Welcome to the end of another week, today Inside Timeshare reports on how clients purchasing Marriott timeshares in Europe have been duped and how Marriott has circumvented the strict Spanish laws on the sale of timeshare. This has recently come to light as many clients have contacted Inside Timeshare to see if they have a case in the Spanish Courts.
As we know any timeshare purchased in Spain or any of her territories are subject to the laws of Spain, a very disturbing fact has now emerged. It involves the sales of timeshare at the Son Antem Resort in Mallorca.
From the many reader’s enquiries, we focus on just one, it begins in summer of 2007 when our reader was on holiday in Mallorca and was “invited” to attend a presentation on the Marriott Vacation Club at Son Antem. He attended the presentation and was duly impressed with the standard of the resort and the “benefits” of owning a timeshare membership with Marriott.
Our reader eventually agreed to purchase a membership to MVC believing that his home resort was going to be Son Antem. This belief was reinforced by the salesperson conducting the presentation and eventually by the manager when they decided to purchase.
When they first began their membership everything appeared to be going well, they didn’t have any problems with booking their holidays and do admit they were very impressed with the standards. But over the years things began to go wrong, maintenance fees began to rise and they now found they were having a great deal of difficulty in making any reservations for the times and resort they wanted. The excuse, as usual, was “no availability”.
Our reader had heard about other owners taking their timeshare companies to court and having their contracts declared null & void with the return of all their money. Making his enquiries he found that his membership was contrary to the laws of Spain and it looked as though he had a valid claim. His membership is a points-based system with a contract that runs in perpetuity. This contravenes Law 42/98 which makes points and floating weeks systems illegal and also limits the duration of a contract to a maximum of 50 years.
This particular reader was directed to Inside Timeshare and duly contacted us to see if he had a valid and viable claim. Unfortunately for him, the news was not good.
Emailing copies of his contract and maintenance bills Inside Timeshare found that his contract was not covered by Spanish law. All the paperwork was processed at Marriott in the USA and shows no Spanish entity. All the documents were stamped by a US notary and the deposit and payments were made through the US in dollars.
His annual maintenance bill was sent from the US and paid directly to Marriott in the US. Now we do know that many timeshares in Spain were sold with the timeshare companies using UK or BVI Limited entities. But the courts have ruled that as the timeshare was purchased in Spain and are based in Spain then Spanish law has jurisdiction and this was just an attempt to get around the law.
But this was not all, our reader actually believed (as he was told this by the sales department) that his home resort was Son Antem in Mallorca, but as Inside Timeshare pointed out all his paperwork shows that his purchase was with Marriott Vacation Club International with his home resort listed as The Manor at Ford’s Colony in Virginia.
Needless to say, he was very taken aback at this news, it also appears to explain why he was having difficulty in making his reservations at Son Antem.
This now leaves this particular client without a legal leg to stand on, his only option now is to relinquish and lose over $18,000 for a timeshare that has become a burden and is virtually unusable.
We do know that when on a presentation and then deciding to purchase, clients have very little time to fully read and comprehend the paperwork and contracts. It is also a fact that very few will ever read them in full even after returning home from their vacation, as with this particular reader it is not until problems arise and they seek advice that they found out they do not own what they thought. Had he known that his timeshare home resort was in the US and not at Son Antem, Mallorca, he would not have purchased it.
This story does show the need to go through documents thoroughly and to do so within the 14 days cooling-off period. If you find during this time that you have purchased something that you were not aware of then at least you will have the legal right to cancel.
Once again we see the timeshare industry finding ways to flout the laws of the countries that they are operating in, leaving purchasers with no legal rights and recourse.
If you own any timeshare interest with Marriott it is important that you check your documents thoroughly, if you are not sure what to look for then please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will help you check.
That is all for this week, we wish you all a very good weekend and please join us again next week for more on the murky world of timeshare.
Today Inside Timeshare highlights some of the latest news from the courts in Spain, courtesy of Canarian Legal Alliance. As we know they are the leading law firm in timeshare law and litigation with many victories to their credit including now 130 rulings from the Supreme Court.
