an unscrupulous sales agent. We think this will make your blood boil, so join us for our last Letter from America this year.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, our scheduled article has been withdrawn, this is due to the timeshare company reaching out to the family concerned at the last minute. Obviously we at Inside Timeshare are pleased with this, it is just a shame that other timeshare companies do not do the same. In its place Irene Parker has drafted a last minute article on the same theme of No Secondary Market.

Following on from yesterday’s article on fake law firms, we have been informed of a Fake Notary calling clients who have claims going through the courts, this is highly disturbing as the calls are definitely in breach of data protection.

The caller going by the name of Louise Fisher with a broad Irish accent has contacted these clients claiming to be either from Anfi Accounts, Silverpoint and European Notary Office. In the call Louise seems to have some very sensitive information which they should not be in possession of.

In several of the calls she states that they are aware the client has a case pending in court and the timeshare company has offered an out of court settlement involving thousands of pounds. In order to have this money paid a substantial amount has first to be paid into the account of a named individual for administration purposes.

This appears to be the same outfit that we highlighted in several article earlier in the year, the name used at that time was Abogados Lopez, the callers were Hope Brugge, Megan Heywood and Paul Tyler.

This is “FRAUD”, if you receive a call from the Irish Louise Fisher or anybody else with a similar story, check with your lawyers first, do not be taken in by the huge sums they are quoting, do not pay them any money. If you have had a case in court or an out of court settlement is reached it will be from you own lawyers with an email address you will recognise or even a name you are familiar with.

Now for this weeks article.

The Disaster of NO SECONDARY MARKET for Timeshare Buyers vs the Benefits of NO SECONDARY MARKET for Timeshare Stock Market Investors

By Irene Parker

December 4, 2018

Quote from a timeshare member

The reality is that we have ended up in the seemingly inescapable grip of a timeshare industry that tightens, little by little, like a Boa Constrictor, until families are stressed out, broke and/or facing foreclosure.

The following quote is from Mr. Scott Miller, founder of Greenhaven Road Capital, promoting the benefit of no secondary market as a reason to buy stock or invest in a timeshare company, Latticework, May 18, 2016

There are a few websites and specialized brokers in timeshare hotbeds like Maui, but timeshares are hard to sell in general, and when they do sell, it is often at a very significant discount to the original price paid. In summary, customers experience a reasonable value proposition tempered by the lack of a secondary market.

The secondary market has undoubtedly had its growth stunted because the absence of the market creates an opportunity for the timeshare companies.

For example, a timeshare interest that would sell for $25,000 can often be purchased by the company for $3,000 in back maintenance fees. A robust secondary market would clearly yield higher resale values.

This low-cost source of inventory does come at the expense of those who no longer value their timeshare, but is beneficial for the company since it improves the margins and lowers the capital intensity of the business.

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

We have heard from 617 timeshare members. For the most part, the only court open has been the court of public opinion. I am sickened by family after family contacting me, widows, disabled veterans and active duty service members, those with top security clearances in jeopardy, driven into likely foreclosure, like Elaine describes in Friday’s article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-32/

The article scheduled for today has been postponed, hopefully to be scrapped, as the timeshare company has reached out to the member that wrote the first quote above from their article. The timeshare member also wrote the following.

I have read so many horrific stories about timeshares on this blog that it makes me sick to my stomach. So much so, that I hesitated to even submit our story because of so many people in a much worse situation. I didn’t want to come across like a cry baby. However, it occurred to me, that the majority of timeshare members, held hostage by no secondary market, probably don’t have a major tragedy or illness of some sort. Sick babies, disabled combat veterans, seniors driven to foreclosure in their 70s and 80s, make for interesting reading.  I am in total empathy with those suffering hardship, but my point is – that it is not right for your ordinary everyday citizen either.

There are thousands of hard-working citizens in the same boat, driven into foreclosure because we have no choice. Who would buy a boat, car, or house you could not sell? How can the timeshare industry not recognize that this can’t continue forever without the public becoming aware of this manipulated and restricted secondary market? We all have networks of friends and family listening to how we have found ourselves timeshare trapped.

The majority of people seeking release from timeshare contracts are probably just like us; regular, hardworking people who simply wanted a vacation to look forward to and enjoy when they signed their contract. The reality is that we have ended up in the seemingly inescapable grip of a timeshare industry that tightens, little by little, like a Boa Constrictor, until families are stressed out, broke and/or facing foreclosure.

We are waking up to the realization that what was sold to us as an “asset” is a liability even the timeshare companies don’t want. We are dragged through the demeaning and demoralizing foreclosure process, because a timeshare is an albatross you can’t get rid of.  At least we have a forum to warn the general public – why buy anything you can’t get rid of? If people knew this, who in their right mind would ever buy a timeshare?

If you spent $25,000 to over $500,000 for a timeshare, in all likelihood the timeshare is worth nothing, even just one minute after the state’s contract rescission period.

Something needs to change in the timeshare industry

While timeshares often ruin the credit of hard-working citizens, timeshare sales agents, managers, executives and investors make billions – spinning the hamster wheel of recycled weeks and points.

Inside Timeshare has heard from many honest current and former timeshare sales agents, employees, managers and executives who are well aware of the unfair and deceptive sales practices, also harmed by the actions of the predators. There are thousands of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, Trust Pilot, Attorneys General, and lawsuits galore. Who is the finger pointed at – Me a messenger. The finger should be pointed at the Perpetrator.

A quote by Anthony “Tony” de Mello (4 September 1931 – 2 June 1987), an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, a spiritual teacher, writer, and public speaker  

   I am pointing to the moon and you are staring at the end of my finger!

Self-help timeshare groups and 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 for your last minute revision, it may have upset your plans yesterday but at least it was for a good reason, it just goes to show the old saying “The pen is mightier than the sword”, is still holding true.

If you have had any calls from any company and you are not sure who they are, use our contact page and let us know the details, we will help you to find out if they are genuine or not.

It is also worth remembering that if you do have a law firm or lawyer working on your case, it is they and they alone who will inform you of any developments including out of court settlements, timeshare accounts departments, notaries etc will not be getting involved.