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Michael Kosor

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, today we look again at the Nevada Senate Bill 348, with the introduction by Irene Parker and comments from Michael Kosor. Once again it looks like the industry is moving to protect itself rather than the consumer, yet the problem is one of their own making.

In Europe a new organisation has been created, EUROC, yes, it is the European version of ARDA ROC, it is being funded by ARDA and RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) Europe’s timeshare trade body. EUROC is being set up to replace the discredited TATOC, which closed down in 2017. Once again it is a smokescreen to give consumers the illusion of having a voice. According to the press information, the two organisations behind it are only going to fund it for a year, after that it should be self sufficient, well, we shall wait and see.

URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE

If You Bought a Timeshare in Nevada and Experienced Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

Nevada Needs to Hear From You

The Next Timeshare Legislative Battle is April 5 in Nevada

Nevada Senate Bill 348 is an identical Bill that follows Florida HB 435

Nevada SB 348:  https://legiscan.com/NV/text/SB348/id/1965282

Introduction by Irene Parker

Comments by Nevada resident and Timeshare Advocate Michael Kosor

April 2, 2019

As part of Nevada SB 348, the timeshare lobby ARDA has proposed that timeshare members seeking exit services wait 24 hours before a timeshare member signs a timeshare exit service provider contract. Given the volume of complaints concerning fraudulent timeshare sales, if anyone needs 24 hours to “sleep on it,” it is the timeshare buyer. Buyers typically sign a perpetual timeshare contract with little to no secondary market. When deceived, contracts signed for even $100,000 or more are worth nothing seconds after the rescission period.  We previously reported how easily a sales agent can dodge the rescission period.

Some states, like Arizona, understand the plight of timeshare victims, especially if lawmakers themselves experienced deceit. The reverse is true in Nevada. Many of the 779 complaints Inside Timeshare received were directed against Nevada sales centers. The Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) dismissed all with a “You have no proof” letter. It is likely Nevada SB 348 was proposed due to a less than warm reception for the identical Florida HB 435, given the comments made by Florida representatives who themselves experienced negative timeshare experiences. Nevada SB 348 was proposed on the last day a bill could be filed.    

In Florida, spokespersons for the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) reported Florida received 1,600 complaints each year for the last few years with 700 complaints already received in 2019. Of the 1,600 complaints, it was reported that most complaints are about the initial sales presentation and approximately 50% were reported by seniors. Only 42 complaints were “engaged” and those they said were mostly about resale.

In effect, perpetrators in Florida and Nevada have been given the green light to make up anything to sell points, knowing complaints are likely to be dismissed by the timeshare company and by NRED and DBPR. Florida is a two party state so consumers cannot legally record the sales presentation.             

ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson opposed the pro-consumer Arizona HB that would have required timeshare buyers be granted 24 hours to review a timeshare contract. His argument was that Arizona only receives 250 annual timeshare complaints.

If you experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices in Nevada, there is an easy method to comment on pending legislation. If you signed an NDA you can still make a general comment asking the bill to be amended to include the offer of a 24 hour period for the buyer to consider the purchase of a timeshare.

To voice your opinion click on Nevada SB 348 to comment:   

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Thousands upon thousands of people across America and in the European Union are reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Just this week Consumer Affairs reported on a couple over the age of 85 sold $250,000 in timeshare points. USA Today and the Arizona Republic reported on a couple nearly 90 years old sold $150,000 in timeshare points. In March I received a complaint directed against the same timeshare company from a couple turning 90, both diagnosed with age-related dementia. They were sold $145,000 additional timeshare points promised a maintenance fee relief program that does not exist. A third complaint against one agent, a sales agent we have on a recording defrauding a veteran a year ago, sold a couple ages 79 and 80, 90,000 timeshare points. The husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; the wife’s first language is Cantonese. They were unsure of the purchase price but a conservative estimate is $240,000.    

There’s more!

If this bill passes, law firms providing timeshare exit assistance and legitimate exit providers would not be allowed to receive payment for services provided until all services have been provided. Timeshare companies have not been forthcoming in even notifying timeshare members that their loan has been cancelled. Many have reported not learning of a loan cancelled until a 1099C arrives in the mail.