After a lengthy process of appeals by Diamond, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the client, with their contract being declared null and void and the return of over 19,000€ plus double the deposit which was taken within the statutory cooling-off period. The court also awarded the client back their legal fees and legal interest.
In another case against Diamond at the Court of First Instance Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife, the Judge has decided not to proceed with a full trial, he will issue his sentence in due course. This will be based on the documents and the contracts which as we know clearly show that the sale was made in breach of the timeshare laws.
We have seen many of the judges in the courts of Gran Canaria foregoing the full trial and issuing judgements at the pre-trial stage for some time now, with many more judges at the courts of Arona, Tenerife are following suit in cases involving Silverpoint.
It is obviously good news for the clients as it has the effect of cutting down the time it takes to bring a case to a conclusion and also saves the clients from having to travel to attend the hearings. Hopefully, more courts will be following this lead as the cases are purely based on the contracts which are in breach of the law.
We now move to the Costa del Sol and the latest victory coming from the Court of First Instance Number 6 in Estepona.
This case involves Marriott Vacation Club with the judge declaring the contract null and void, citing the 130 Supreme Court rulings the judge ruled that the principal cause to nullify the contract was the “lack of an end date” on the contract. As we had stated previously, contracts under Spanish law should be for a maximum of 50 years.
The ex-timeshare owners were also awarded over £24,000 including the return of their legal fees plus legal interest.
In July last year Inside Timeshare published the fact that Marriott admitted they were losing in the Spanish courts and set aside around $16.3 million to cover the litigation expenses.
Going back now to the beginning of the month, Canarian Legal Alliance had a total of six rulings in favour of their clients, these were against Anfi, Silverpoint and Diamond Resorts. Once again the common denominator is that both the First Instance Courts and the High Courts are using the rulings made by the Supreme Court.
All contracts were declared null and void and the total awarded to clients is in excess of 204,000€.
If you purchased a timeshare after 5 January 1999 and would like to know if your contract is illegal and if you have a valid and viable claim, or you purchased from any of the companies featured on Inside Timeshare, then please use our contact page. Inside Timeshare will then get back to you and explain what options are open to you.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another in our series of Secret Shopper reports, but first some news from the UK about ABC Lawyers, one of the Mark Rowe owned companies.
On 8 February 2019, an application to wind down the company ABC Layers Ltd was filed by Mark Rowe with Companies House. The appointed liquidator is David Meany of Quantuma LLP, The Old Town Hall, 71 Christchurch Road, Ringwood, Hampshire.
The question being posed now is what will happen to all those clients who have signed up with ABC Lawyers for “compensation claims” and “relinquishments”, are they going to have the work completed?
As we know, several of Marke Rowe’s companies are under police investigation, could this liquidation be a move to prevent yet another of his companies falling under that investigation? Only time will tell.
Now for today’s Secret Shopper Report.
Timeshare Wars! Deeded Timeshare Owners Fight Back
What kind of business sells points by demanding that if you don’t buy our timeshare points, your children will have to be our customer?
Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)
By Another Deeded Week Secret Shopper from Out West
April 23, 2019
Some Vacation Clubs employ predatory and deceptive methods to convince deeded week timeshare “owners” to give up their deed to become a “member” of a points-based timeshare program. Owners are lured to “mandatory” updates designed to convince them why they should join their vacation club.
Last Tuesday a Secret Shopper shared his experience. Shopper owned two continuous deeded weeks at Virginia Beach. He determined that if he had agreed to forfeit his deeds for points, it is unlikely he would have access to the vacation location the family had enjoyed for years.
Some timeshare point members have no “beneficial interest” in actual real estate. Wyndham does sell a point-based deeded timeshare. The (intended pun) point is that just because points are used to identify one’s use interests, does not necessarily make the timeshare a users’ rights product.
