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Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, this week Meryl Reyman gives her insights on the timeshare industry, or as we prefer to call it Nightmare on Timeshare Street.

Inside Timeshare and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has received 285 timeshare complaints since January 1, in response to our articles, from timeshare members angry about purchasing a product, most allege they were deceived into buying, signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market. We received 257 complaints for all of 2017.

Given the dramatic increase in the volume of complaints, Irene will only be posting our Friday’s Letter from America to allow more time to respond to our readers. In addition, Irene is working on a research project with a team of advocates.

We hope other contributors who have previously submitted articles, will continue to submit articles and we encourage new submissions from others who would like to contribute to our cause – educate the public to prevent or at least slow the volume of complaints from angry timeshare buyers, tired of the deception.

WHY IS NEVADA THE “WE SEE NOTHING” STATE

AND MISSOURI THE “SHOW ME” STATE

By Meryl Reyman, a Nevada resident

August 24, 2018

Our most vulnerable and valued citizens—elderly, disabled and military—are often defrauded by the timeshare industry.  Since there is no federal protection in the U.S., victims must rely on the states they live in to protect their interests. However, timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, so must file a timeshare complaint in the state where they purchased the timeshare. Some state Attorneys General are listening. Nevada is not one of them.

Nevada seems to be under the thumb of the timeshare industry and is profiting from the millions of dollars that are taken out of the pockets of the victims of timeshare fraud.  Despite repeated complaints of a very serious nature, and high ticket sales, the Nevada Attorney General, via the Nevada Real Estate Division and the Nevada BBB, deny consumers cavalierly by stating “you have no proof” even when a pattern of deceit and bait and switch tactics are its own proof. The volume of similar complaints is compelling and compounding. In timeshare Mecca Florida, proof is even harder to come by because it is a two party state, meaning both parties must be aware of an in-person meeting being recorded.  

Recently the Better Business Bureau of Missouri published a report detailing a pattern of predatory practices by timeshare sales agents and “Get you out of your timeshare scams” in Branson.  

Consumer Tips from the St. Louis BBB:

Don’t Fall for Deception, Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations: A Better Business Bureau Study of the Missouri Timeshare / Vacation Club Industry

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry

Look on the secondary market first. If you are interested in buying a timeshare, you may save thousands buying on the resale market. Be fully aware of what you are purchasing and from whom you are buying to ensure a smooth transaction. Make sure you have in writing the terms of the sale and what each side is responsible for paying at closing. Read the contract carefully and ask questions of the seller.

  • Don’t bow to pressure. Take time to think about your decision. Ask the salesperson to send you written information about your possible purchase, including a contract that you can review. There is nothing that says you have to sign the first thing that is shown to you. Let the deal breathe before you figure out if it is right for you.
  • Do your research. Compare travel savings with online travel services or local travel agents. Also, check out the company with bbb.org.
  • Act fast if you are not satisfied. If you sign a contract for a timeshare or travel club, you have a short window to cancel the contract if you don’t like what you purchased. Don’t wait until after you get back from your trip to take a second look at the contract and research the company you are dealing with or it may be too late. Also, always pay with a credit card so you can challenge the charge should something go wrong with the purchase.
  • Do it yourself. If you want to get out of a timeshare commitment, do the work yourself. First, turn to the property from which you purchased the deed to see if there is a deed-back program in place. If that does not work, you may have to turn to the resale market. You likely will have to make a deal with a buyer to sell the timeshare. That option often is still cheaper than dealing with a resale or liquidation company that may charge you thousands of dollars to do the same work for you.

The Message as we interpret it:

Given the perpetual nature of the timeshare contract, the lack of a viable secondary market, and rising maintenance fees, consumers can find themselves stuck – with points eventually foreclosed or taken back, only to be sold again to the next unsuspecting vacationer.

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a licensed secondary market resale broker. We recommend contacting a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare.   http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Timeshare is a multi-billion dollar industry propelled by powerful lobby dollars. The media needs to help their public by shining a light on the deceptive practices so that the consumer can make an educated decision as to whether the timeshare product makes sense for them.

Inside Timeshare, and Timeshare Advocacy Group™, whose mission is to shine a spotlight on the timeshare industry, has received about the same high number of complaints directed against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Of these states, only Nevada and Florida have routinely dismissed the customer by falling back on the oral representation clause.

