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Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association

Illness: Is not a Reason to Surrender Your Timeshare!

Today’s article is one many European owners will identify with, getting out of your timeshare when no longer being able to use or travel due to illness. Yet they are expected to continue to pay the yearly and often risings maintenance fees regardless, Mrs B a MacDonalds owner that Inside Timeshare has been working with for around 6 months is a classic case. She and her sister owned at the Dona Lola Club, they purchased around 15 years ago, due to illness both of them were unable to use or travel, even to the resorts in the UK for the past 11 years. Yet they continued to pay the maintenance year on year.

MacDonalds would not let them surrender, despite their ages (both over 80) and the fact they are both unable to travel. Eventually they signed up with a company to get rid of the timeshare, this was duly done and recorded by a notary, (we have the documentation). Unfortunately MacDonalds do not recognise the transfer and have sent in a debt collection agency to recover the unpaid maintenance. (The case is with the Financial Ombudsman).

Is it fair that people such as Mrs B and Ralph Marble should be tied into something they can no longer use or even afford?

Once again Irene Parker has sent the following article on the case of Ralph Marble and his Diamond Resorts membership.

Should those with Debilitating Medical Issues be required to pay Vacation Maintenance Fees until they Die or until the end of their Descendant Lineage?

image03       By Irene Parker        November 14, 2016

Mae West, German Immigrant turned Vaudeville and then Hollywood star famously said, “Less is more.”

image00

Today, we ask timeshare developers, ARDA, TATOC, RDO this simple question:

Is what happened to Ralph Marble alright with you?

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/timeshare-woes-for-one-man-who-tried-to-cancel-after-an-illness

Surely not even Wall Street, venture capitalists and private equity investors think the situation that exists, requiring those with serious illnesses to pay maintenance fees for vacations they can’t take, is all right? If they do, there is something deeply wrong with our society.

According to the interview,

Marble told Washington that he tried to cancel his timeshare membership several times to no avail. Marble was told they couldn’t let him out of his membership, even though he disclosed to them that he had a medical condition.

Diamond Resorts International responded with a letter stating, “We are unable to grant your request, a surrender of ownership.”

Statements from Marble’s membership show that maintenance fees have gone up every year.

The first initial payment was $200 a year, but the last bill he received was for $684.

Michael Finn of the Finn Law Group only handles timeshare cases, and he says Marble’s story is not uncommon.  “It’s not intended to let anybody out and it’s intended to be a lifetime obligation.”

The timeshare industry is a billion-dollar industry, and once you join many say you can’t get out.

And if you think that you can sell your timeshare, Finn says think again. “The resale market for timeshares is nearly non-existent. Your timeshare must be paid off, and most are completely worthless.”

Marble said he attempted to sell his timeshare twice. “They turned out to be bogus, they went off with our money,” he told reporter Washington.

The good news for Marble was that Diamond Resorts International did let him out of his contract after we (the reporter) contacted them.

Is the media our only hope?

Diamond Resorts International released the following statement:

“At Diamond Resorts International, we regularly work with our owners who find themselves in difficult health, financial or other circumstances and are seeking to relinquish their ownership. These requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. In addition, earlier this year we announced a program called Transitions by Diamond Resorts that will launch in the coming months. It is intended to formalize the process for owners in good standing who wish to relinquish their ownership without having to resort to third party timeshare relief companies.”

Mae West also said, “Your line isn’t low enough to trip me.”

image02    Public awareness is our goal. Prospective timeshare buyers should ask:

  1. May I take the unsigned contract and have a timeshare lawyer review it?
  2. May I see a five year history of maintenance fee increases?
  3. Please provide details of a secondary market. In the US, owners can call a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to ask, in advance of signing a contract, whether a secondary market exists for the timeshare you are considering.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

To find out what your timeshare is worth, check Sharket: https://sharket.com/

For those Diamond Resorts owners in Europe, there is at least a ray of hope, Diamond are putting into place ways that people can surrender their membership. They already have a programme whereby those over 75 can be released.

They also allow for those where a partner has died and the remaining member can surrender, there is also provision for those in financial difficulty and illness to also hand back. Much of this may be due to the changes in the timeshare laws within Europe, which have strengthened legislation in favour of the consumer.

Inside Timeshare also asks the same question as Irene, is it right that people such as Ralph Marble and Mrs B be locked into paying for something they no longer have any use for, especially when maintenance has been paid when never used?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

It now remains to be seen what the trade bodies ARDA, RDO and TATOC have to say about this, after all it is their own members who are making life difficult for owners such as these. Surely, there must be a way forward, it does the industry no good when matters like this get into the news, giving the impression that it is an industry solely interested in getting your money. At least for Ralph his nightmare is over, thanks mainly to the publicity and help from News 6 and the story from Eryka Washington.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Irene for another insight into the world of timeshare in the USA. If you have any questions or comments about this or any other article, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles.

