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BBC Radio 4 You and Yours: Timeshare Maintenance

Today’s short article looks at the BBC Radio 4 program You and Yours which was broadcast yesterday. In this program, they explored the problem of maintenance fees being charged by timeshare resorts even though members are unable to use them due to the pandemic. We have already seen the underhand methods of Anfi as far as this subject is concerned, several months ago Inside Timeshare reported on the letter being sent to Anfi members who have not been able to use their timeshares this year. In effect, they are holding them to ransom, Anfi will only give them an accommodation voucher to save this year’s weeks only and only if they sign the new contract. This contract will replace the illegal ones which Anfi are currently up to their eyes with in court cases, the point is to legalise the contracts to ensure that members do not then have a right to take a case to court.

The program also involved a spokesperson from the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association), and also from the RDO, who just, as usual, was non-committal in their response.

The TCA explained that it is fundamentally wrong for these timeshare companies to still charge full maintenance fees from members who due to no fault of their own are unable to travel as flights were cancelled and all the resorts had to close down as each country went into lockdown.

The RDO in it’s response to the question is this fair, basically did not answer, well we didn’t actually expect them to come out in favour of the consumer, but they stated that it was “too early” to give any answers.

So why are the timeshare companies still charging the full annual maintenance fees for this year even when they are closed?

That is a question that we leave you the reader to answer, but we know what our answer is, “GREED”!

To hear the full recording of the program please follow the link below.

Timeshare Contracts: Held to Ransom Part 2

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, last week we started the series Timeshare Contracts: Held to Ransom, where we highlighted one timeshare companies “exit” policy. The resort was Belton Woods Lodges Ltd and it is not what you could consider very fair. In fact, it is one of the most disgusting “exit” policies that we have ever seen. Today we highlight the policy of Diamond Resorts (Europe) which they have been running now for quite a few years. As for any news from the courts, today is yet another fiesta day in Spain so everything will be closed, so we will bring you the latest results later in the week.

One of the most common enquiries received by Inside Timeshare are from owners/members who have been contacted by “exit” companies, for whatever reason these owners/members just want out of their contracts and the liability of the annual maintenance fees. Most have no idea that their resorts may have an exit program where they can relinquish directly with the resort for either no payment, a fixed fee or the equivalent of up to 3 years maintenance payments.

In fact, the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), has stated in the past that no timeshare company should ever charge more than 3 years maintenance fees to release a member from their contract. Unfortunately, this does not apply to non-members.

Diamond Resorts in Europe have the policy to allow members to relinquish under two criteria, one is “exceptional circumstances” and the other is for those that do not meet the requirements of “exceptional circumstances”.

So what is Diamond Resorts policy on “exceptional circumstances”?

Diamond will allow the owner/member to relinquish free of any charge as long as the maintenance fees are paid to date under the following criteria:

  • Aged over 75;
  • The death of one of the partners;
  • Financial difficulties;
  • Medical reasons.

The first one is straight forward, obviously, proof of age will be required as the death certificate will be for the second reason.

Financial difficulties, this is not as straightforward as you may think, Diamond, will require an independent and recognised income Vs expenditure report. This can be equated to the old “means test”, you must show all income and savings, it must also show all your expenditure, even down to your spending on cups of coffee!

There is one saving grace on this point, Diamond will accept reports prepared by the Citizens Advice Bureau, as they are a nationally recognised organisation. It is also free of charge.

Medical reasons, the main points this covers are obviously terminal illness and being unable to travel. Diamond will require all medical information from your doctor or consultant. Now one of the sticking points here is being unable to travel.

Citrus House, Diamonds European Head quarters

Inside Timeshare has in the past had readers who have applied for relinquishment under this section and have been denied. The reason is that they were just unable to travel abroad due to their health, but, they could still use their timeshare membership at the resorts in their own country.

But as we have stated they do require full medical details, so just like financial you are laying open all your personal information. Somehow that just doesn’t seem right.

If you do not fall into the above categories, then you have the option to relinquish your timeshare by paying two years maintenance, this is as long as your maintenance is paid to date and there are no arrears.

Remember that when you do relinquish your membership, you will not get any money back, you will also be signing away your rights to take legal action in the future if your contract was actually illegal.