We want timeshare buyers to be offered 24 hours to think about their decision to sign a timeshare contract. This could be waived if the buyer chooses, but would allow those unduly pressured to consider their decision, consult an attorney, mom, dad, son or daughter. As things stand, same day sales are demanded after exhausting sales sessions.

The proposed “cooling off period” as stated in the NV SB 348:

A time-share exit assistance or relief services provider shall give the owner who is not a developer not less than 1 business day to review a contract pursuant to this section.

Timeshare exit providers have heard from thousands of timeshare buyers desperate to find release. Voice your opinion – click on SB 348 and demand your 24 hours:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/

Timeshare members collectively donate approximately $5 million a year to the timeshare PAC ARDA ROC through “voluntary” donations via their timeshare maintenance fee invoice, yet not one of the 779 timeshare members who have contacted us could tell me what ARDA or ARDA ROC stands for. These donations fund ARDA lobby efforts. ARDA purports to be lobbying for the consumer, but what’s wrong with a consumer being allowed 24 hours to think over a purchase that has financially devastated so many families?  

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and Las Vegas resident, responds to Wyndham Sr. VP Jason Gamel who testified at the Florida HB 435 legislative workshop held in Tallahassee March 12

The Nevada Senate Bill 348 denies legitimate attorney representation to responsible consumers desperately seeking to escape the perpetual liabilities of a timeshare contract. Attorneys who provide timeshare exit assistance would not be allowed to charge a retainer or any money upfront until services have been provided. Challenging a timeshare contract can take up to two years or more.  

When I last visited the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED) and sat down with an investigator on the issue of timeshare complaints I learned the following:

  • NRED continues to be one of the only states that I am aware of, with a large number of timeshare sales, with no dedicated timeshare division. I believe Nevada is #7 in timeshare sales.
  • NRED has no legal staff, thus NRED must forward all legal questions to the Attorney General.
  • The investigator confirmed that NRED produces no public report to anyone, including its own investigators, on the number, type, and/or outcome of timeshare complaints filed. Are there fifty or fifty thousand complaints?

Wyndham Sr. VP and attorney Jason Gamel, who provided testimony at the Florida HB 435 Workshop held in Tallahassee March 12, made some arguably false comments in response to Florida state Representative Newton’s question about Wyndham’s dissolution policies. Mr. Gamel explained that there was no need for owners to contract with an exit service provider because members seeking a loan cancellation due to hardship can apply for a hardship release through Wyndham. Those who were denied release and contracted with an exit service provider, or those with pending litigation, will find the testimony interesting.

When asked about the percentage of owners who would be eligible for release through Wyndham’s dissolution program, Gamel stated “…over 99% of the inventory qualifies and if the owner is current in their maintenance fees and their mortgage is paid off, it’s literally just about everybody. So anybody that has called us in the last few years while this program has been active, we have taken those timeshares back.” He further went on to state, “If they qualify for the program everyone gets out.”

I have talked to those who own Wyndham (as I do), who tried to get out but did not “qualify”. When I researched the program I discovered:

  • A policy to exit a Wyndham contract is only a few years old at best.
  • To my knowledge, Wyndham doesn’t publish any qualification criteria. I am an owner. I have asked. They will not provide the specific policy criteria in writing or in a telephone conversation as to what is sufficient to “qualify”. If anyone has the qualification criteria of any developer, exchange program, etc., I would like to see and share it. It is my assessment “qualification” is a purely subjective determination made by Wyndham.
  • Contrary to my experiences and those I have talked to, more often than not, simply being current on maintenance fees and having no mortgage does not automatically result in the ability to exit/dissolution.
  • In my opinion, the entire effort is primarily a smoke screen created in response to increased consumer issues seen as threatening a very profitable business model while deflecting attention away from fixing the flaws in the product and its lack of a resale market.
  • Florida Representative Newton requested and was promised information to support Gamel’s assertions. I hope it will be made public.

Mr. McKelvey, representing ARDA ROC, also made some questionable comments that need to be rebuked. First, he claimed “most of the developers I know and certainly most of the timeshare managers I know, and I managed timeshare properties for thirty years… every single resort had a dissolution policy, every single (one). There was a way to get out. You had to come to your management company, and based on what the board of directors instructed us (the management company) to do in the terms if they had to pay a fee or if they had to be current, whatever those situations were, we did not have a one that did not have a dissolution policy and a hardship policy….”

