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Niagara this Week

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to another Tuesday Slot, today we welcome another contributor, Elizabeth, to the ongoing saga which Inside Timeshare calls “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” revolving around the Wyndham Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Resorts in Canada. Inside Timeshare has been receiving many complaints on this subject and it does appear to be one of the worst cases we have encountered over the years. It is not only from the US and Canada that Inside Timeshare is receiving complaints but we have now started to receive them from Australia, this is certainly becoming a global problem.

An Analysis of Wyndham’s Canadian Carriage Resorts

In 2017 the Board reported they had 600 intervals in arrears. In 2018 there were 800 in arrears and in 2019, year-to-date 1,740, more than double. The Board further advised that it was higher in 2018, but due to an error, was incorrectly reported.  

A Wake-up Call for Carriage buyers – The Contract is Eternal   

By Elizabeth, a Carriage Owner

September 3, 2019

Our Carriage Hills Resort ‘wake-up’ started just a few months ago…

Wyndham’s Carriage Resorts owners are being held as timeshare hostages in an ironclad contract. Buyers unwittingly have ended up owning a timeshare that is not a marketable product. Policies that are so restrictive require swift and prudent actions, which may very well be a vote and sale. Buyers were routinely told they were purchasing deeded real estate, hence there would be no problem selling the timeshare – and for a profit!  

The elderly and their heirs are being pursued for delinquent maintenance fees. A policy so unfair and restrictive; it cannot be in Wyndham’s best interest. In America, Wyndham, in good faith, offers their voluntary surrender program Ovation to American timeshare holders who wish to exit for a variety of reasons.

Ovation by Wyndham

We understand that your situation may have changed since you purchased your timeshare with us and now you’re unable to use it the way you planned.

Whether it’s a change in marital status, family needs or vacation preferences, these events impact how and when you choose to travel.

https://www.myclubwyndham.com/mycw/happening/news/ovation-by-wyndham.page?

I recently asked the Carriage Board President about exiting our timeshare. In response, he stated that the number of votes to support an exit would not be possible, as only about 10-15% of owners show up to the Annual General Meeting. However, no multi-channel contact strategy has ever been attempted to encourage a vote.

There has been success selling other luxury properties. My husband’s golf course recently sold. The owners voted and made $125K per person. My parents RV fractional ownership sold 20 years ago. Each owner made $15K. On the Carriage webpage, an owner posted an MCAP assessment for part of Carriage Ridge for $30MM, for just one of three parcels of land.

My father ‘gifted’ my husband and me our Carriage Hill timeshare about seven years ago. We signed a three-page deed. At the time, I asked my father what happens when I want to get rid of the timeshare. His response was simply, “Sell it.” Unbeknownst to us, the $10K “value” on the deed was not an assessed value. Rather, it was what my father had paid for it in 2001. The timeshare is worth less than nothing. It is a liability due to ever-increasing maintenance fees.

We ‘woke-up’ a few months ago when we attempted to exit. We learned we can’t even pay someone to take our Carriage Hills timeshare and it follows your estate. This means that when you die your children remain responsible for the ongoing maintenance fees. This is contrary to American timeshares. Heirs in American rarely must assume a timeshare when parents pass. You can never exit Wyndham’s Carriage Resorts!? The contract is eternal?

When I asked my father if he knew the contract had no exit clause, he explained that he was 80 years old, had lost most of his retirement money in 2007, and could not deal with the stress of collections. He felt my husband and I were in a much better position to deal with this. He went on to tell me that he had tried to sell, but was not able to find ‘any takers’ [in his words] and that maintenance fees had skyrocketed [from a historical 3% annual increase to 10%]. So he “gifted”….

The relationship with my dad has been very negatively impacted by this situation – as I try and understand his actions.

I investigated exit options, only to discover exiting is nearly impossible. I called Wyndham about Ovation. Supervisor Erica advised that Wyndham’s Ovation program is not offered to Carriage Resorts owners. She said to call a timeshare exit company called Fidelity, approved by Wyndham. Erica also recommended I gift the timeshare to family. “REALLY, and have a family member experience this? Gift what seems like a Ponzi scheme to someone who trusts you?” I replied.

Fidelity’s Jacob advised that he could not remember ever selling a Carriage Hills unit, as “it’s old and no one wants it”. He suggested I list it on EBay with a $400 gift card. I looked at sellmytimeshare.com. They wanted $4,500 USD to list with no guarantee of a sale. Recently, I paid Secondary Ownership $1,000 CAD in Ontario, but despite researching as best I could, have since found out through our Carriage Resorts owners’ Facebook page, This will not be effective. In June I listed the timeshare on Kijiji offering to pay any buyer $2200 PLUS pay the $1500 legal transfer fees. There has been no serious interest.

There are hundreds of Carriage Hills properties listed for sale (over 319 are listed with a resale company and about the same on Secondary Ownership). Owners end up throwing good money after bad, paying exorbitant listing fees to sell a product widely reported to have no secondary market. Who would want it if you can’t get out? Furthermore, Carriage Hills has $11MM in uncollected maintenance fees.

Recently a new owner joined our Carriage Hills Facebook page. The seller covered all legal fees and, as recommended by the Carriage Hills Owners Association, used a Carriage Hills preferred lawyer. I’m uncertain that they are able to adequately represent both buyer and seller. 

