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Marriott

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today Irene Parker tells the story of Joseph, a Welk Resorts Owner, unlike many of the stories in the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” series, this one does have a happy ending. Joseph is now free of his timeshare and has saved a small fortune in “exit” fees, so commendations to Welk Resorts for their effort in helping to free Joseph. Just a shame others do not take a leaf out of Welk’s response.

A Real Responsible Exit for Joseph, a Welk Resort Owner

Volunteers Needed! Apply Within

Why Volunteers Do What They Do – Brittany Garvin

Hurricane Relief for the Bahamas

Brittany Garvin spends most of her time (14 hours a day) in front of her computer or on her cellphone. Garvin is connecting family members with their loved ones in the Bahamas. She is a volunteer with the nonprofit organization CrowdSource Rescue.

https://www.live5news.com/2019/09/10/adams-run-woman-helping-reunite-hurricane-victims-with-family-members/

By Irene Parker

September 17, 2019

A firestorm of emails was prompted by our August 9th article concerning the lack of responsible exit for six Legacy resort owners. Out of six resorts, only one resort told the owner they would take back the timeshare. While some developers maintain a sales office, the glut of unwanted timeshares, especially among the baby boomer population, continues to flood the market. Since publishing the August 9th article, several more resorts have been added to the list. 

Some resorts are willing to work with Legacy owners who no longer want their timeshare. Navy veteran Joseph, age 89, was able to deed his timeshare back to Welk Resorts. After two attempts to reach someone at Welk, in frustration, Joseph gave up and reached out to timeshare exit companies. One quoted him a price of $4,500. Joseph said he attended their presentation at a chicken dinner at Disney. “Something didn’t feel right so I left,” Joseph explained. Ultimately, Joseph was referred to me. I reached out to Welk on Joseph’s behalf, putting him in touch with the right person. A representative from Welk contacted Joseph immediately.      

The five of six resorts that would not take back a timeshare:

The Seasons in Vermont

Eagle Crest in Oregon

Broadway Plantation in Myrtle Beach

Lehigh Resorts (from a BBB complaint: We were offered a deed back option, but it was $3000 to cover fees and a title search. This amount seemed absolutely excessive.)

Wyndham Carriage Ridge and Carriage Hills Resorts

Remarkably, Melissa received an emailed response (unedited) from a Sugarbush manager at The Seasons Resort stating:

  • Our current owners are renting for premium dollars and receiving a very high rate of return on their investment, because of supply and demand. 
  • If you rent your unit for less than 15 days/year, the rental income will not be includible in income–thus the income is tax-free and you would still be able to deduct your interest payments. 
  • The timeshare won’t be difficult to resell due to the lack of accommodations in the Sugarbush area (supply and demand).

We have also published several articles submitted by frustrated Americano ARC Resort owners. For many seniors, what the developer may consider a responsible exit is not. ARC is demanding those seeking exit purchase a Freedom 365 Travel Club. I think I speak on behalf of my generation when I say the last thing a senior seeking release from a timeshare needs is a $5,000 travel club. 

When a member or owner contacts me, the first thing I do is tell the member to reach out to ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit. They report back their findings. https://responsibleexit.com/

Disney and Marriott are on Shep’s List

https://hyken.com/

Joseph was referred to me because Joseph does not have a computer. When I called Welk Resort, it did take a try or two. I waited on hold as caller #1 for 15 minutes before reaching a company representative. I explained that one of their owners had been quoted $4,500 to be released from his timeshare, so I was checking to see if they might work with Joseph. She referred me to the department that takes care of deed-backs. The person I spoke with said they would forward the message to a representative. I explained that I am not an attorney, so don’t represent anyone, but I was researching timeshare’s secondary market and would like to know Welk’s dissolution policy. That same day I was contacted by a Welk representative who explained they would work with Joseph and quoted me the reasonable fee they charge to deed-back, in the case of someone like Joseph. 

Exit companies would argue that they would be justified in charging Joseph $4,500 because they have to pay for the leads. I don’t agree. With a little persistence and detective work, finding the right department and the right person, members or owners can save themselves thousands of dollars by doing their own research and making their own contacts. 

We are looking for volunteers to assist those who do not have a computer or computer skills due to a variety of reasons. In the last 24 hours, I have been contacted by two owners battling cancer and one with MS. It’s not fair for them to have to battle their timeshare too, given the lack of a secondary market. 

