Welcome to the last article for this week, as you know Irene Parker is now concentrating on her work with Tarda, so this slot will no longer be called Friday’s Letter from America as it was her one of her twice-weekly slots. Although Irene will continue to submit reports on the timeshare situation in the US when she is able to. For those wishing to follow Irene’s posts plus those from many timeshare owners’s/members, you can do so at the link below. Also please do join and donate to TARDA, they will be working in your interest and need your support.
Carriage Resorts October 21 and 22 Annual Meetings
Will BDO Dunwoody Find Solutions to the Need for an Exit Strategy?
By Irene Parker
October 25, 2019
The WyndhamCarriage Hills annual meeting was almost held October 21 and the Carriage Ridge annual meeting was held October 22 in Ontario Canada. The Carriage Hills October 21 annual meeting was cancelled because the facility could only hold 500 while another 500 members waited outside. Owners were annoyed but felt the chaotic debacle was the best message they could have sent.
The reason for the robust attendance was because the Carriage Board of Directors had notified Owners that they had retained the strategic accounting firm BDO Dunwoody to study the two-fold problem of no responsible exit from the timeshare and the resulting and escalating bad debt. Owners, even those with severe medical and financial hardship, have not been allowed a release from their fully paid for timeshares. They are liable for ongoing annual maintenance fees, as well as their heirs – there has been no responsible exit.
At the Carriage Ridge Oct 22 annual meeting, not much new news was provided other than a statement concerning early-stage negotiations between the two Carriage Boards of Directors and BDO Dunwoody. Board President Marti Ginsherman reported that information as to actual proposals and desired outcomes would not be made available until first quarter 2020.
The U.S. timeshare lobby ARDA does have a Coalition for Responsible Exit. Owners in good standing need only to look for their resort on the ARDA website. If the resort is not found, it doesn’t mean there is no exit. The resort may have a program, but not be a part of ARDA’s program. Usually, there is a charge to voluntarily deed back the timeshare points or deed. Some U.S. resorts are still resistant to any form of exit except foreclosure.
The Canadian counterpart to ARDA is CVOA. They are aware of the dilemma Carriage owners face, responding that a solution will require time and considerable resources. Those considerable resources include the strategic accounting firm BDO Dunwoody which will work with a Transition Team to address problems and solutions.
At the October 22 Carriage Hills meeting, Carriage Ridge board secretary/treasurer Maureen Lee Ah Yen volunteered to head the Transition team and Carriage Ridge owners Lori Smith and Bruce Fleming volunteered to act as the liaison between owners and Transition Team board members.
The most glaring example of the need for a medical and hardship release concerns Stephanie’s grandparents, Gary, and his wife of 53 years Sandra. Gary resides in a nursing home and Sandra lives with her unemployed son. Gary’s entire pension must go towards his care. Sandra suffers from depression, and the worry over finances contributed towards a recent hospital stay.
Published marketing materials provided at the time of purchase stated:
Freeze costs of future vacations
Equity $ position
Maintenance fees have increased from $600 a year to $1,500 over the years. Owners feel they do not have worry-free vacations as the absence of an exit strategy has caused significant stress for many. In addition, thousands of dollars have been lost to timeshare exit providers and timeshare listing services.
Carriage Resorts were acquired by Shell Vacation Club and subsequently, Wyndham acquired Shell. No doubt the argument will be that current owners are not responsible for the original developer’s marketing claims. That does not change the unfairness of owners finding themselves held timeshare hostage.
On Monday Carriage Hills Owner Karen Levins will offer her comments on the current situation and hope for the future.
Thank you, Irene, from all the previous articles on these two resorts and now this report of the Annual Meeting, it is very clear there is a very serious problem for our Canadian friends. In all the years that Inside Timeshare has been running and we include the original incarnation, we have never had a series of stories such as these. They are truly a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.
That is all for this week, join us again on Monday with another story of why you need to be careful about who you do business with.
Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, unfortunately, this will be the last one that we publish as Irene Parker no longer has the time. She must now concentrate on her defence in the upcoming subpoena and also her work with the new Organisation TARDA. Today’s article covers another 5 complaints from owners of the WyndhamCarriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Resorts in Canada. These are another example of a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.
Wyndham Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Resorts
Carriage Owners’ Reports 129 – 133
Will there be a change in holding heirs responsible for maintenance fees on a fully paid for timeshare?
Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge Annual Meetings are October 21 and 22
“Find Your Resort” will take you to16 boxes to choose from.
Four of the boxes are Wyndham:
Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham
Shell Vacations Club owned by Wyndham
Worldmark by Wyndham
Wyndham’s Carriage Resorts is not one of them. I’m not sure if it is because Carriage is a property Wyndham acquired when they acquired Shell Vacations Club, or because the property is in Canada, but these Wyndham owners are being unfairly held hostage by weaponized Canadian timeshare contract law.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has issued a warning about buying a timeshare in Mexico. Carriage Resorts marketing flyers promised “Freeze the cost of future Vacations” “Equity $ position” and “Worry-free vacations” yet Stephanie’s grandfather Gary is in a nursing home, pursed for maintenance fees. Maintenance fees have increased from $600 a year to $1,500 a year. Stephanie’s story: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-71/
Canada issues travel advisory due to high-pressure sales tactics used to sell timeshares in Mexico TheYucatan TimesOctober 12, 2019
Excerpt from my comment:
In response to my Inside Timeshare article back in September, I received 131 emails from Canadian residents, Carriage owners, betrayed by false advertising. On Friday I will publish my 10th article about the tragedy of Canada’s consumer protection turning their back on their residents held timeshare hostage. One symptom of Elder Abuse is Financial Exploitation. No one wants to tamper with incoming revenue so point the finger elsewhere. As the late Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist Anthony DeMello said, “I’m pointing to the moon and you’re staring at the end of my finger.” Reading the contract would not have helped Carriage Ridge owners. You can’t blame them for believing the published marketing materials.
I’m told a proposal will be introduced at the upcoming Carriage Resorts annual meetings October 21 and 22 to offer those who wish to exit the timeshare a way out. There will likely be criteria and restrictions that must be met. Let’s hope the Carriage Board recognizes that not even allowing foreclosure, holding descendants responsible for maintenance fees on a fully paid-for timeshare, is draconian, to say the least. Carriage owners anxiously await the upcoming meetings to learn if they really do have a voice.
Dianne mentions in her report that she paid thousands of dollars to advertise with SellMyTimehsareNow. SMTN pirated Inside Timeshare’s keywords so when you search Inside Timeshare you get “Inside Timeshare Sales and Rentals” with a link to SMTN. This is unethical and unprofessional.
Thank you to all the Carriage Owners who have shared their feelings about a drastically restrictive policy that has financially, physically, and emotionally harmed so many. I look forward to meeting those of my new 131 Canadian friends who will be attending the October 21 and 22 meetings.
Carriage Owner #129 Paul E
We bought at Carriage shortly after it first opened. Our hope was that owning in Ontario would give us the ability to use the resort beyond the one week every other year we purchased. What I have come to know is that the contract grossly favoured the developer and left me with virtually no path to exit. I do not want to transfer this burden to my children, and given the condition of the resort, and the changing clientele usually occupying it, we have little desire to use it. We place our weeks with RCI and go elsewhere.
While we are not a hardship case at this point, that day may well come. Maintenance fees continue to rise well beyond the rate of inflation. More and more owners will simply stop paying their fees, leading to even higher annual increases. If not already the case, it will be cheaper for someone off the street to rent a week here than it will be for me to use my owned week. And it is clear that there are thousands of owners like me, or worse. I served on the Board for one year during which time it became clear to me that the Wyndham executives I met with had no interest in resolving these issues. It is so sad to see that a vacation dream for my family has turned into a nightmare!
Paul K, Ontario
Carriage Owner #130 Dianne C
Thank you for highlighting the desperate situation facing Carriage Hills/Ridge timeshare owners. Your article was excellent. I have owned at Carriage Hills since 2000. Easily, this was my worst life decision. I have been trying to get out from under the thumb of Wyndham for many years.