Many of the “exit” companies that we have seen in the past basically just take your money, tell you not to pay the maintenance and that when you receive demands to just send them to the “exit” company and to ignore them. Eventually, usually, three years down the line, the company you paid is gone and you find that you are now still liable for the maintenance and the timeshare company has sold a debt to a collecting agency. This may result in CCJ’s being issued by the County Courts for your breach of contract.

So the question is, do you pay an exit company or go directly to your own timeshare company?

The choice is yours, but Inside Timeshare always recommends that you approach your resort first, then if you do not have any luck, that is the time to look at proper legal help. Although the warning is to be very careful who you deal with if you take this option, not all exit companies are genuine and actually do the work paid for.

Yes, this is a minefield, there are new companies emerging every week offering this service, after all, it is very lucrative, just look at the Mark Rowe companies. Every single client who paid them (anything from £4,500 to £10,000) still has not got rid of their timeshare, all are still liable for their maintenance, with all his companies in liquidation.

If you have any questions on this subject or any article published, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

One-Sided Press Reports?

As our title suggests there is a very important question being posed, are reports printed in the press one-sided? This question comes after a recent article in the Daily Mirror by Andrew Penman on a court case between Club la Costa and the timeshare exit firm Carl James Associates, a firm that recently came to the attention of Inside Timeshare, research into this company was underway as the Daily Mirror story was published.

In the article, Andrew Penman, who has published many articles on some of the biggest scams in the timeshare world, told the story of a couple (Mr & Mrs Davies) who purchased a membership with Club La Costa. In a story we have heard so many times, they had retired and they no longer had a need for the timeshare, which costs them £1,400 in annual maintenance fees. The couple also did not want their children to “inherit” the liability for the maintenance.

They received a call from Carl James Associates and after some time decided to take on the services of Carl James to relinquish their membership with Club la Costa. The price of this service was £4,200.

It was not until after Mr Davies paid and then speaking with the representative Gerry Tiernan that he began to have second thoughts. Teirnan told Mr Davies to just stop paying his maintenance fees and that would be that, Mr Davies did not think this was right and decided to cancel his agreement with Carl James Associates and get his money refunded.

Well, obviously this did not happen, Carl James refused to pay back the £4,200 as although no contract was signed and not having passed on any of his paperwork, Mr Davies was told that “they had a verbal contract in kind” and that the work had already been passed to Fulbrook Associates of Sterling for the relinquishment work to start.

It was now at this point that Mr Davies found out that he could have contacted Club La Costa and relinquished his membership free of charge.

So far so good, the article is highlighting the bad practices of a company involved in “timeshare exit”, the problem is the references that Andrew Penman is using to highlight this scam. He refers to Club La Costa and also quotes from the Operations Director Guy Mantel and uses the company Kwikchex.

Well, we couldn’t get more biased towards the timeshare industry than these two, Club La Costa is one of the biggest contributors to the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) and the beneficiary of these funds is Kwikchex.

It is well known that Kwikchex runs the Timeshare Task Force and Timeshare Business Check, all funded by the timeshare industry with one clear aim, to protect the industry.

In a full email sent to Andrew Penman by Adriana Stoyanova, one of the lawyers at M1 Legal, Adriana pointed out the misinformation that readers would be subject to from this article.

Adriana explains the same tactics used by Carl James Associates to pressure consumers into signing up for their services and the subsequent refusal to terminate the service are the very same tactics used by the timeshare industry to sell the product.

Yet Kwikchex will attack any company that threatens the industry and that includes legitimate law firms such as M1 Legal, who along with associates ECC have suffered many attacks by this company and the RDO.

The reason?

They are winning against the major timeshare companies and RDO members in the courts, having contracts declared null and void plus the return of millions of euros to clients.

Adriana in her email points out one of the main points of the Club La Costa policy of terminations:

“First, it is important to be aware that in the event that a member decides to exit their membership according to “this policy”, Club La Costa (CLC) requires them to sign a disclaimer waiving their rights to claim against CLC or any associated companies including lenders.”

“This means that if this member later wishes to pursue a claim against CLC they are unable to do so, having signed away their rights.”

“I have studied a number of cases where CLC clients had a valid claim due to irregularities in their contracts (which did not comply with law), however having signed such disclaimers they were unable to proceed to process a claim. As you can imagine many of these clients were distraught to learn of this, having no idea that by signing the disclaimer as part of CLC’s exit “policy” they had lost the opportunity to claim back tens of thousands of pounds.”