Inside Timeshare can simply refer the owner inquiring to you, and you can assist and follow along with owners who need this type of assistance. You would help only those with fully paid for timeshares, those seeking release, by helping to point the member or owner in the right direction. We have many members helping members resolve disputes, but we could use a few more good soldiers. This is a way we can serve those who served us, like Calvin. 

On Friday we will publish Calvin’s story about how Nationwide Transfer strung Calvin along for two years, demanding over $20,000 from him. Calvin was part of a military police unit that managed a prison camp of 27,000 Iraq soldiers. Nationwide, instead of asking Calvin for medical documentation concerning his PTSD, that required a two-month hospital stay, wrote Vacation Village a letter telling them Calvin has Parkinson’s disease. Calvin does not have Parkinson’s. 

I reached out to Vacation Village and put them in touch with Calvin. Calvin paid $6,000 for the Vacation Village timeshare ten years ago. When his health deteriorated, he spoke with a sales agent who advised Calving to convert to points to reduce maintenance fees. Instead, maintenance fees increased. With the unnecessary upgrade, Calvin paid approximately $12,500 for the timeshare and over $20,000 to Nationwide Transfer. 

Elder Veteran Fraud is one of the most despicable forms of fraud.  

On a side note, I highly recommend Welk Resort. It was one of the first exchanges we made many years ago. For our younger readers, you can learn something about Hollywood memorabilia at Welk Resorts. Our generation grew up listening to Welshman Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Orchestra.

Timeshare provided my family and countless others, generations of wonderful memories. For others, it has caused financial ruin, bankruptcy and the loss of security clearances for active duty service members. “Pitching Heat” is what the industry itself calls the employment of unfair and deceptive sales practices. There have been many lawsuits filed describing the practice. 

I listened to an interview with Brittany Garvin on the Weather Channel over the weekend. She was asked what made her volunteer so much of her time. “With my skills, I could not just sit back and do nothing,” Brittany explained. Timeshare has deceived many who possess valuable skills, including a detective who works economic crimes undercover. If you have skills, or just time, to aid with our self-advocacy efforts, contact Inside Timeshare. Join our growing networks of volunteers. As happened for Joseph, one person can make a difference.  

We seek to provide timeshare members 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.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

Free at Last Facebook Straight-A Guide

https://www.facebook.com/groups/623703881470577/?ref=share

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

Wyndham Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/

Wyndham Carriage Resorts Facebook

https://m.facebook.com/groups/152117225452689

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Gold Key Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Inside Timeshare Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213231165610648/

Thank you Irene for all the help you gave Joseph, it is great when we can publish a story with a happy ending and a timeshare company willing to help, so we must say a very big thank you to Welk Resorts.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, this week Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on day 1 of the trial she attending in Orlando, Florida. This is a case between Diamond Resorts and Aaronson Law Firm, this is yet another law firm being taken to court by the timeshare industry.

So unlike our usual Friday editions, we will forego news from Europe and go straight to Irene’s report.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Day 1 of 6: Jury Selection and Opening Arguments

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial

By Irene Parker

May 3, 2019

Having recently experienced Part I of a deposition that lasted six hours against another law firm that provides timeshare exit assistance, I was motivated to attend a six-day timeshare trial in Orlando District Court that began Tuesday, April 30. The cost of a deposition or a six-day trial is staggering. Ultimately, the timeshare member pays. It’s too bad we can’t just sit down and talk to each other, but I guess attorneys have to make a living.

Diamond Resorts International Inc., Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

The Florida suit was filed against Orlando lawyer Austin Aaronson and his firm Aaronson, Austin. In a Jan. 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. of Orlando tossed RICO and malicious prosecution claims by Diamond Resorts but allowed claims for false advertising under the Lanham Act, tortious interference with contract, trade libel and deceptive trade practices.

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Opening day started with jury selection. Six of the eighteen potential jurors reported a negative timeshare experience:

  1. Lots of pressure from a timeshare presentation in the 80s,
  2. Purchased Marriott 30 years ago, lots of pressure,
  3. Westgate was difficult to exchange and was unsellable. An attorney was contacted. The attorney said Westgate is not sellable. Timeshare is a waste of money.
  4. Negative experience,
  5. Agents are pushy and don’t give up,
  6. An engineer said he had a negative bias.

Judge Dalton explained that Plaintiffs are required to convince the jury that Austin Aaronson is guilty by a preponderance of evidence. Criminal trials require a stricter standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.