For more information, please contact me at: [email protected] or Timeshare Advocacy Group™: https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

Meryl Reyman is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a large marketing/advertising agency located in New York City. Meryl is now a resident of Henderson, NV. She successfully rescinded a timeshare contract after learning little of what the sales agent said was true.

Thank you to Meryl for your advocacy efforts. If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare concern, contact one of these self-help groups that Inside Timeshare feels is not industry influenced.

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/

This week Inside Timeshare has received many more complaints from disgruntled US members, these have been passed on to our Advocacy teams who are now working with them to sort out their problems. We have also been receiving many requests for information from our European readers, the bulk have been from the UK and all revolve around the growing claims and cancellation business. Most of the requests are about the many companies that we have already highlighted, but it will not be long before a few new names start to emerge.

The unfortunate thing is that there are some genuine law firms working very hard to help owners who are stuck in the timeshare rut, but how do you sort out which is which?

If you have been contacted by any company or have found one on the internet and want to know the truth about them, use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction. Remember doing your homework will always save you a whole lot of stress, plus it will also keep your money where it should be, in your bank!

Join us next week for more on the murky world that is timeshare, have a great weekend and if you are going to a timeshare resort, beware the “update” meeting!

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this weeks article is by a new contributor, Della Morris C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S. with the introduction by Irene Parker. As is usual with articles such as this, Inside Timeshare submitted the draft to the company concerned for comment. The reason for this is very simple, we hope that the situation can be resolved and on some occasions the article is then not published when a positive outcome is achieved.

In the case of some companies, no response is received, then when the article is published they start to issue legal notices, sending in the lawyers with threats because they don’t like what has been published. Well, that is their problem, they are given ample warning but fail to respond.

In the case of this article we did receive a response from ARC, all credit is due to them, you can read their comment in Irene’s introduction.

Senior Foreclosure

The Hardship created by Perpetual Timeshare Contracts without a Secondary Market

By Della Morris, an Americano Beach Resort owner in foreclosure

Introduction by Irene Parker

August 14, 2018

Inside Timeshare has published two articles about Americano Beach Resort as the developer, ARC, works toward reopening the resort damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Work is progressing, but today’s article is about how the perpetual timeshare contract is forcing senior after senior into foreclosure, often those with high credit scores who have rarely been late on a payment. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing, but for some seniors the relentless calls can affect their health and wellbeing. We’re not singling out Americano, or their current developer, ARC, as this is an industry wide problem. A few companies, like Wyndham and Diamond Resorts, are offering voluntary surrender programs, alleviating the problem for some.

My husband and I owned a deeded week at Port Elsewhere (named after the medical drama series St. Elsewhere from the 80s), Osage Beach in the Missouri Ozarks for almost 30 years. Living in Florida, we no longer desire to vacation in Branson. I called the resort, spoke to the person I had gotten to know over the years, who responded to my request to deed back with, “Yeah, we discussed this at our HOA meeting and decided it’s not fair to place such a hardship on aging owners, especially those who have faithfully paid their maintenance fees for so long. I’ll send you the form to sign and return.” We left Port Elsewhere holding no animosity, only fond memories. We knew it was time to go when all our neighbors said, “My grandma and grandpa bought this!”  

Out of the 530 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one was aware of how difficult getting out of a timeshare can be. Almost daily we hear from another senior bracing for timeshare foreclosure. Many of their stories are heartbreaking, and for more than a few, devastating.

For timeshare members, lucky enough to have purchased a timeshare that does have some salability, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront and can provide straight answers if your timeshare has no secondary market. Scams asking for upfront money to “get you out of your timeshare or your money back” abound. Based on 530 reader complaints, honesty is in short supply. Many of our readers have been duped by exit scams.  http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Della is at her wit’s end. She contacted Inside Timeshare after reading Meryl Stefan’s July 27 article that contained a description of Freedom 365, an exit and travel plan ARC is offering deeded owners. For many original buyers, the answer to their timeshare nightmare is not to spend more money by joining a Travel Club.

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

Della had already talked to ARC, but hoping to help find a solution I contacted ARC and was provided the following information. Della will follow up.  

The Association does have a hardship surrender policy.  It’s managed by the administrative manager at the resort  (Contact information was provided). Generally, the policy is that the owner has to bring their account current before the Association will accept the deed, but we’ll work with every owner based on their specific needs.

I believe many complaints can be resolved by finding the right person to talk to. The salespeople are paid to sell, so the sales agents mentioned in Della’s article were probably not the proper people to talk to about a deed-back. Through dialog we hope to create a kinder, gentler relationship between disgruntled owners and developers.

