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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, but first some breaking news from Tenerife. As we already know several companies owned and operated by Mark Rowe, are under investigation in the UK by the Regional Organised Crime Unit, Somerset & Avon Police following raids in the UK and Tenerife. We also know that his company ABC Lawyers Ltd is also in liquidation, now Inside Timeshare has heard that the authorities in Tenerife have now raided his offices in Fanabe. One of the companies based there is Timeshare.Lawyer under the umbrella of Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL. It certainly looks like time is running out for Mark Rowe.

Now for today’s Letter from America, this is not the article we had scheduled as we have delayed publishing the subpoena Diamond Resorts attempted to issue Irene until Tuesday. As you will read in today’s article, Howard Nusbaum, the former president of ARDA, is also a former senior partner at Baker Hostetler, Diamond’s outside counsel in their case against a Florida law firm. This gave us pause. Irene will be doing a little more digging as this adds support to our belief this subpoena is a less than subtle form of harassment. Today’s article offers proof that there is no responsible exit for many fully paid timeshare owners.  Baker Hostetler explains why.

When ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Timeshare Exit Fails:

What Happens Next?

Six out of Eight Legacy Resorts have no Responsible Exit, according to eight “Free at Last” participants, reporting what happened when they sought a responsible exit

August 9, 2019

This is the first of four articles summarizing 21 timeshare members piloting the Free at Last Online Timeshare Support Course, sponsored by the nonprofit Straight-A Guide. The next three articles will report on Travel Clubs, timeshares purchased in foreign countries, and point-based timeshares.

I direct callers seeking timeshare release to reach out first to ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit, or to the timeshare company if the timeshare company does not participate in ARDA’s responsible exit coalition.

Straight-A Guide helps 100,000 prisoners a year transition back to society through self-advocacy. Their customers are prisons. Our Free at Last participants learn how to self-advocate.

Legacy Resorts are single-site, older resorts. Of our eight Legacy owner participants, so far only two were able to work with their resort to take back their unwanted timeshare. One owner was able to deed back to Colorado River Adventures and one owner was able to deed back to Festiva.

There is no responsible exit for Legacy Resorts owners at Eagle Crest, Broadway Plantation, Lehigh Resort Club, and Wyndham Carriage Ridge in Canada, The Seasons in Vermont, or Bellavista. Six out of the eight Legacy resorts have no responsible exit! The only choice for these owners is foreclosure if the resorts will not provide a responsible exit. Three of the owners are over 80 years old and have been paying maintenance fees for decades, two only using the timeshare once or twice over the decades. 

Mr. Kenneth McKelvey, founder of Defender Resorts and Chairman of the timeshare PAC ARDA ROC, testified at a legislative workshop held in Tallahassee Florida March 12, 2019, that attorneys and timeshare exit providers are not needed. He made these comments at the Florida legislative workshop:

“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 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 one that did not have a dissolution policy and a hardship policy …”

We hear from many seniors forced to endure the demeaning foreclosure process, despite maintaining a high credit score their whole life. Lately, there have been complaints from millennial buyers, as the industry is targeting that demographic. Some seniors tell me they don’t care anymore about a drop in their credit score as they are set, but those in their 30s see their credit score ruined along with their chances to buy a home. The foreclosure process can be overwhelming without support.  

The industry calls the vehicle used when a timeshare contract is transferred to fictitious individuals or a fictitious LLC a “Viking Ship,” so-named because Vikings used to stack their dead on a ship, set it on fire, and send it out to sea.

ARDA and the law firm Baker Hostetler published these comments about Legacy Resorts:  

COVER STORY • Many legacy timeshare resorts are struggling to survive: why?

Vacation Ownership WORLD contacted some of vacation ownership’s leading figures, as well as experts on the subject, and asked them about a much-discussed matter within the industry: why are so many legacy timeshare resorts having such a tough time and what can be done about it? Many of these resorts are failing due to an assortment of problems that include: a lack of professional management; a lack of adequate reserves; a resistance by the HOA board of directors to impose an adequate assessment for operating expenses; an underperforming or non-existent external exchange relationship; an aging owner base that no longer uses the resort or that wants to exit ownership but is generally unable to; and, diminishing resort maintenance standards. ARDA President and CEO Howard Nusbaum and senior partner in the Orlando office of Baker & Hostetler and ARDA treasurer and Board member Rob Webb offer their viewpoints on this issue. This is the first of a two-part story; the second article on the subject will appear in the next issue.

https://www.bakerlaw.com/files/uploads/Documents/News/Articles/BUSINESS/2014/January2014VacationOwnershipWorldWebbArticle.pdf

A 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.