The four claims against Austin Aaronson are:

  1. False advertising that harmed the reputation of Diamond Resorts and caused damages,
  2. Tortious interference,
  3. Intentionally publishing disparaging information on a website,
  4. Deceptive and unfair practices.

There are a total of 134 joint exhibits.

Mr Epstein, attorney for Diamond Resorts stated that there are few complaints against Diamond Resorts. He alleged Aaronson accused Diamond of wholesale unsavoury conduct.

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points. He explained how Diamond Resorts controlled Board of Directors hires Diamond Resorts managers to manage Diamond properties. As to the claim that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees, both sides will bring in accounting expert witnesses to prove or disprove how maintenance fees were misappropriated.

In a lighthearted moment, Judge Dalton asked one of the Plaintiff attorneys if she was chewing gum. She was. She was asked to leave the courtroom to dispose of her gum.

Judge Dalton instructed the jury not to read newspapers, Facebook posts or blogs about the case. He said in the old day’s reporters attended the trials, but these days they just talk to those who attended as they exit the courtroom. He said he was amazed that when he reads an article about one of his trials, how little of what was reported actually happened in the courtroom. I was proud that Inside Timeshare will be in attendance for the duration of the trial taking copious notes.

Inside Timeshare and our readers just want the timeshare industry to admit that unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the sale. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted, but I doubt this will happen.

I have contacted four timeshare exit providers. Two of the larger firms report receiving 3,000 calls a month from members desperately seeking release from a timeshare contract. These firms only accept 100 to 150 cases as they require a strong case of unfair and deceptive practices. This stay vacationed or else strategy has created a timeshare exit industry timeshare developers want to crush, but Social Media is not going to put this Pandora back in her box. The lack of a secondary market is financially devastating family after family.

Greenspoon Marder contends all is well because Diamond Resorts has 460,000 timeshare members with few complaints. I feel 6,000 families reaching out to just two timeshare exit providers monthly is a real problem. There is no other product that has spawned an entire industry devoted to responding to customers with nowhere to turn, desperately seeking release from unused and unwanted timeshares. Many report they learned they were duped just days or minutes past the rescission period.

In Florida, timeshare division reviewers received 1,600 complaints in 2017 and 1,600 complaints in 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. The AG engaged 42, mostly about timeshare resales. That means 1,600 families annually feel they were duped by a timeshare, there is no secondary market, maintenance fees doubled in seven years for at least one timeshare company, and this is not a problem.

Yes, it is.   

We seek to provide timeshare members 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.

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/

Than you Irene, we look forward to further reports on this trial and I’m sure that all Inside Timeshare readers are hoping that the outcome will be in Favour of Aaronson. One thing is certain, Diamond does not like criticism, but Inside Timeshare will continue to publish the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories of our readers, be they Diamond or any other timeshare company.

In Spain, Diamond has lost in the courts for selling illegal contracts, along with other timeshare companies, many of them are the big players in Europe. Spanish timeshare law is based on the European Timeshare Directives but has been strengthened to protect consumers of unfair, misleading, predatory sales tactics and illegal contracts. It leads the way in Europe and we may see other countries following suit.

If you have any comments on this or any article or have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story of your own, then use our contact page and get in touch we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.  


Start the Week: Do I Have a Claim?

Over the past few months, Inside Timeshare has received many enquiries regarding claims and legal action against timeshare companies. As we know there are now many firms contacting timeshare owners informing them they have a claim against their timeshare company. Most are not even law firms, but companies setup to get on the bandwagon of claims since the Spanish Supreme Court strengthened the laws.

Spanish Supreme Court Madrid

From the enquiries received, it would appear that everyone has a claim, unfortunately that is not the case, although the purchase may have been in Spain, unless it can be proved that there is a link to a Spanish entity i.e. an SL or SA company, there may not be a viable case.

For example, one reader contacted Inside Timeshare about a Marriott purchase in Mallorca, the company who contacted them was adamant there was a claim and they could take Marriott to court. This reader contacted Inside Timeshare as they were suspicious that what they were being told was not correct, how could they know there was a claim just by the conversation on the telephone?

This reader sent copies of their documents, unfortunately for them there was no viable claim, all the documentation and payments went via Marriotts Florida headquarters. There was no Spanish link, so no Spanish court would have accepted the case. The contract even though purchased in Spain was essentially a US contract, so it was not covered by Spanish law.