Irene Parker, has once again sent in an article with references to what in the US are important talking points. In this piece Irene gives her own experiences of a timeshare presentation, she also highlights  the plight of an 81 year old doing battle with Westgate, this was even highlighted in the UK press by the Daily Mail. (see link daily mail)

We have once before mentioned the owner and wife of Westgate and the house they are building, which defies all imagination. This has also been featured on television and was called “The Queen of Versailles”. (Link below)

European link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipYpHC1rxoY

US Link (copy and paste into browser)

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4668383262001/?#sp=show-clips

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691048/Florida-widow-81-topples-timeshare-resort-planned-Queen-Versailles-husband-bringing-24m-project-halt-begin-building-condo-refused-payout.html

The Peasant of Venice is what Irene calls herself in relation to Jackie Siegel, she is a tireless campaigner for the rights of owners and a prolific writer come researcher, contributing many articles,comments and information to Inside Timeshare. Hope you enjoy the first of her Peasant of Venice articles.

The Peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles

By Irene Parker

November 6, 2016

I have been longing for a reason to write an article with this title. I wanted to explain how I went from being a 25 plus year timeshare owner without a complaint, question or post; to being the other half of an international timeshare investigative journalism team.

This link pictures the home of an 81 year old protestor refusing to sell her home to Westgate timeshare. As mentioned in the story, the home was featured in the Disney promotion for the movie Up. Please pay no attention to the transfer agent advertisement. The lack of a secondary market breeds predators.  

http://www.mysuncoast.com/news/state/orlando-woman-refuses-to-sell-home-to-timeshare-giant/article_2d420330-a27d-11e6-8b4e-8b161951edfc.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

This next link features the flip side of the story – Westgate owners, Jackie and David Siegel’s 90,000 square foot home featuring 30 bathrooms and a 20 car garage.  

http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/queen-of-versailles-q-and-a/

Westgate timeshare is a fixed week timeshare predominantly in Florida. Like most timeshares, Westgate timeshares have little or no resale value.  

I asked licensed timeshare resale broker Judi Kozlowski how Westgate’s secondary market stacks up. “Westgate has destroyed the resale market for Westgate owners. When a resale broker sells a Westgate unit, the Broker is entitled to 100% of their commission.  In the fine print of Westgate’s documents it states that Florida Ranchlands Real Estate gets 50% of the Brokers commission.  No other Developer does that. Few licensed real estate brokers will list Westgate properties.” LIKE MOST TIMESHARES, Westgate has little or no secondary market.

Westgate also changes the rules,” Judi added, “If you buy a Westgate property on the resale market, and you purchased after a certain date and your reservation window was one year, they condensed it to 60 days. If you buy a Westgate on the resale market and you wanted to exchange your unit within your home resort, you would normally pay a $139 exchange fee but if you bought resale you would pay the $139.00 plus $500.00.”

But back to the peasant and the Queen:

peasantqueen

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More News from Across the Pond

With the US Presidential election now coming to a close over the next week, Irene Parker, who collaborates with Inside Timeshare on matters which affect timeshare on both side of the Great Lake (or Pond as our American friends call it), has sent in her most recent article.

It very much focuses on the political game that is affecting timeshare in the US, showing how it splits into Republican and Democrat, as she explained, the industry is very much pro Republican, the Trump camp, the Democrats seem to be supported by the timeshare owners. We should not be surprised by this.

Irene has very often commented on the documentary “The Queen Of Versailles”, the wife of the owner of Westgate, David Siegel. It shows the 90,000sq ft property they have been building as their home. It is quite staggering, with a walk in wardrobe (sorry closet), bigger that most homes in Europe. Irene has in many writings dubbed herself “The Peasant of Venice” in contrast to The Queen. Have to admit Irene does have a great sense of humour. Irene claims it’s not humour if one studies Polish and Russian history and the need for peasant uprisings.

Irene opens her article on the New York Manhattan Club, when the Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman halted trading of timeshare. As you will see from her article, it is a very murky world indeed, the lines between timeshare and politics are blurred to say the least. Enjoy her article it reveals a lot.

Timeshare Battles Split Down Political Party Lines

October 26, 2016

By Irene Parker submitted to Orlando Sentinel

Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made headlines taking on presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Trump Foundation. Mr. Schneiderman claimed the Foundation did not meet certain administrative requirements necessary to receive donations in New York.

In addition to challenging Trump, Mr. Schneiderman has also taken on another developer and billionaire, Bruce Eichner, and Eichner’s Manhattan Club timeshare. Mr. Schneiderman halted timeshare sales at the Manhattan Club due to allegedly fraudulent sales practices involving a “bait and switch” scheme. Manhattan Club buyers learned there was a lack of availability for those who purchased memberships, while the general public could easily book online. A court battle that began in 2014 continues today.

The New York Post unleashed an onslaught of criticisms against Mr. Schneiderman accusing him of picking his fights based on political motives.

Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi created her own headlines when she accepted a $25,000 donation from Donald Trump while considering whether to participate in a Trump University investigation. Her investigation was dropped after receiving the donation.

There is an eerie similarity between Trump U and timeshare sales, illustrated in an extraordinary CNN interview between Trump U salesperson James Harris and CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin. Not all timeshare sales agents are predatory, but complaints about overly aggressive sales tactics abound.