By Della Morris, C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S.

I am 70 years old and currently live in Virginia. I bought my Americano timeshare in 1994. It has been difficult for me to pay my dues each year and many times I asked Americano Resort to take my week back, even before ARC acquired Americano. When I bought the timeshare, I had no idea timeshare can be a product that cannot be sold or given back.

I had a back and neck injury that resulted in eight surgeries from 1990 thru 1997.  Many years my income was low, but I continued to pay the fees. I owe dues for 2017 and 2018, but cannot afford to pay them. I paid Americano maintenance fees from 1994 until 2016, despite never using the timeshare.

Sometimes you get the feeling that these resorts lump all seniors together like a herd of sheep. We are people. To give you an idea of my background, I worked for a company that audited corporations. A congressional law was passed by Senators Sarbanes and Oxley in response to the Enron scandal. The law required public companies with a certain amount of equity to have an independent audit by an auditing firm not connected with the company that prepared their annual report.   

When my health failed, I did not apply for Social Security. It was such a cumbersome process, so I just worked the best I could, sometimes for minimum wage, taking anything I could get. I have lived in West Virginia, Florida and North Carolina and was eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation in each of those states.

My contact with ARC, (Bernie and Edwin)

Edwin from ARC called me August 8 about turning over my Americano unit with a quit claim deed so my special assessments and annual fees would be forgiven, but they were asking $5,000 in order to do so, to join their Travel Club, Freedom 365. He said this would be a better deal for me than staying with Americano Resort. Edwin said Americano will continue to have large annual assessment fees and I will have to pay assessments plus maintenance fees each year.

Edwin stated if I do not pay the assessment and maintenance fees, my timeshare would go to foreclosure, plus I will have to pay property taxes. I told Edwin I knew of many not happy with the current Americano situation, with the resort not open. In my situation, I would be paying out good money after bad. I could not decide that day. They said they had to have $1,000 to hold the offer. I paid $500 with my credit card, but disputed the charge because of their aggressive sales tactics.   

Freedom 365 would require I travel to one of their properties at least one time per year at a cost of $299. I never even stayed at the resort I bought! They also offered 1,000 points each year to be deposited to my account so I could book other stays. The difference between the price given and the discount rate would come from the points. Points would not carry over if not used, or if some were remaining at the end of the year, after paying $299 for travel and the other travel destinations through Freedom 365. This plan sounded convoluted and the last thing I needed to do was pay an additional $5,000 for something I never used.

They told me foreclosure letters would be going out soon. I wrote a check for my 2017 dues but apparently the check was never cashed. I feel the industry needs to do something besides browbeat seniors who have been paying them money for years, holding them as financial hostages. So, I brace for the collection calls and demand letters. I find the industry shameful.

Thank you to Della for sharing her story and to ARC for their response. Della is not alone. Inside Timeshare has been flooded with complaints, and not just from seniors. We hope industry executives will wake up and realize this is not the way to keep timeshare viable and healthy. Many families are devastated.

If you or someone you know has a timeshare problem, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below.

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/

Thank you Della for your article and also to Irene for the editing and introduction, also a big thank you to ARC for responding, at least they have informed us and our readers that they do have a policy in place and who it is managed by. As Irene stated in her introduction, it really does depend on who you speak with, if only other timeshare resorts and developers informed members of the correct department, we would not have the situation we have today.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, use our contact page and please let us know where you are located. This helps us to make sure we get the correct answers for you.

Also it is that time of year, especially in Europe, when many cold calling “scam” companies start to make contact, if you are contacted by any company or even found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this article is based on a report released by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, it is based on their full report published on the BBB website which we have included as a link. The full report carries some very sound advice along with recommendations for Government and the industry. Whether they take note is another matter.

August is the month for Spain to basically close down, so there is no news from the courts, but this little snippet from the RDO website news section and published on 24 July caught our attention.

“We never sleep”

During this particular break-out session the RDO legal panel will provide attendees with an update on a range of issues, including the latest developments in the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and the on-going lobbying programme.

Other issues that will be covered within the session will be ongoing collaboration with UK authorities to take fraudulent individuals/companies to court and new legislation that is being developed to curb the activities of claims companies. Attendees will also learn how ARDA is dealing with similar issues in the US and whether there are lessons for RDO and its members.