Mr. McKelvey’s Defenders Resorts may have had a dissolution policy, but in no way can the statement be supported that all resorts have a dissolution policy.

McKelvey went on to imply dissolution policies are “passed by your board of directors.” These are not developers, these are board members elected to a board that have passed a certain dissolution policy. We send that (dissolution policy) to the directors, but we never get an answer.

There is much to challenge in McKelvey’s testimony:

  • I seriously question the validity of his claims related to the vast proliferation of dissolution policies.  
  • There is a huge difference in “having a way to get out” and getting out.
  • Dissolution policies, contrary to what McKelvey implies, are the developer-controlled boards of the corporations and exchange trusts formed by the developers used in the developer’s affiliation (exchange) programs.
  • I find it incredible that legislators and consumer protection agencies fail to act on the realities encased by prior flawed and outdated legislation that permits the sale of perpetual contracts, on the twin legal fantasies that timeshares represent an interest in real estate, and the equally damaging “constructive notice”- a presumption purchasers are knowing of and accepting of all the contract provisions imposed. I know of no other consumer product that fits these twin categories and have produced so much wealth destruction. As I have said in the past, the properties of real estate have been stripped away from timeshares. Buyers own little more than a “membership” in a strange sort of country club that can cost $100,000 or more upfront with perpetual liabilities.

ARDA’s claim that it represents both the industry and the consumer needs to be debunked.  Who are the true consumer advocates?

Thank you Mike for your opinion. Please voice your opinion on the Nevada link provided. Venting on complaint sites is easy and might make you feel better, but venting affects no change.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker: Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, in this article Irene Parker looks at the Marriott Vacation Club and the law suit for racketeering.

First some recent news fro the Supreme Court in Madrid which came in this morning, this is the 73rd ruling by Spain’s Highest Court.

Another Silverpoint contract has been declared null and void with the British clients set to receive over £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

No details are yet available, but as with other cases the main infringement is likely to be a contract over 50 years. The one important factor is that these contract contravene the Spanish Timeshare law 42/98.

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

Part I – The Manhattan Club and the possible dismantling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker/

Part I describes how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club timeshare members after a battle that lasted almost three years. ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, seemed to be on the side of the TMC developers. In today’s article we look at ARDA’s involvement in the Marriott Racketeering lawsuit filed May 2016. Timeshare members should research ARDA ROC before making their voluntary donation which appears as an “opt in” or “opt out” donation on their maintenance fee invoice.

In the Marriott racketeering lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Anthony and Beth Lennen, challenged Marriott’s points based system. Once again ARDA’s lobbyists are at the forefront.

“This was bigger than a lawsuit,” Hunter says. A negative ruling “could have a consequence of being devastating, conceivably, to the industry.” Florida Trend

I can imagine slave traders and slave owners making the same argument ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter makes in opposition to the challenge to the points based timeshare product.The legal structure of the points based timeshare product is complex. It seems the points based programs are not products that should be associated with real estate. It would be as if a country club charged me closing costs for joining their right to use program. Bluegreen seems to employ a similar model. As usual, I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group if he agrees with me.

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” Mike explained

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

Is timeshare deemed real estate when it comes to charging buyers fees associated with actual real estate, but not real estate in matters having any control over the property? Is this a case of having your cake and eating it too?

I asked timeshare member and economics professor Michael Nuwer to review the amended Marriott lawsuit complaint filed October 25, 2017 by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Newman Ferrara LLP. The complaint suggests suspicious legislative maneuvering intended to circumvent the lawsuit. The amended complaint addresses the Marriott-forced law changes in 2013 and 2017. The recent (2017) amendment to the Florida Timeshare Act purports to exclude pre-existing weekly owners as “interest holders” and pre-existing Condo Declarations as “encumbrances” with regard to sales of multisite timeshare plans that use pre-existing timeshare estates. According to the complaint,

“It allows massive profit-making – including administrative fees, closing costs, recording fees, transfer taxes, maintenance, assessments, and title insurance premiums.” Amended Marriott complaint 6:16-cv-00855-CEM-TBS

“As far as I know, none of the trust fund based timeshare systems “convey real property interest,” said Michael. “Ownership is a “beneficial interest” in the trust fund, although a recent ruling in Canada found the Diamond Resort Embarc members don’t even have that.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

“If Florida law requires a real property conveyance, then I think there could be a problem,” Michael added.