Based on complaints from over 900 families, this lobbyist is out of touch with reality. Just two exit companies I spoke with received 3,000 to 3,500 calls per month from desperate timeshare members seeking release.

Legacy Owner reports by Free at Last participants 

#1 Unresolved – Robert Kennedy is 81 years old. He seeks release from Eagle Crest in Oregon. In 2017 I published an article in which I interviewed an Eagle Crest collection agent. The interview was in regard to problems Eagle Crest owners experienced when they contacted a fraudulent timeshare transfer company. It’s no wonder Eagle Crest owners are going through this.

At age 81, I have a credit score of 819 but now must face a foreclosure.  At our age, we no longer are able to travel as we once could. We will not continue to pay maintenance fees for something we no longer want or need.

Robert sent his request for release to the following individuals:

To: Jerry E Andres, CEO Eagle Crest

https://www.bbb.org/us/or/redmond/profile/resort/eagle-crest-resort-1296-50002619

Jason Gamel, ARDA President

[email protected]

Ken McKelvey, CPA, ARDA ROC President

[email protected]

https://www.defenderresorts.com/contact-us/

Greg Crist, Association of Vacation Owners

[email protected]

Mr. Andres

After Eagle Crest said they would not help me, I contacted Irene Parker at Inside Timeshare. Ms. Parker told me to contact ARDA’s Responsible Exit program.  I went to ARDA’s Responsible Exit Website, but Eagle Crest does not participate. We purchased a floating week 33 years ago and have faithfully paid maintenance fees for 33 years.  https://responsibleexit.com/

I would like to ask Mr. Andres why Eagle Crest does not have a responsible exit program. I have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. As a result of my experience, they have learned not to get involved with timeshare. 

I contacted members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They said they were not interested in helping us.  Others need to be warned about the dangers of becoming involved with timeshare.

Robert Kennedy

#2 Unresolved Simon D, Canada

Carriage Ridge Wyndham 

To Irene Parker at Inside Timeshare

August 5, 2019

I reached out to Ovations as you suggested. Wyndham Ovations will not accept our Carriage Ridge Resort in Canada. We purchased this floating week timeshare May 2004 for approximately $13,750. We have no loan.

We were told at purchase there would be no problem reselling the timeshare. Ovations will not take it back so isn’t it false advertising to say that they have a program for fully paid members when they don’t? I tried selling the timeshare. No one wants it. Availability has been an issue.

Why are consumers put in the position of being held hostage with no choice but to foreclose? Who, understanding that buying a timeshare is something you can’t get out of unless foreclosed, would buy one?  Especially when the buyer is told, like we were, it would be easy to sell.

I will no longer pay maintenance fees. I will be contacting the Canadian Vacation Ownership Association as you suggested. They should know that many Canadians are being harmed and Wyndham should not falsely advertise that the problem of no secondary market for timeshares has been solved. It’s not true. Thank you for the websites you provided. At least I know others are experiencing the same.  

http://www.canadianvoa.org/

https://www.shellhospitality.com/hotels/carriage-ridge-resort-and-carriage-hills-resort

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

This comment was posted on RedWeek:

I was duped into a gifted timeshare from my father. The story is sad…he is retired and was desperate to get out as he lost most of his retirement money in 2007. So he misleads my husband and I. I contacted Ovation to take the deed back from Carriage Hills resort in Canada and they said NO. Referred to Fidelity who advised THEY HAVE NOT SOLD a Carriage Hills unit IN YEARS! 31 units are listed on Carriage Hills website for $1. Many owners are offering $400 gift certificates. Wyndham is the ring-leader. They should offer Ovation. https://www.redweek.com/forums/messages?thread_id=20770&page=last

#3 unresolved – a Medical Doctor

We purchased a Broadway Plantation timeshare in Myrtle Beach, a floating week, a long time ago for about $17,000. I have never used it. I have paid maintenance fees for many years. We were told the timeshare would be easy to sell.

I reached out to ARDA as they say timeshare now has a Responsible Exit program. When I contacted Broadway Plantation they said they do not take back timeshares. If there is a responsible exit, why doesn’t Broadway Plantation have one?

I feel defrauded, cheated and abused by the timeshare industry. Having an every other year timeshare for a single week has been a waste of money.  When I tried to use it, there was no availability. I have no intention of ever paying you any more money. I am 70 years old.   

