So what was once an independent website giving independent and impartial advice to timeshare owners is firmly under the umbrella of Mark Rowe. He continually denies he has anything to do with the TCA, the latest evidence shows otherwise.
This is now in black and white on the Privacy Notice updated on 24 April 2019,
So what does this mean for timeshare owners who contact the TCA for advice on how to get out of their timeshare contracts?
Very simple, they will not be getting any independent or impartial advice, instead, they will be directed to one of the companies owned and controlled by Mark Rowe. This is not the first time the TCA’s impartiality has come into question, Andrew Penman of the Mirror brought this subject into the public domain way back in December 2016.
Inside Timeshare has received many emails from timeshare owners who have paid for relinquishments and so-called claims through ABC Lawyers, one reader paid around £7,500 for relinquishment and a claim. They were simply told to stop paying the maintenance fees, which they did, they have since found out that Club La Costa terminated their membership on the grounds of non-payment of fees. In other words, ABC Lawyers did nothing, they have also never received a penny of the £30,000 they were promised for their claim, despite signing the contract with ABC in October 2017.
Inside Timeshare has continually stated that the only sure way of making a claim for timeshare purchased in Spain is through the Spanish Courts, using a genuine lawyer registered to practice in Spain, with the knowledge and experience of timeshare law.
You are also unable to make any claim through the courts once you have had your contract terminated, plus you are very unlikely to receive any money back by using the Credit Consumer Act 1974 Section 75. This is a simple fact, the credit card company (if you paid the deposit by card) will always contact the timeshare company, they will obviously inform the card provider that the timeshare was used, so they have provided the goods and services paid for. Section 75 does not cover the fact that your timeshare contract may be illegal under Spanish law.
Once again, it is important that you know who you are dealing with, the TCA may have been independent and impartial at one point, but that was many years ago, we are sure the late Sandy Grey will be turning in his grave, all his hard work has now been turned upside down.
If you have any questions or need real advice on any timeshare matter, use our contact page and we will get back to you. Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you find on the internet.
Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another in our series of Secret Shopper reports, but first some news from the UK about ABC Lawyers, one of the Mark Rowe owned companies.
On 8 February 2019, an application to wind down the company ABC Layers Ltd was filed by Mark Rowe with Companies House. The appointed liquidator is David Meany of Quantuma LLP, The Old Town Hall, 71 Christchurch Road, Ringwood, Hampshire.
The question being posed now is what will happen to all those clients who have signed up with ABC Lawyers for “compensation claims” and “relinquishments”, are they going to have the work completed?
As we know, several of Marke Rowe’s companies are under police investigation, could this liquidation be a move to prevent yet another of his companies falling under that investigation? Only time will tell.
Now for today’s Secret Shopper Report.
Timeshare Wars! Deeded Timeshare Owners Fight Back
What kind of business sells points by demanding that if you don’t buy our timeshare points, your children will have to be our customer?
Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)
By Another Deeded Week Secret Shopper from Out West
April 23, 2019
Some Vacation Clubs employ predatory and deceptive methods to convince deeded week timeshare “owners” to give up their deed to become a “member” of a points-based timeshare program. Owners are lured to “mandatory” updates designed to convince them why they should join their vacation club.
Last Tuesday a Secret Shopper shared his experience. Shopper owned two continuous deeded weeks at Virginia Beach. He determined that if he had agreed to forfeit his deeds for points, it is unlikely he would have access to the vacation location the family had enjoyed for years.
Some timeshare point members have no “beneficial interest” in actual real estate. Wyndham does sell a point-based deeded timeshare. The (intended pun) point is that just because points are used to identify one’s use interests, does not necessarily make the timeshare a users’ rights product.
In the case of non-deeded points, the point buyer buys points in a “right-to-use” program. Ownership rights are stripped away from the actual real estate. It’s more like buying a membership in a country club than buying a condo, except it’s a country club membership you can’t easily terminate unless the membership is free and clear. If there is no loan and maintenance fees are current, the resort MAY take the timeshare back in return for nothing more than the peace of mind knowing you are done with it.
Charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate was the basis of a class action lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club. In a recent ruling,
A Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”
Throughout our presentation, we were concerned about the sales agent using terms associated with real estate. Our sales agent said points are backed by real estate held in a trust. Agents used words and phrases like “opening escrow” and a 30 to 45 day closing period. One particularly deceptive use of real estate jargon was stating maintenance fees as HOA fees. They are not the same. It would take another article to explain why they are different. They would not disclose the terms of a loan unless we agreed to purchase.
My husband and I went after them from a financial angle. We said we were concerned about the company’s financial health. We felt the thousands of complaints that can be found about this company on the internet, over 1,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints, a government action, and numerous lawsuits would eventually catch up with them. That doesn’t mean all their sales agents are dishonest, but there are a disproportionate number of complaints compared to other timeshare companies.
What seemed to be the craziest comment came from an agent who came over to answer our questions about the budget report. We had asked:
“Is the Club solvent?” “Are they in debt?”
The agent shockingly responded, “Why would that matter to you?”
We asked for their California public report. We showed them that there was a deficit of $9.696 million. We asked why the public report does not show a reserve account. They said it’s typically not shown in a public report. This makes no sense as that is one of the first things to put in a public report to make the consumer feel more secure. The truth is – there is no reserve account based on documents we had analyzed.
Our sales agent seemed a bit dumbfounded. Our session ended without the usual downturn in attitude when a member says no and means no. We don’t think these agents are used to informed buyers. But Vacation Clubs don’t just try to take your deed. They try to take your Resort!
We are longtime owners at one of the resorts that have opposed the Vacation Club’s attempts to take control. Owners realized a few years ago that the Club was rapidly accumulating inventory. Some owners started reporting that they had been to presentations or updates where they had been informed that either the Club already ‘owned’ our resort, or used scare tactics to convince the owner that if they didn’t convert their deed to points, their deed would be worthless and would be subject to a special assessment. Often, especially seniors are falsely told that if they don’t give up their deed and convert to points their children will be required to be club members when the owner passes.
The Vacation Club business model dealing with “Legacy” resorts is well known. I call this model extortion. Here’s how it works:
The acquiring company takes over management,
Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
Information available to deeded owners is reduced in order to force them to attend high-pressure sales presentations or “updates” designed to wrestle the deed away from the owner.
The value of deeded ownership is demeaned by emphasizing the negative aspects of deeded ownership. Deeded owners are threatened with special assessments, higher maintenance fees, less availability.
Exchange options become limited for deeded owners in order to coerce them to convert to club membership.
Our Club has used unscrupulous Florida title companies to purchase units from deeded owners under false pretext and transfer them to the Club. The Club has pressured management hired by the resort to enact policies beneficial to the Club. The Club has brought frivolous legal action against the association and board members individually to intimidate vendors and board members so that the Club can gain control of the resort.
The intent of the Club has been to purchase voting power rather than quality ownership. They have done this by acquiring less than desirable units in less than desirable seasons. The units are not used by the Club for occupancy, yet they still pay the dues for these units. As a result, the Club is determined to take control of the resort so that they can better monetize this worthless inventory.
What can be done to keep our resort?
Our resort has taken advantage of social media to increase owner engagement and the free flow of information among owners and between owners, the board of directors and resort management. The availability of timely information to the deeded owners has empowered our resort to resist the persistent pressure from the Club to take control of our resort.
Our owners and our board are passionate about our resort and determined to maintain the control that allows them to continue enjoying what they purchased. Deeded owners must unite and organize to hang on to what little real timeshare real estate is left. To think the timeshare world will be nothing but points is sad.
We seek to provide timeshare 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.
It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.
But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.
All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.
The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.
The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.
On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.
We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.
Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.
Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.
Do right to use point programs offer more protection?
In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.
I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.
Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?
Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:
Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)
This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.
Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.
Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,
What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?
Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.
As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.
There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –
How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.
To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.
The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.
“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”
Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).
With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.
Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”
It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.
Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.
Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.
That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.