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and timeshare advocate, circulated a similar argument at the last two Nevada legislative sessions, proposing greater disclosure, but again ARDA’s lawyers fought against the members. The legislation proposed would have allowed better disclosure as to the lack of or limited secondary market and the fact that timeshare today has nothing to do with real estate. Timeshare agents typically inform buyers during their presentations that they are real estate agents, further enhancing a false security that the buyer is protected by real estate rules and regulations.  Even the name reflects the change. Fixed week timeshare buyers were “owners”. Points based buyers are “members.”

I have been researching timeshare since attending an astonishingly deceptive sales presentation July 2015. Like peeling an onion, I discovered at timeshare’s core, the points based system provides a recipe for deceit. As the Lennen complaint describes, point programs began in 2008 when timeshare developers did not know what to do with aging, foreclosed or repurchased inventory.

Inside Timeshare has received 216 US timeshare complaints from our readers, the majority concerning points. Not one of the 216 members understood, at the time of purchase, the difficulty selling their timeshare. Of the 216 complaints, 201 allege deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. Of the 216 complaints, only two came from a Marriott member. It saddens me to see Marriott singled out when the entire industry may be guilty of selling a product that is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

The Marriott racketeering lawsuit was first reported by Paul Brinkmann May 2016 at the Orlando Sentinel

Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS

According to the suit, Marriott (NYSE: VAC) timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate. Despite not actually being real estate owners, the lawsuit says, buyers are still paying closing costs, recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

Marriott has argued, in its motion to dismiss the case, that “plaintiffs have misread the statutes that they assert have been violated” and “the allegations are without merit and the MVC Plan fully complies with applicable law.”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-rico-20160524-story.html

Except it seemingly did not fully comply with applicable law, so ARDA lobbyists and industry executives forged ahead to initiate legislative changes that would change the definition of “beneficial interest” so that Marriott would comply.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-comptroller-marriott-rico-20170113-story.html

The following excerpts are from a November 23, 2017 Florida Trend article. The full article is linked below. In bold is my emphasis.

“Engineering the Law” Politico

However, Marriott began fighting the suit on another front. The company turned to the Florida Legislature, acting through the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry. At the time, ARDA’s chairman was Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacations’ president and CEO.

In both provisions, the lobbyist, Gary Hunter, of Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee, included extra sentences saying the changes were meant as “a clarification of existing law” — an effort to ensure Marriott could use them as a retroactive defense in the Lennen lawsuit.

ARDA sent more than talking points and issue briefs. A few days after Hunter sent in the additions to the bill, the organization gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and another $25,000 to a committee controlled by Senate Republican leaders. In April — on the same day that both the House and Senate scheduled the legislation for floor votes — ARDA gave another $10,000 to the state Republican Party. (ARDA, which represents a heavily regulated industry and works on legislation every year, is a reliable source of money for the state GOP, which controls all levers of state government. The organization gives more than $100,000 to the party and its affiliates every year.)

The legislation passed both chambers in late April, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law a month later. After the legislation passed, ARDA gave another $50,000 to the fund controlled by Republican Senate leaders.

Two weeks to the day after the bill became law, Marriott went back in court in Orlando, alerting Judge Mendoza to the new Florida law whose provisions “go to the very heart” of the case. “These clarifications of existing law … decimate much of the complaint,” Marriott’s attorneys wrote.

A spokesman for Marriott declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the legislation. But Hunter, the lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association who worked the bill, says the goal of the legislation isn’t just to help Marriott defend itself. It is, he says, meant to protect the entire timeshare industry from similar attacks in the future, should a judge, who is unlikely to be familiar with the history and intricacies of timeshare law, interpret state statutes in a way that no one in the industry ever intended.

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23307/engineering-the-law-marriotts-class-action-timeshare-battle

Florida Republican Representative Mike La Rosa, Oceola County was one of the lawmakers behind the amendment along with Republican Senator Travis Hutson, St. Johns County. Representative La Rosa is a member of ALEC. Senator Nan Orrock of Georgia has described ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.”

https://www.alec.org/person/mike-la-rosa/

After the legislative amendment was made, Mr. Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel once again picked up the thread:

A third-party observer, Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the timeshare law changes are suspect.