Well one thing is for sure, the RDO obviously believe that the Spanish timeshare laws are not good for the industry, with the judges getting it wrong, along with their belief that they will be able to change things in their favour through the lobbying programme. Well somehow I don’t think the Spanish authorities will be looking to changing their laws to return back to the bad old days!

In the end these court cases that are being brought are of the industries own making, if they had abided by the laws in the first place they would not be paying for it now. A very good case to remember is Silverpoint, this company is being pilloried by the lower courts in Tenerife and the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Why?

Quite simple, they sold a product that flouted virtually every article of Law 42/98, especially with their promise of the “investment” weeks, where unsuspecting purchasers, many of them on the verge of retirement, were sold under high pressure and very misleading sales pitches a promise that these weeks would be sold or rented out. These never materialised and are the subject of many of these court cases. 

On the legal front, Canarian Legal Alliance has just published their mid year report, it is certainly impressive and really does put the above statement from the RDO in a different light. Follow the link for the full report direct from the lawyers themselves.

https://canarianlegalalliance.com/canarian-legal-alliance-mid-term-successes/

Now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

A St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

Released July 24, 2018

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

August 3, 2018

Inside Timeshare has received complaints against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Missouri is no worse than the other states. We appreciate the St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau taking timeshare complaints seriously.

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.”

From the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report:

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

    • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

    • More honesty from the industry. The timeshare industry needs to develop and adhere to a set of ethical standards to address widespread reports of high-pressure and deceptive sales practices and to deliver accurate, honest sales pitches to consumers. Reputable companies do not pressure consumers over several hours to purchase services they had little interest in buying or, in some instances, can’t even afford. If presentations are held, consumers should not be detained past the scheduled time or express a false sense of urgency to act immediately. Avoid telling consumers something that will entice them to sign but is later contradicted by your contract.
    • Honor promises. Provide tickets or other promotional items at the time of the presentation. Do not mail them later or make the consumer obtain them from another source.  
    • Do not mislead about timeshare inheritance. Too often misleading statements or scare tactics are used to encourage those who have inherited a timeshare to believe they are liable for it. Don’t misrepresent the law or circumstances for financial gain.
    • Do not require consumers to initial documents “under duress.” Too often, consumers are faced with presentations consisting of long hours; eventually succumbing to high pressure sales tactics.
    • More transparency from the industry. If a consumer is referred  to another company or person to complete the presentation process, be transparent about the process (ie. obligation to sit through a two hour presentation to obtain discounted tickets) and amount of time it will actually take to possibly alleviate someone from their timeshare.
    • Eliminate company mediation. Do not require consumers to mediate through the company’s internal program should a dispute arise. Instead, use neutral, third-party mediation source such as Better Business Bureau or American Arbitration Association.
  • Easier exits. The recent establishment of deed-back programs may be a step in the right direction. More consumers should be able to take advantage of these programs. The establishment of more deed-back programs is likely to lead in a decrease in fraud seen in the resale and exit markets.

Inside Timeshare has received 515 timeshare complaints from our readers, 271 since January 1. All but a handful report their complaint was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our advocacy efforts have had an effect. After publishing this last statement a few times, the defense has been changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said” still relying on the oral representation clause. About 200 complaints were copied to ARDA / ARDA ROCbut were ignored.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official policy, and the regulator’s position in some states, the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Florida and Nevada, all our readers’ complaints filed with those state Attorney General’s timeshare divisions have been dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” An upcoming article examines proof and why FBI agents and several attorneys don’t buy this response.

Inside Timeshare contributor Sheila Brust reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a regulator that is clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality. I was told to contact a licensed timeshare resale broker, but every agent I contacted informed me my timeshare had no secondary market. By steering complaining members to licensed real estate agents, when turned down, members often end up the contacting a scam that will charge the member upfront money promising to sell or cancel their timeshare. Often that promise falls short.”

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints against Branson, Missouri sales centers. Our researchers discovered one Branson timeshare sales manager was selling points at the same time he was working for a timeshare exit company named Mutual Release a suspicious name for a company, as mutual release is the form signed when a timeshare issue has been resolved.

Our Advice

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. There you will receive straight answers.

 http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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/

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel lost to let them know Inside Timeshare and real advocacy groups are there for them. Consumer and advocacy are two words members should take with a grain of salt, used and abused by scam artists. We are real advocates.   

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, for those in Europe beware the heat wave, especially if you are travelling to Spain, Seville is reported to be facing temperatures of 48º C or 118º F.

Join us next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, don’t forget if you have any comments, questions or just need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and don’t get sunburnt!