In the CNN interview, Harris is accused of exploiting the elderly by selling them classes averaging $34,000 and then “up selling” them to attend more classes. In rogue timeshare presentations, an average timeshare week costs $25,000 and after the initial purchase, owners are barraged to purchase additional points or weeks.

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Irene Parker: Barclay Card and Timeshare in the USA.

Back in July Inside Timeshare published the article about Shawbrook Bank setting aside around £9 million, to cover defaults in loans issued by timeshare sales staff. It announced that the bank had not carried out its due diligence in accepting these finance agreements.

The article also highlighted the ongoing high court action brought against Barclay Partner Finance for loans issued for timeshare. These were for the so called “investment” packs being sold by Resort Properties / Silverpoint. Many of the agreements were given without the normal checks being carried out in respect of the clients income or the ability to repay the loans, with many of the applications being falsified in order to get it passed.

Another aspect of the article showed the same thing happening in the USA, with people who did not qualify for normal finance, being passed to a Credit Union. In this case the company was Quorum Federal Credit Union, which would then sign them up as members. These loans accounted for around $40 million for Diamond sales.

It has now been highlighted that sales staff in the US are issuing credit cards, again it is Barclays who are in the picture. Irene Parker, sent the following article.

Barclay card by Irene Parker 10/24/16

barclay-card

There is nothing wrong with travel reward credit cards, but when consumers on vacation get locked into timeshare presentations that can last for hours; credit card lending can turn predatory.

Several banks have come under fire for overzealous sales practices. Wells Fargo and Barclays Bank through Barclays Partner Finance, along with other U.K. banks, have come under regulatory scrutiny and been the subject of lawsuits for a host of reasons, including predatory lending through the use of timeshare developer-sponsored credit cards.

Shawbrook Bank in the U.K. has admitted that it didn’t do its due diligence when approving the finance for vacation ownership products. One of its biggest partners is Diamond Resorts International, a timeshare company that has come under fire for its aggressive sales practices.

Diamond offers a Diamond Resorts Barclaycard Master Card with a 0% promotional six month APR if used for a Diamond Vacation Ownership Interest down payment, along with Diamond Resorts International reward points for other purchases. After that, it is a variable APR of 15.24%, 19.24% or 22.24% depending on creditworthiness.

Diamond Resorts International’s primary business segments are hospitality and management services and vacation ownership interest, or vacation points sales, and financing.

It is the financing component that often makes people with vacation brain sign a contract on impulse for perpetuity, not even having used the vacation service at the time of purchase. The decision is often based on how well the buyer likes the resort if they aren’t an existing owner. In other words, they may not use the booking program until the next vacation.

As an example, Arthur Saldana, 55, and his wife Sylvia, 49, have been Diamond Resort International owners for several years. They owned a deeded week at the Sunterra London Bridge Resort in Havasu, Ariz., for about 10 years prior to Diamond Resorts International acquiring Sunterra in 2007.

The couple was persuaded to give up a deeded week, one that came with a deed that has a limited secondary market, in exchange for timeshare points that are non-deeded with no secondary market. During a series of five sales presentations over a five-year period, the Saldanas accumulated 30,000 Diamond Resorts International points that elevated them to gold status in 2013.

Sylvia Saldana said that she and her husband signed many contracts, and they thought they were actually helping their children. “We thought that after we paid off the Diamond mortgage our four children would only have to pay maintenance fees,” she said.

But maintenance fees increased to the point where they could no longer afford to own their points. The family soon found that they had to charge maintenance fees to their credit card in order to pay them.

The Saldanas had already taken out a $33,000 home equity loan from their credit union to reduce the high Diamond Resorts International loan interest rate, typically 14% to 18%.

Worse, the children, now almost grown, say that they have no interest in timeshares.

At their last stay at a Diamond Resorts International resort in August 2015, Sylvia Saldana said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve platinum level, which is 50,000 points (Remember they owned 30,000 points).

The sales agent explained that by being platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees, Sylvia Saldana said.

At the time of the 2015 presentation, Diamond Resorts International’s FAQ indicated that as of that year, only platinum members could exchange points for a monetary credit toward the cost of their annual maintenance fees for their collection membership and points and/or dues for the club.

A Diamond Resorts International representative who gave her name as Pamela — these reps aren’t allowed by the company to provide their last names — confirmed that “only platinum members can use their points to pay maintenance fees. Any member can open a Barclaycard to pay fees.”

When we purchased our Diamond Resorts International contract, we were told that the practice of using points to pay maintenance fees isn’t encouraged due to the point value being reduced to pennies on the dollar if used to pay maintenance fees.

The sales agent aggressively tried to persuade the family to open a Diamond Resorts International credit card to pay for the additional points, despite the fact that they couldn’t afford the fees, Sylvia Saldana said.

Arthur Saldana became so angry, he left the presentation.

Fortunately, the couple realized that the credit card wasn’t a prudent solution to their problem.

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