I’ve always paid my bills. It goes against the grain to go into arrears & declare bankruptcy. It would also place an even greater financial burden on the remaining owners who are trying their best to hang on until an exit strategy becomes available. I paid thousands to Sell My Timeshare Now to advertise the property for $1. I have posted on Kijiji for years offering to pay all legal fees for the transfer. I offered to give the mortgage-free title to Wyndham. I offered to pay Wyndham to take it back – All to no avail.
As time passes my financial situation becomes more difficult. As a senior with no discretionary spending, I now squeeze my food budget to save up to pay the maintenance fees for something I do not want & will never use. The Food Bank subsidizes my groceries so I can keep paying into the bottomless Wyndham pit. I am ashamed to take from a charity to help pay for my terrible decision. I am racked with guilt & anxiety. It is nothing short of highway robbery in broad daylight.
Any attention you can bring to this major issue will be much appreciated. Thank you very much.
Regards, Dianne C
Patrick K Carriage Owner #131
Hello Irene and thank you for your time.
My wife Miriam and I bought into this “investment opportunity” back in 1998. The sales pitch made sense at the time as the dues equalled roughly $450 per year. We signed up for a Red week every second year. Miriam was not so sure at the time, but I bought the pitch and talked her into it. How could we lose as it was an easy drive from home and once the deed was paid off we could build a little equity for the future? Sadly, this investment has turned out to be a money grab and at this time there seems no way out but to keep paying, even after death.
We totally understand some may still be enjoying the experience of a week at Carriage Hills. The thing I and others are ashamed of is that we only saw the beautiful accommodations and trusted the sales person’s pitch. We also paid some company roughly $700, trusting their word they could sell for us. Once the check was cashed I never heard another word and then suddenly, just got a voicemail for a while, and then gave up.
Our dues are up to date. I have no intention to default but this will not last much longer as a fixed income is fast approaching. I honestly did not see and refuse to believe our retirement income needs to consider a payment “for life” to a company that in no way is losing revenue as they rent out our un-booked paid for units at a total profit.
Sincerely, Patrick and Miriam
#132 Debra F
My husband and I bought a Red Week every year week at Carriage Hills resort. We purchased in 2001 when our kids were little. We were introduced to the concept of timeshare through friends who owned at Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont.
Initially, we enjoyed Carriage Hills and made several exchanges to various US destinations. There were some good vacations and great memories. However, after purchasing our Carriage Hills timeshare from the Developer, I learned in hindsight that it was an error. There were resale opportunities that could have saved us many thousands of dollars.
In 2003, we exchanged into Waterside by Spinnaker in Hilton Head SC and attended their timeshare presentation. We made it very clear that we had no intention of owning TWO timeshares. We were told that as part of the purchase of one of their weeks, they would sell our Carriage Hills interval. They said they had a buyer, but we would only get around $3,000 for it. They said the paperwork would be delivered by the time we arrived back home. We purchased another unit with the promise that they would sell our interval at Carriage Hills. Within the cooling-off period, I was uncomfortable because here I was again, buying from a Developer. There was nothing in writing about the sale of Carriage Hills. When I voiced my concerns to the sales rep I was reassured that the documents were in process. I have a copy of the letter I sent the sales rep, Ted J. Morris, dated December 2003 in which I referenced the sale and faxed him our deed as he had requested!! So now, we own two.
We are older now, and the kids are grown. With all the changes over the years at RCI, with variable trading power points, needing multiple maintenance fees/intervals to exchange into many of the nicer resorts, lack of inventory etc. and our increasing age and reduced income, we need an exit strategy. I can’t find a buyer for our Carriage Hills unit, and friends can rent there for the same or less cost through travel websites, so I can’t even recoup my maintenance fee via renting. Carrying the costs of two intervals is not sustainable. To my knowledge, there is no exit strategy for that one either. It’s a terrible feeling knowing that we’ve been taken advantage of.