“It has the appearance of unethical influence, the appearance anyway,” Wilcox said. “The question would be, does it represent misuse of office or conflict of interest? Is it meant only to benefit those corporations and change the rules of the game?”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-legislation-20170719-story.html

Legal Dept
It’s not unusual for Florida to spearhead legislation that ultimately gets rolled out nationwide. Like the 2017 Florida amendment, in 2015 Florida passed a bill that alarmed advocacy groups. Advocacy groups felt the 2015 bill made it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts. This new amended 2017 bill is also expected to be rolled out nationwide. ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter is instructing Senator Hutson to remove language from the proposed 2017 Amendment that provided that the law applied only to Florida properties. He called the language “non-substantive” clearly intending to broaden the reach of the amendment to cover properties from single-site timeshare plans outside of Florida (which make up the bulk of MVC Trust properties).

Timeshare, in my opinion, is virtually an unregulated industry. There is no federal enforcement, and some Attorneys General may be influenced by lobby dollars. Florida is a timeshare Mecca with billions of tourist dollars flowing into the state. As mentioned in Part I, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014.   

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

How will it end? I fear big money will get its way at the expense of middle class timeshare buyers, even it means labeling a duck a goose.

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member sponsored self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share.

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

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

Thank you Irene and all who helped with this article, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group for his legal views, this will certainly be of interest not just to those across the Great Lake, but also those owners in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments on this article or any other timeshare matter, please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to help.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

This week’s Friday’s Letter from America is not the one we originally planned from Michael Kosor, this will be published in due course.

First a little news from Europe, only last week we told of the calls from HMRC informing people that they have money from the Spanish courts, one reader has sent us this information.

They were called by a Kipp Stuart from HMRC Accounting, this was with reference to a ruling at the Malaga courts, Kipp informed them that they were holding over £22,000 on their behalf, unfortunately as there was no paperwork then the funds could not be released. They were given reference numbers along with the following telephone numbers:

08713 581033 to confirm with HMRC

0034 602489947 for the Malaga Court

Wonderful, only problem, the 08713 number is not used by HMRC and also carries rather hefty charges.

The 0034 number is a Spanish mobile number and no court will issue mobile numbers for confirmation.

As we published before

HMRC DO NOT CALL PEOPLE WITH NEWS THEY ARE HOLDING MONEY ISSUED BY THE SPANISH COURTS!

On the subject of courts, it has been a rather busy, that lot at CLA have announced six more wins. There have been five in Tenerife, four of these against Silverpoint, with one of the largest awards we have seen for sometime. In this case the client was awarded over 67,000€ including legal interest and second instance legal fees with the contract being declared null & void.

The other case involved European Coast & sun Holidays SL, the judge of the Court of First Instance declared the client’s contract null & void, along with the return of over 15,000€, then as a double whammy he also ordered back payment of over 16,000€  double the deposit paid.

Then in Fuengirola at the High Court the judges reaffirmed a sentence from the Court of First Instance against Petchey Leisure, by awarding over 14,000€ plus interest and legal fees.

Back to Gran Canaria and the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas once again declared an Anfi contract null & void with the return of 21,000€ plus legal interest.

These are just some of the cases announced this week, it is certainly an expensive one for those companies.

Now on with this week’s letter.

The Deep, Dark, Dank, Obscured From View, But Very Lucrative Timeshare Developer Revenue Stream: Are Its Days Numbered?

money tree

By Mike Finn, Finn Law Group

Originally published by Inside the Gate

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-developer-revenue-stream-days-numbered

Clarifications in blue added by Irene Parker for non-legal minds (like mine)

September 14, 2017

We as consumers, with a certain level of understanding of business, probably attribute the lion’s share of timeshare resort revenue to two central factors: timeshare sales and timeshare rentals. As it turns out, there is a third major revenue stream that’s related to sales, but is an entirely separate source of revenue, and it’s a significant one. Depending on the nature of the initial purchase, whether it was a deeded interest, or more commonly over the past fifteen years or so, a “right to use” amalgamation of points, this shrouded revenue source may indeed also be in violation of certain state consumer rights statutes, including the Uniform Commercial Code.