In the case of non-deeded points, the point buyer buys points in a “right-to-use” program. Ownership rights are stripped away from the actual real estate. It’s more like buying a membership in a country club than buying a condo, except it’s a country club membership you can’t easily terminate unless the membership is free and clear. If there is no loan and maintenance fees are current, the resort MAY take the timeshare back in return for nothing more than the peace of mind knowing you are done with it.
Charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate was the basis of a class action lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club. In a recent ruling,
A Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”
Throughout our presentation, we were concerned about the sales agent using terms associated with real estate. Our sales agent said points are backed by real estate held in a trust. Agents used words and phrases like “opening escrow” and a 30 to 45 day closing period. One particularly deceptive use of real estate jargon was stating maintenance fees as HOA fees. They are not the same. It would take another article to explain why they are different. They would not disclose the terms of a loan unless we agreed to purchase.
My husband and I went after them from a financial angle. We said we were concerned about the company’s financial health. We felt the thousands of complaints that can be found about this company on the internet, over 1,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints, a government action, and numerous lawsuits would eventually catch up with them. That doesn’t mean all their sales agents are dishonest, but there are a disproportionate number of complaints compared to other timeshare companies.
What seemed to be the craziest comment came from an agent who came over to answer our questions about the budget report. We had asked:
“Is the Club solvent?” “Are they in debt?”
The agent shockingly responded, “Why would that matter to you?”
We asked for their California public report. We showed them that there was a deficit of $9.696 million. We asked why the public report does not show a reserve account. They said it’s typically not shown in a public report. This makes no sense as that is one of the first things to put in a public report to make the consumer feel more secure. The truth is – there is no reserve account based on documents we had analyzed.
Our sales agent seemed a bit dumbfounded. Our session ended without the usual downturn in attitude when a member says no and means no. We don’t think these agents are used to informed buyers. But Vacation Clubs don’t just try to take your deed. They try to take your Resort!
We are longtime owners at one of the resorts that have opposed the Vacation Club’s attempts to take control. Owners realized a few years ago that the Club was rapidly accumulating inventory. Some owners started reporting that they had been to presentations or updates where they had been informed that either the Club already ‘owned’ our resort, or used scare tactics to convince the owner that if they didn’t convert their deed to points, their deed would be worthless and would be subject to a special assessment. Often, especially seniors are falsely told that if they don’t give up their deed and convert to points their children will be required to be club members when the owner passes.
The Vacation Club business model dealing with “Legacy” resorts is well known. I call this model extortion. Here’s how it works:
The acquiring company takes over management,
Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
Information available to deeded owners is reduced in order to force them to attend high-pressure sales presentations or “updates” designed to wrestle the deed away from the owner.
The value of deeded ownership is demeaned by emphasizing the negative aspects of deeded ownership. Deeded owners are threatened with special assessments, higher maintenance fees, less availability.
Exchange options become limited for deeded owners in order to coerce them to convert to club membership.
Our Club has used unscrupulous Florida title companies to purchase units from deeded owners under false pretext and transfer them to the Club. The Club has pressured management hired by the resort to enact policies beneficial to the Club. The Club has brought frivolous legal action against the association and board members individually to intimidate vendors and board members so that the Club can gain control of the resort.
The intent of the Club has been to purchase voting power rather than quality ownership. They have done this by acquiring less than desirable units in less than desirable seasons. The units are not used by the Club for occupancy, yet they still pay the dues for these units. As a result, the Club is determined to take control of the resort so that they can better monetize this worthless inventory.
What can be done to keep our resort?
Our resort has taken advantage of social media to increase owner engagement and the free flow of information among owners and between owners, the board of directors and resort management. The availability of timely information to the deeded owners has empowered our resort to resist the persistent pressure from the Club to take control of our resort.
Our owners and our board are passionate about our resort and determined to maintain the control that allows them to continue enjoying what they purchased. Deeded owners must unite and organize to hang on to what little real timeshare real estate is left. To think the timeshare world will be nothing but points is sad.
We seek to provide timeshare with 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.