For now, my main concern is trying to find an exit strategy for CH. When I look back at the documents that we were given at the time of the sale, and all the ‘benefits’ of ownership – deed and title, equity dollar position, year-round country club, save, rent, lend, sell, will….the benefits are gone, except for the noose around our wallet.
Thank you for any assistance you might be able to provide to us.
Deborah & Paul F
#133 Diane W
Thank you so much for coming to the Carriage Hills AGM and for meeting with unhappy owners that have no way out. We bought when it first opened, well over 20 years ago. I am sure you have heard from many about the ever-increasing maintenance fees, and the inability to sell or get out. We are seniors now and do not wish to visit CH any longer or to “trade”. Our ability to pay these fees for something that we do not want and will not use is very difficult as we live only on our savings.
We have no children but we do not wish to burden our estate with this “ball and chain” expense. We are fed up with the fact that Wyndham rents these units out to benefit Wyndham. We have two sets of friends that also bought, and feel exactly the same way do, so this email can count for three two-bedroom units, and six unhappy owners. Please Help!
The fact that an exit strategy will be even be discussed at the Carriage annual meetings shows what the collective voices of consumers who have been harmed can accomplish. Get Involved. Make a change where change is needed.
Join our new organization Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability Inc.
A donation of $10 or more will enroll you as a member of TARDA.
I wish to thank Charles Thomas, and all who have read and responded to my articles. Due to a lawsuit Diamond Resorts filed against Finn Law Group, a lawsuit I have nothing to do with, I must devote my time to raising $25,000 for my Legal Defense against Diamond Resorts GoFundMe. You can find “Highlights of the Timeshare Week” posts on the TARDA website on Fridays beginning in November.
Thank you Irene for all the work you have put into the articles we have published over the past few years and thank you for all the help you have given to beleaguered owners. Inside Timeshare wishes you all the best in your defence and also with your work for TARDA.
Well, that is all for this week, please join us next week for more on the world of timeshare.
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.
If you are a timeshare member, owner, prospective buyer, or just someone interested in seeing an improvement in timeshare sales and marketing practices, join TARDA today to join your voice with ours. Your donation of $10 or more will automatically enroll you as a member of TARDA. A complete explanation of TARDA can be found on our website linked above.
The time has come to have the timeshare consumer’s voice speak for the timeshare consumer, as opposed to timeshare executives speaking to lawmakers on our behalf. We know there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare weeks or points, but we also know thousands have reported how they have been harmed by unfair and deceptive timeshare sales and marketing practices.
Our initial legislative goal is twofold:
Allow the timeshare buyer 24 hours to consider their decision to buy a timeshare product
If the signing session is recorded, allow the buyer the opportunity to record the sales session
By their own admission, in testimony provided at a Florida legislative workshop March 12, 2019, the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), acknowledged in their statistics that reports of verbal representations are dismissed.
Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’sDepartment of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation. Ms. Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale.
What is a 501c4?
Nonprofit organizations typically classified under 501c4 include:
Volunteer fire departments
And other groups that promote social well-being
Restrictions of a 501c4
Similar to a 501c3, no profits of the 501c4 can be used to directly benefit any of its individuals. The 501c4 organization cannot stand in support of or against any politician, whether done indirectly or directly.
However, the 501c4 is allowed to partake in minimal political activity, but those activities cannot become the focus of the organization. Also, when engaging in political activities, the 501c4 risks that any expenses incurred may be taxed.
Lobbying is allowed only for the sake of achieving its social well-being goal. If the 501c4 engages in lobbying, it may have to disclose how much of its members’ dues are going toward lobbying. https://www.upcounsel.com/501c3-vs-501c4
Hundreds of timeshare member complaints have been sent to the timeshare lobby ARDA and to ARDA-ROC, a political action committee. Complaints have been ignored. ARDA-ROC does not mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics.