I’m speaking to the universally accepted resort practice of the resort retaining every dollar received from a defaulting purchaser, even if the entire purchase price or an amount close to the total was paid over to the resort prior to the owner’s default. This would include a cessation of paying the purchase price, maintenance fees or capital assessments.

It’s not considered relevant, at least if one believes the purchase contract, to factor in the sometimes quite significant amount paid in up to the moment of default, in terms of any form of accounting back to the sum of money paid by the defaulting purchaser. It’s all retained by the resort pursuant to the purchase contract, as “liquidated damages”.

In other words, an unwitting purchaser could have paid in say $18,000 of his/her $20,000 purchase price (not to mention the additional payments of interest and annual maintenance fees), defaulted for any number of reasons and still be pursued by the resort as a debtor for the unpaid balance! Well, isn’t that appropriate, you may retort! After all, the purchaser has defaulted on a perfectly legal (on its face) promissory note obligation of $20,000 when only $18,000 has been paid? Well maybe, but let’s examine what happens next.

Foreclosure of real property and disposition of personal property are governed by different bodies of law. Real property foreclosure sale varies dramatically among the states. Personal property disposition is governed by each state’s versions of Article Nine commercially reasonable disposition.

I found this explanation of the difference in real property foreclosure compared to personal property distribution in Texas helpful:

Texas Real Property Foreclosure

Section 51.002, et seq. of the Texas Property Code defines the minimum statutory procedure that must be satisfied to properly foreclose upon real property. In addition to the minimum statutory requirements, the deed of trust executed by the debtor-mortgagor details the agreed contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of real property.

Personal Property Disposition in Texas

Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code defines the minimum statutory procedures that must be satisfied to foreclose upon personal property. In addition to the Article Nine requirements, the security agreement executed by the debtor-mortgagor defines the contractual terms and conditions for foreclosure of personal property. Generally, personal property disposition must be commercially reasonable.

Commercially reasonable is the key concept here. We can all relate to selling a car. According to NOLO, there is no hard and fast rule on what “commercially reasonable” means. What is commercially reasonable depends on a number of factors.

The procedure, not the price, ultimately determines whether the sale is commercially reasonable. Whether a sale is commercially reasonable depends on four factors, the:

  • manner
  • time
  • place
  • terms of the sale.

Perhaps Mike’s concern as it pertains to timeshare foreclosure being commercially reasonable, as it applies to car sales, also applies to timeshare.

“There are times, however, when a private or “dealer only” sale may not be commercially reasonable”, such as in the following instances provided by NOLO. Two of the six points they mention seem to apply to timeshare:

  • the creditor has the ability to sell the car on the retail market
  • the creditor buys back the vehicle then resells it a significantly higher price.

What If I Believe the Sale Was Not Commercially Reasonable?

If you can demonstrate that the creditor did not sell your car in a commercially reasonable manner, you can raise that as a defense against any lawsuit brought by a creditor looking to collect on the deficiency balance. In some instances, if you can prove the sale was not commercially reasonable, the court may reduce or even eliminate your obligation on the deficiency balance.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/car-repo-sale-was-commercially-reasonable.html

Back to Texas

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

Thus, real property foreclosures in Texas are very defined and structured procedures unique to Texas law which do not require the sale to be commercially reasonable. On the other hand, personal property foreclosure sales are not structured by statute, but they must be commercially reasonable as to every aspect of the disposition, including method, manner, time, place, and terms. The apparent conclusion is that although the legislature has specifically defined the procedures that must be followed to dispose of real property, personal property may be disposed of in any manner the secured party elects, as long as the sale is in all respects commercially reasonable.

The differences between real and personal property foreclosure procedures and requirements have had interesting effects upon lenders and borrowers. The notice provisions for real property foreclosures mandate procedures known to both the lender and the borrower. The procedures provide certainty as to the mechanics of the sale. Both lender and borrower are offered an opportunity to dispose of property, with each fully understanding when, where, and how the sale or purchase will occur.