We have even had enquiries from readers who have purchased in the UK, being told they have a valid claim. With many of these they have been told they can do this on a no win no fee basis, then are told they must first pay for the contract to be cancelled. The no win no fee is the enticer, the claim is unlikely to ever be paid out.

Spain has the strongest laws regarding timeshare in Europe, by comparison the UK laws are weak and favour the timeshare companies, it is a fact that the EU has issued directives on the sale of timeshare, but these are not law, they are directives pure and simple. It is down to the individual state to place the basic guidelines into domestic law.

The basic criteria for a valid claim against a timeshare contract in Spain is one or a combination of the following:

  • The purchase must have been made in Spain after 5 January 1999;
  • The contract is over the permitted 50 year duration, i.e no end date known as perpetuity;
  • Contains floating weeks or points systems which also includes fractional and “investments”;
  • Any payments made within the 14 day cooling off period, this is extended to 90 if other infractions such as any of the above are present.

These have been reinforced by the Supreme Court and all lower courts must now follow suite, they have no choice. These are civil cases and it is all down to contracts. Other laws may also be invoked, this is usually done on a case by case basis when the lawyers are preparing the case. They may include Civil Consumer Law and Mercantile Law.

The Supreme Court has also recently ruled that in the case of any payment made during the cooling off period (which includes the 90 day extension) this must be paid back double.

What would be the claim?

  • Double the deposits paid within the 14 day cooling off period, the balance only if paid after, this is the minimum claim amount. If paid within the cooling off period then double that as well. (All double if 90 day invoked), this is the maximum claim amount.
  • Added to the claim will also be the return of legal fees (this is at the judges discretion), but also legal interest is paid from the time the case is presented to court.
  • Maintenance fees may be added to the claim, but again it is the judges discretion if he awards the return.

Obviously, to enable a case to be brought, a competent and genuine lawyer is required, they also should be registered to practice in Spain and have knowledge and experience in this field.

Legal fees are also required to be paid for the work and case to be carried out, these fees are broken down as follows:

  • Translations of all documents into Spanish, interpreters if the client is required to attend court;
  • Lawyers fees, for the preparation of the case and representation in court;
  • Procurator fees, (barrister), they work alongside the lawyer and is responsible for filing the case, submitting and retrieving documents at court;
  • Court fees and taxes.
  • Notary fees for Power of Attorney, if signing in Spain this is included. If the POA is signed in the UK then that must be paid separately by the client.

The fees are calculated on the minimum claim amount, which is the purchase price, they are a one time fee, so if the case has to go to an appeal court, no further fees are requested. This system enables the client to know the cost of bringing a case in advance, unlike most systems in the UK where the legal bill for a civil case is not known until the conclusion.

They do not operate a no win no fee system, in fact even in the UK, no win no fee is not what it seems. This system usually involves a litigation funder who pays the legal bills for the case to be brought. You could say they are gambling on the case, if successful, they will take around 40% of the compensation awarded. If you lose, you could be liable for the oppositions cost, which has happened in several timeshare cases in the UK High Courts. One aspect of these no win no fee offers is they do not advise you to take out a litigation liability insurance in case you lose.

As for the prospect of losing in the Spanish courts on these cases, as long as the correct law firm is employed, which has the experience in these cases and this field of law, that possibility is very remote. Plus the correct firm would not take on a case unless it fulfilled the relevant criteria and breached the laws.

If you would like further information Inside Timeshare would be happy to help, also if you would like to have your case checked as to whether you have a valid and viable claim Inside Timeshare can arrange that free of charge and without obligation.

The documents needed would be scanned copies of:

  • Purchase agreements;
  • Terms & conditions;
  • Any finance agreements if these were provided by the sales staff at the point of sale.

If any finance was taken out and is still being paid, then if you do bring a case this still needs to be continued. Once a ruling and sentence on your case has been issued, then the finance company can be approached to have the contract cancelled and all interest returned. This can only be done at the conclusion of the case, the reason is once the court finds in favour of the client the contract is declared null and void on the grounds it is illegal, therefore, the loan agreement was used to finance an illegal product. A claim for interest may be possible if the loan has been cleared.

Once you know for certain that you have a valid and viable claim, Inside Timeshare can then make a recommendation for the best law firm for your case, they would then be able to go through costs and procedure.

Also if you do not have a case which can be taken through the Spanish courts, but have a finance agreement which you are now finding to be a problem, Inside Timeshare may be able to recommend a firm which specialises in this field.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please use our contact page and we will get back to you.