Not one in over 1,000 timeshare members have been able to tell me what ARDA even stands for, yet ARDA ROC collects approximately $5 million a year in “voluntary” donations. At some resorts contributions are opt-out. When I attempted to opt-out my $7, the $7 was moved to another account and reported as delinquency. It took a while on hold until the matter could be researched and resolved. ARDA and ARDA ROC’s boards consist of timeshare executives with one exception. There are no timeshare owners on the board.
Why ARDA does not represent the voice of the timeshare consumer
As described in the RedWeek article linked below, ARDA proposed and passed legislation in Florida in 2015 that makes it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts due to non-material errors.
In Arizona ARDA vigorously argued against offering the timeshare buyer a 24 hour “cooling off” period before signing a perpetual contract that likely has no secondary market. Shorter-term products have been developed, but even a ten-year product can wreak financial havoc. Clearly, any organization arguing against a 24 hour cooling off period is not on the side of the consumer.
ARDA’s position is that the problem of the lack of a secondary market has been solved. DailyI receive requests from timeshare buyers seeking release. They do not know where to turn. Many are seniors who would never find their way to ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit. Most have owned their timeshare for 10 to 30 years, rarely used it, and have been paying maintenance fees for decades. An out of touch quote from an ARDA lobbyist:
“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.
According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:
But the bottom line said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.
According to an Arizona Senator who supported ARDA’s defeat of a pro-consumer bill that would have allowed 24 hours to consider a timeshare purchase:
“These people are adults. There was a meeting of the minds and they signed a contract. They should take responsibility.”
The first timeshare complaint I read on Tripadvisor in 2016 is reflective of the over 1,000 complaints received, one of the adults who “did not bother to understand the nature of the deal.” Since this complaint, I have heard from more than 1,000 others.
I am at the Cancun resort in Las Vegas and went to a breakfast where they said they would simply update me about the changeover to Diamond. I was told that I should have been invited to a dinner where I would have been given options, decided by a judge in a legal ruling against Monarch due to their bankruptcy. They proceeded to show me a print out that said when my current term expires in August. I would have to pay $573 per quarter to Monarch. They said that due to the bankruptcy, I would have no equity. That was option one. Pay more, have nothing. The other option they said was to transfer into Diamond at a cost of $12,000 plus and pay a yearly maintenance fee of $1,700. Less than the $2,292 I would soon be giving Monarch. They also told me that I would then have an equity of $41,000 that I could sell. I was in tears. I do not have any extra money. In fact, I have been looking for ways to get out of Monarch for over a year now. They said that was not an option and that as an owner, I was now proportionally responsible for their debt. I felt trapped and signed all the papers to transfer, with no idea how I can pay. After reading the comments above I am even more scared. I am trying to start my own business and am already in severe debt. They claimed when they ran my credit though that it looked better than most and assured me I qualified for financing. I would have to pay off, basically transfer to credit cards, which I can barely make my payments on now before I could look to sell. One of the reps assured me that she would put me in touch with someone who could help me sell my points. She even gave me her cell phone number to call after the sale/transfer is finalized. I am really scared though. Please help! We have to do something. It seems as though they have no qualms about lying to and robbing people for their own benefit.
Thank you Irene, Inside Timeshare wishes TARDA all the best in their endeavours and hopes that the industry does take notice and change its ways. If they do not, then they will end up just they will end up just like the dinosaurs, EXTINCT!
A panel of the highest judges in Spain overruled a High Court decision of 22 December 2016 which supported the sentence of the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife of 4 April 2015, which found against the client and in favour of Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL. Both courts had failed to enact the timeshare laws as laid down in previous Supreme Court judgements.
This is a clear signal to all the lower courts that the law is set and they must abide by it.
The case was brought on behalf of the client by Canarian Legal Alliance and brings the total of judgements in the Supreme Court in their favour to 130. This has also made Spanish legal history, 130 cases brought, 130 victories!
The client in question will now receive back 19,650€ plus double the deposit paid within the statutory 14 days cooling-off period and all their legal fees. The contract has also been declared null and void, leaving the happy client timeshare free.
Spain is in the forefront of protecting consumers of timeshare, but there is still a long way to go as the industry still tries to find loopholes and developing products to get around the laws.