#4 Unresolved S E

July 20, 2019

I am helping my father. He is age 83. Bellavista was purchased six or seven years ago. We are current with maintenance fees, no loan. He was delinquent with maintenance fees, he settled for about half what he owed..

#5 Inez

At age 87, I have been paying maintenance fees since 1991. I only used the timeshare a couple of times. We purchased Lehigh Resorts in 1991 in Florida. We have no loan. I’ve only used it twice since 1991. When I first bought it the maintenance fees were $300. Now they are $670. They said they would not take it back.

#6 Melissa

I purchased a timeshare a long time ago at The Seasons in Vermont. They will not take back the timeshare. I have filed a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General.

Melissa was provided with the following in writing at the time of purchase, statements in printed literature and in an email Melissa received from a Sugarbush manager dismissing her complaint:

  1. Our current owners are renting for premium dollars and receiving a very high rate of return on their investment, because of supply and demand. 
  2. If you rent your unit for less than 15 days/year, the rental income will not be includible in income–thus the income is tax-free and you would still be able to deduct your interest payments.
  3. The timeshare won’t be difficult to resell due to the lack of accommodations in the Sugarbush area (supply and demand). 
  4. Don’t listen to family & friends because it is an investment and a guarantee that we would take a vacation every year.

In addition to our 21 Free at Last participants, Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from Americano ARC owners. They are required to spend $5,000 to $6,000 for an RCI points-based Travel Club called Freedom 365 in order to be released from their timeshare they bought decades ago. We will address their concerns on Friday when we look into Travel Clubs.

I have grouped our 21 callers into the following groups:

  1. (7)Legacy resorts (pre-dating points),
  2. (5)Travel Clubs,
  3. (2)Timeshares bought in foreign countries,
  4. (7)Points-based timeshare 

Please Sign this Petition to Reform Timeshare:

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

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

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/ 

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/?ref=bookmarks

Well, that is all for this week, as you will have noticed Inside Timeshare has been a little sparse this week, August tends to be rather quiet as it is the main holiday month, very little news coming from the courts and elsewhere. But keep on checking, we never know when another story will break and as it does we will bring you the news right here.

Have a Great Weekend and join us again next week.

Start the Week: Update Advance Business Consultants Legal SL

Further to our article published on 23 April, regarding the liquidation of ABC Lawyers and Advance Business Consultants Legal SL both owned by Mark Rowe, new information has now come to light.

It appears that the Timeshare Consumer Association is now a trading name for Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL along with ABC Legal, ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation, Timeshare Advice, Timeshare Lawyer, Value My Timeshare, ABC Legal Reviews.

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.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timeshare-consumer-association-claims-independent-9367808

Mark Rowe

As we already know, several of his companies are under investigation by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Somerset and Avon Police as well as the Spanish authorities, these are:

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.


The Tuesday Slot

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.

ABC Lawyers is just one of the companies under the umbrella of Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL,  (formerly registered as Jive Hippo SL), CC Fañabe Plaza 338, Avenida Bruselas, Costa Adeje, 38660, S/C de Tenerife, it is also known as ABC Legal/Other companies are Timeshare Compensation, Timeshare Lawyer, ValueMyTimeshare and Timeshare Advice, all owned by Mark Rowe.

Mark Rowe is also the owner of the following companies registered in the UK, TULOCA LTD (10748107), LANSDOWN FINANCIAL LTD (09742346), STAYCATION LODGES (SCOTLAND) LIMITED (SC549238), STAYCATION LODGES LIMITED (10332646), JIVE HIPPO LIMITED (09863488), MONSTER TEMPCO LIMITED (09855107) and GORLEY VALE FARM LIMITED (09669372). Although he resigned as Director in February 2019, leaving Nicola Helen Rowe as the sole director.

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?

A deeded owner

Marriott Vacation Club Fights Back

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.”

https://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/manhattan-litigation-blog/2019/april/florida-judge-sustains-central-claims-in-suit-ag/?fbclid=IwAR2wlVr8NIPBZj9Mcg8vVQI7_yHJvTHkIWTU4NdT9XEC8QANg0rfR9wmZrs#.XKZAISFvVH0.facebook

Our Secret Shopper Experience

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:

  1. The acquiring company takes over management,
  2. Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
  3. Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
  4. The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
  5. Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
  6. Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
  7. Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
  8. Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
  9. Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

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/

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

Thank you to our Secret Shoppers for their report, these do help others to be aware of what actually goes on at these presentations and helps them to be prepared.

If you have any views or comments on any article published, use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes your insights.

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