In contrast, the nebulous standard of a commercially reasonable sale leaves both the lender and the borrower uncertain as to the ultimate and satisfactory sale or purchase procedure for personal property. Article Nine attempts to place the burden on the secured lender seeking a deficiency to sell in a commercially reasonable manner, whatever that may be in the particular circumstances found by the lender. Likewise, the debtor has no knowledge of how the lender will proceed with foreclosure and has the burden of proof, if attacking the sale, to show that the sale was not commercially reasonable. The more certain real property foreclosure procedures seem to work more effectively for both the lender and the borrower.

http://www.lenders360blog.com/2008/10/real-estate-foreclosure-vs-ucc-personal-property-commercially-reasonable-disposition/

Commercially reasonable according to Cornell Law School: A disposition of collateral is made in a commercially reasonable manner if the disposition is made:

(1) In the usual manner on any recognized market;

(2) At the price current in any recognized market at the time of the disposition; or

Wait a minute here!

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“At the price current in any recognized market at the time of disposition” means my Diamond Resorts points should be sold for nothing. Not one of the 64 members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association will even accept a DRI listing and even Howard Nusbaum, CEO of the timeshare lobby ARDA, has been quoted as saying modern timeshare is a right to use product so the member should not expect any value back. I think Mike really is onto something!  

Other timeshare companies may argue that they do have a secondary market, but even those fortunate to be able to sell their timeshare, frequently sell them for pennies on the dollar of their original investment.

(3) Otherwise in conformity with reasonable commercial practices among dealers in the type of property that was the subject of the disposition.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/9/9-627

Now on the edge of my seat, we continue with Mike’s narration:

In our original example, is the developer out the missing $2,000?  Ask what happened to the object of the $20,000 purchase? Well look at that, the actual property never, even for a moment, left the possession of the developer! My goodness, the developer just re-sold the interest to another brand-new buyer for a fresh new $20,000! So now are you still comfortable with the original purchaser being pursued for the missing $2,000? Perhaps sued, almost definitely having derogatory credit reporting, not to mention harassment from bill collectors? So what exactly happened to the first purchaser’s $18,000 paid to the resort? Is any of it accounted for with maybe a portion returned to the guy who ended up with nothing except perhaps a lawsuit?

Not a chance in Hades! The so-called ‘extra revenue stream’ is now actually an extension of the existing stream to the developer from sales, and sales, and maybe still more sales. How many times can the same unit interest (or bloc of points) be resold over the life of the project?

The distinction (and thus a portion of the reason for my overly dramatic title) is that typically sales revenue in say a condominium project is recorded once, and the revenue is, of course, offset by the cost of acquisition of land, construction costs, marketing costs, etc. and the net amount remaining after those costs is the developer’s profit. However, in the case of the timeshare developer, the original buyer covered those costs in their initial transaction, therefore the new additional piggy-back to back transactions didn’t come with any more land acquisition or construction costs, and therefore essentially came only with very little new or fresh costs of sale beyond the re-marketing costs.

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Well wait, you might say, this can’t be right! You sure this practice is universal? Yes? Well then, are you sure this unconscionable practice is even legal? Good question, and one wherein the answer to that question may be evolving and it’s not necessarily the laws in place that are changing, it’s the timeshare product changeover, the newer form of the property that is being marketed by the developer that is creating a change in which already existing laws are now perhaps becoming relevant to the timeshare purchase, and by doing so may be enforced by the previously out of luck defaulting purchaser. In fact, it may well be that the same old existing law pendulum may be swinging back in favor of the consumer!

I reference the fact that over the past decade plus a few years, there has been a change in the product that the timeshare industry is selling. Just after the turn of the century, the industry has backed off of selling of the deeded weekly timeshare product, which was indisputably a real estate product, in favor of a product they tout as being more user flexible: a product called a “right to use” product. Setting aside the differences in the actual ability to use the two very different types of timeshare “ownership,” the focus of this article is on the migration of the timeshare product from a real estate based product, morphing into what we attorneys refer to as “personalty”.

In our lawyer’s world, everything not legally defined as real estate is personalty (the only other option in the law). Presumably a ‘right to use’ timeshare product (points based) is not considered by the law as real estate, (if it no longer possesses any attributes of real estate and therefore as ‘personalty’, is subject to differing state laws particularly including the universally adopted, in some form in every state, Uniform Commercial Code).

Additionally, state laws regulating the real estate within its boundaries, do vary from state to state. Personalty, however, is a commodity of a different color. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as its title suggests, is nearly uniform in its textual content, and from an applicability standpoint, every state in the Union has adopted, with minimum exceptions not applicable to this article, a version of the UCC almost identical with its neighboring states. In other words, as we discuss the law of personality (again, all that is not deemed real estate) we can speak to it across the board. These laws apply everywhere within the USA.