Well, it can’t be any clearer than that, the email then goes to point out the situation with regards to finance agreements to pay for the purchase:

“Furthermore, the majority of the CLC purchases are financed by different banks (one of which, namely First Holiday Finance Limited is a CLC associated company). This means that in case the clients have signed a disclaimer, they would be left with the burden of repaying the loan without having the possibility to have their contract nullified which would have entitled them to claim money back and cancel any outstanding liability from the loan. You have to also bear in mind that the loans that finance such purchases usually carry with them exorbitant rates of interest, which double and almost triple the original purchase amount being lent.”

“Let us assume one of your readers had bought a modest £20,000 membership with CLC which was financed by Shawbrook, BPF or First Holiday Finance Limited with a total amount to be repaid over a 10 years term being £48,000. Now imagine that this member is having problems with availability and wants out of their membership with CLC.”

“The member has now read your article and instead of researching their options (As according to your article claims management companies misrepresent and are “not required”) they decide to contact direct CLC and exit their membership without any cost. They then sign the disclaimer as per CLCs “policy” and later realise that they will have to repay the full outstanding loan amount without having any asset or any possibility to claim any amount back from CLC.”

So, there we have a senior lawyer dealing with timeshare litigation explaining very clearly why this CLC policy exists.

The email also goes on to explain the loan agreements and how they are brokered, not by independent employees of the bank/finance company, but by the timeshare sales reps themselves. They receive a commission for selling the timeshare, now to ensure the sale goes through, broker a loan agreement and earn more commission.

It is also a fact which Inside Timeshare has found over the years, the correct credit checks are never made, such as income v expenditure reports, these are normally required for any substantial loan to ensure the client can actually afford the repayments. Shawbrook Bank admitted this several years ago and the then CEO had to resign.

Shawbrook Bank Article July 2016

The email which does go into a lot of detail also explains the sales process and includes these extracts from the Island Residence Club sales training manual:

“Imagine a second home luxuriously furnished, completely equipped, immaculately maintained and serviced by internationally-renowned hospitality professionals. Here at Island Residence Club, YOU are happily ensconced in a residence of ultimate luxury and comfort.”

“You must take control of your UP immediately! You need to build up a subtle psychological and physical dominance (e.g. you control where they sit, what they touch, where they go, what they look at and when they eat and drink).”

  • Once you have this control you can calm their fears and guide them towards buying.
  • Some people will try to take control of you. Do not allow them to do this.
  • Some may say they only want to see the apartments and price.
  • Some may say they have an appointment.
  • Some may say they don’t want to look around.
  • Just ignore this and carry on your tour.

This coupled with the long tour which on average last at least 5 hours is enough to make even the strongest give in and sign.

Yet, the RDO their lackeys Kwikchex say nothing and do nothing about the underhand tactics carried out by their own members. It is not just the hard sell tactics, it is the verbal misrepresentations which are made such as the investment pitch, it is the fact they have continued to sell a product with contracts that do not comply with the law. But, do we see any sign of the RDO or Kwikchex mentioning these bad practices or even sanctioning their members? Of course not, you can’t sanction those that fund you, can you?

All this is nothing new before Kwikchex it was Alberto Garcia of Mindtimeshare and the “enforcement program”. The main target of this campaign was Canarian Legal Alliance who at the time were actively taking Silverpoint to the criminal and civil courts, this also included many managers and the CEO Mark Cushway being indicted.

At that time it was obvious what was going on, Cushway was also a director of the RDO, Silverpoint were the biggest contributors and Garcia’s job was to protect him, Silverpoint and the RDO.

So really nothing has changed, just some of the players.

This article is in no way intended as a rebuke of the Andrew Penman story, Inside Timeshare, the TCA, CLA, ECC and M1 Legal applaud the story and highlight the problems faced by timeshare owners at the hands of companies such as Carl James Associates. But it should also show that the industry is also at fault, in fact, it is down to the industries reluctance to actually have a proper exit strategy or resale program that has brought about the many scams we have published here.

Let us hope that Andrew Penman who has also been contacted by Inside Timeshare on numerous occasions regarding our Mrs B and MacDonald Resorts. Yet that is not a story he seems to have taken any interest in, he might actually get around to showing the whole industry for what it is and then consumers may have the full story.

Please use our contact page if you have any questions on this article or any others published and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Daily Mirror Article 24 September 2020

Previous articles on Kwikchex