Carriage Resorts and Wyndham’s Financial Challenges:

In my investigation of the available financial information I discovered the following:

  • Wyndham Vacations purchased Shell Vacations Club [including Carriage Hills] in 2012. The property is located in Barrie’s Horse Shoe Valley and has 172 Units, 51 weeks, 8772 intervals [~9200 owners].
  • In 2016 Wyndham acquired ownership of 772 units in arrears [8.8%].
  • In 2017 Wyndham had title ownership of 831 units [9.5%].
  •  Even after Wyndham had acquired about 10% of intervals, it was reported in Board Q&A in 2018 that another 10% were in arrears [maintenance fee’s not paid].
  • Maintenance fees are currently $1350 up from $1006 in 2013, a 34% increase from 5 years prior. Owners on fixed incomes have no ability to surrender their units without the threat of collections and legal action.
  • There are $11 million dollars accrued in unpaid debt on the 2017 Financial Statements.
  •  In 2017 the Board reported they had 600 intervals in arrears. In 2018 there were 800 in arrears and in 2019, year-to-date 1,740, more than double. The Board further advised that it was higher in 2018, but due to an error, was incorrectly reported.
  • A 3rd party collection agency is paid 25 cents for every dollar collected.
  • Budget items that are increasing at the fastest pace include legal fees [+200% between 2018/19], Bad Debt expense [+14.7%] and collection fees [+7.5%].
  • The Carriage Hills model has shifted from a fractional ownership management firm to a collections management model to remain solvent.

Interestingly in the 2018/19 Budget, there are no 5 and 10-year financial projections to provide owners an outlook on maintenance fees and the impact of increasing arrears. A budget is shared with owners [with a Wyndham disclaimer at the bottom], but not the actual spend.

Large investments decisions are made, including Wyndham as the management company, without transparency on the request for proposal process, list of bidders and the results.

In 2018 records show that $2MM was spent on upgrading units to Wyndham standard door locks. Given the close relationship Wyndham has with Carriage Hills, arm’s length auditing and oversight should be required over the procurement process to ensure that financial decisions made are sound, free of conflict of interest, and not biased towards Wyndham’s preferred contractors.

Rental Rates:

Wyndham can advertise their units for rental rates that are lower than the maintenance fees, while owners are not allowed to do the same. In essence, they have de-valued ownership because it is often cheaper to rent a unit from Expedia.

Board of Directors:

Condominium boards carry a very strong fiduciary mandate to represent their owners’ best interests. That means all owners. Given the 10% ownership of Wyndham, their 4x’s voting power, plus their Property Management fees and strong direction on budget/maintenance spend, it is unclear if this is possible with this Board. Clearly, Wyndham has a stronghold and benefits from continuing to force owners to remain on the title for their units.

Board minutes show owners requesting for an exit strategy years ago. Only recently a Transition Committee was approved by the board, including two board members. While the meetings were supposed to be minuted, nothing has been posted and to date, no known actions have been taken.

The Board has approved a 3-year trial of an on-site sales office. However, a Wyndham employee [VP Operations] recently stated in minutes, Wyndham marketed, but no one is biting to buy in Canada.’ If there was a sales opportunity Wyndham would be on it…it’s the bad debt being high, Ontario taxes are not favourable and the products integrity.  Based on this, how does a sales office help?

Owners have asked to allow for a phone line so they can call into the Barrie Board meetings. This was refused. In the February 4th, 2019 board minutes under 2019 Venue & Video broadcast Wyndham’s Administrative Assistant advised why video broadcast is not available and states that owners MUST attend board meetings in person for verification. Carriage Hills elected board member [Director] simply complies without any alternatives being vetted, stating his fiduciary duties to owners at the outset of the meeting recommends and approves commencement of collections against estates.

A recent owner poll showed that most preferred to hold Board meetings on a weekend. Not only is the next Board meeting scheduled on Monday, October 21st but on Canada’s Federal election night, making attendance even less likely. Efforts to seek owner participation are minimal. It appears the Board has lost touch with their owners.

The hard truth is that there are no new owners buying at a rate to sustain the model and generate future income. If the sales model is broken then the model itself is broken – as the financial reports show. And those owners who are in a favourable financial position will pay more and more as those on a fixed income or changed financial realities continue to default. This is at a time when Canada’s unemployment rate is at all-time lows – it is only going to get worse. Those who need to exit their timeshare agreement have few options:

  • Sell to a buyer who may not understand the inherent liability of the Carriage Hills model. While not illegal or fraudulent, certainly rife with moral issues given perpetual liability. 
  • Stop payments and go into arrears for a $1350 maintenance fee, then endure collections calls, Carriage Hills lawyers, and a long term negative impact or your credit rating.
  • Gifting the deed to family and friends simply passes on the inherent liability and debt.
  • Surrendering is not an option and is shamefully not supported by the Carriage Hills board.

Thank you to Elizabeth and others for bringing to light a situation few will find responsible on the part of Carriage Resorts and Wyndham.

PARSIPPANY, N.J., February 13, 2019Wyndham Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: WH) today announced results for the three months and year ended December 31, 2018. Highlights include:

  • Revenues increased 69% compared with fourth-quarter 2017, to $527 million.
  • Net income was $43 million for the quarter; adjusted net income was $57 million, a 50% increase over the prior-year quarter.
https://corporate.wyndhamhotels.com/news-releases/wyndham-hotels-resorts-reports-fourth-quarter-and-full-year-2018-results/

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 Elizabeth for your report and thank you to Irene Parker for the editing, as many of you will have heard Hurricane Dorian is set to hit the Florida coast, Irene and Don have evacuated and Inside Timeshare along with all our readers will be thinking about you. We hope that all affected by this are kept safe and well.

Yesterday, CLA International published an article on this subject with a link to Niagara this Week by Paul Forsyth. It covers the story of Mr & Mrs Game, Carriage Hills owners in their 80’s who are now trapped into their membership with no way out. You can find the story and link to the original article on the link below.

https://clainternational.ae/2019/09/02/elderly-couple-trapped-in-timeshare-at-carriage-hills-resort/