As a Florida lawyer, you may have seen other articles where I either cite specific Florida statutes or have issued a cautionary statement that the principles I was espousing may not apply in other jurisdictions. Contrast this article where I do not constrain my statements. Also, rather than cite state specific portions of the UCC, I, in places, simply refer to Articles within the UCC and in others the ‘pure code provision’.

Further, this article is not intended for an audience of lawyers or jurists. It’s intended for consumers to get a grasp of a relatively new set of laws, including the Uniform Commercial Code, that now may begin to play a much greater role in the laws governing timeshare projects and correspondingly, the developers who operate these projects.

I would like to ask Mike at this point about another universally accepted practice – advising borrowers to go home after purchasing their dream vacation plan and arrange financing with their bank or credit union. Perhaps it’s the subject of another article, but the majority of complaints received by Inside Timeshare say their sales agent advised them to seek a home equity loan to lower timeshares usury type timeshare lending rates. Many have done just that. My husband and I were told we could get lower rate financing, “No one should finance at our rates,” warned Donna. (Grand Beach, FL July 2015) I guess buyers that follow that advice are just out of luck, like Sylvia Saldana, now stuck with a $30,000 home equity loan after Diamond Resorts “took back” $60,000 worth of timeshare points. To make matters worse, Sylvia said she was aggressively encouraged to open Barclaycards, told buying more points would lower their maintenance fees. Had she succumbed to that suggestion, Sylvia and her husband would have lost even more money.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

Back to Mike

Consumer rights may also get a major boost by the applicability of the UCC as well, since, to the extent that a contract provision contradicts an applicable statute, that contractual provision will be rendered null and void.

So, for example take the typical contractual provision that, “all monies paid will be retained by the developer as ‘liquidated damages.’’’ Essentially, the amount of damages fixed must be reasonable ‘in light of actual or anticipated harm’ and a term fixing an ‘unreasonably large amount’ is void as a penalty.

Therefore taking a contract, say with a 10% down payment and then adding subsequent monthly payments, the sum total could easily become ‘unreasonably large’, particularly in light of the quick turnaround on the “use rights” for which there has been a default, assuming which I think is fair with on-site sales team (ARDA’s Mr. Nusbaum calls them forever sales centers), that the interest will be promptly re-sold.

Another example of a UCC provision that may well change the way defaulted buyers are treated is as follows. The included reference to the specific UCC provision is the actual textbook unadulterated Code provision number, and may well differ from numbered state specific statutes. The developer or secured party is under a duty to notify debtors of the disposition of collateral under UCC Section 9-611. Further, the disposition must be done in a commercially reasonable manner.

Of particular importance, the secured party/lender is required to apply proceeds of any disposition to the underlying debt once expenses have been taken.

Is this where we end up with money back to the debtor? Can we go back to our original example?

I paid $20,000 and default at $18,000. For sake of discussion I am current on maintenance fees (which is probably not the case). The developer sells to the next hamster my forfeited points for $20,000. I am relieved of the $2,000 still owed, but if the developer sells for $23,000, I will be relieved of the $2,000 owed plus get $3,000 from the surplus amount? This next sentence sounds like the answer?

Also of notable significance is the duty of the secured party to pay the debtor any surplus which results from the disposition of collateral.

Additionally, the secured party/developer is liable for any damages caused by its failure to comply with Article 9.

In summary, a new day in the life of an unhappy timeshare owner is dawning. Existing laws never before applied to timeshare purchases may well now apply and particularly those timeshare interests that are non-real estate based like the ‘right to use’ interests that are now the mainstream of the timeshare community! Stay tuned for future developments on our website as we begin to apply the theories and applicable state statutes referenced hereinabove.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

www.finnlawgroup.com

[email protected]

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Whew! That was exhausting. It’s a good thing we have legal eagles to figure these things out because Charles Thomas and I get pretty depressed at times listening to “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories. We have heard enough to fund a series. The question I am most frequently asked is, “How can they sleep at night?”

Thank you to Mike Finn for the chance to publish this and also to Irene to add her clarifications for those without legal minds.

It now only remains to say be careful who you do business with, check and check again, if you need help, then contact Inside Timeshare. Have a good weekend.

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