Today Inside Timeshare revisits an old company which has been the subject of many articles, ABC Lawyers, another company owned by the infamous Mark Rowe. As we already know Mark Rowe and several of his companies are under investigation by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Somerset & Avon Police and the Spanish authorities. We also know that when the original raids took place they were well-coordinated as both Spanish and UK authorities mounted them simultaneously, several weeks ago we also heard that the Spanish Authorities again raided Mark Rowe’s company offices yet again.
Today’s story is one that may well be familiar to any other reader who has had the misfortune to have dealings with Mark Rowe and ABC Lawyers. It involves an elderly couple who were contacted by ABC a couple of years ago and offered help in relinquishing their contract with Orange Lake in Florida and claiming compensation.
They were invited to meeting with ABC Lawyers who also paid for them to stay at a hotel near to their offices. While there they were “pitched” with a very convincing story that ABC could indeed get them out of their timeshare and also get them compensation. After several hours they decided to sign up with ABC.
They and their family also went through all the contracts and documents provided by ABC, they too were convinced this was genuine.
Eventually, they received a very convincing letter to tell them they were now out of their timeshare contract with Orange Lake and any demands for maintenance fees should be ignored and sent to ABC.
Now two years down the line they have discovered that they had not been released from their contract and are receiving demands and threats of legal action by Orange Lake. They have also been told that Orange Lake has placed a “LIEN” on their property. This has obviously frightened them and the family.
The definition of a lien is:
a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged.
“they shall be entitled to a lien on any lot sold”
What is a lien and how does it work?
It’s a claim that someone or something has on property that you possess or use. The individual or entity that has the claim—such as a lender—can repossess or foreclose on the property if you don’t make payments on an associated loan or perform other agreed-upon terms.
So for this couple who are European residents owning a timeshare in the US is very good news, Inside Timeshare has sent them a draft letter asking Orange Lake to foreclose, which is what they wanted in the first place.
It is also a fact that US timeshare companies cannot chase for any debts in Europe or affect the owner’s credit standing they do not have any legal jurisdiction.
So we know that ABC Lawyers were taking money for relinquishments and telling the clients to just stop paying maintenance, unfortunately for those who owned in Europe they are now finding that they owe considerable sums in maintenance arrears, ABC Lawyers and Mark Rowe did absolutely nothing apart from taking peoples money!
There is only one small problem there, the purchase was made over 25 years ago and so no claim could be made as there is a 6-year time limit. It is also a fact that even if they were within the time limit, having used the timeshare they have received the goods and services paid for. The credit card provider will always contact the supplier of the goods or services paid for and will then reject the claim.
Section 75 covers, not receiving the goods or services paid for, faulty or unfit for purpose goods, the company has gone into liquidation. It will not cover the mis-selling of a timeshare or the fact the timeshare contract might be illegal.
According to our reader, they have now been passed to another Mark Rowe company, Lansdown Finacial Ltd. Mark Rowe resigned as director 30 May 2019, we suspect that is because of all the investigations into his activities that are taking place.
At least there may be a good ending to this story, the couple will be out of their timeshare, plus they also have a good claim against ABC Lawyers to get back the thousands of pounds they paid, this was done on their credit card and as they have not received the goods or services they were promised plus the fact that ABC Lawyers are now in liquidation they never will.
This is another example that you need to do your homework before engaging with any company that has contacted you regarding your timeshare.
Have you had any dealings with the companies named here or any other company that is owned and operated by Mark Rowe, if so use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.
We start this week with a look at some of the companies we have highlighted over the past few months, many of these are now going into liquidation. These companies are in most case only around two years old and began as “contract termination”with “no win no fee” claims once the contract has been cancelled. We also look at some of those that are under investigation or are in court and those that have even been sentenced.
First we look at RSB Legal, this company first came to our attention back in 2016, there modas operandi was very simple, once they contacted the timeshare owner the offer was to meet at one of their offices to discuss a “no win no fee” claim against the clients timeshare company. This soon turned into a pitch for the cancellation of the contract first, once this had been completed then the claim could go forward.
The one problem was they needed upwards of £6,000 to do the cancellation to be paid in advance, the claim would come later. The question that was asked was how was the claim to be made? After all it couldn’t go to court, especially if it was a timeshare bought in Spain, as once a contract is cancelled then no claim could be taken to court.
This left a Section 75 claim under The Credit Consumer Act 1974, against the credit card company or the finance company if it was purchased with a loan supplied by the timeshare company.
These were unlikely to have paid out, as with all section 75 claims you must show either: you have not received the goods or services paid for; the company has gone into liquidation; faulty goods unfit for purpose. This is fine if you are purchasing say a washing machine, but with a holiday product, especially a timeshare purchased many years ago, you will have used it and taken holidays. Even if the company no longer exists it would be difficult to get a payout.
Section 75 does not cover the misrepresentation of the sales agent at the time of purchase, if it is not in the contract it was never said!
The credit card provider will always contact the company involved to get their side, obviously, they will say that you have received the goods and services, after all you have used it. You may argue that you were unable to use it as you could not get the dates you required, the answer of the timeshare company is always going to be, sorry but these are always subject to availability, we did offer alternatives but the member didn’t want those. Hence claim denied.
Another twist is RSB Legal palmed off the cancellations to another firm Taylor Marshall Associates, a very clever move as if the contract wasn’t cancelled, no claim could be made against RSB Legal under section 75. They would claim that they have fulfilled their part of the contract and it was Taylor Marshall who had not done the work.
This is a scenario that we have seen on many occasions with many of these “Exit Companies”. Once it is passed over the client is then told that they should no longer pay their maintenance fees as their contract will be cancelled within weeks. The unfortunate thing is that nothing was done, the exit company did not carry out the work and the client ends up with several years of maintenance fee arrears. This has been the case with RSB Legal clients passed to Taylor Marshall, especially those members of Club la Costa. In this case CLC had informed RSB and Taylor that they do not recognise them, that they do not deal with third parties, but will cancel a membership directly with the member only and free of charge!
For those clients who have been through this, you can try a section 75 claim, but you should also report to Trading Standards and Action Fraud.
So it looks like all these companies were all working hand in hand, the unifying factor appears they all worked with or for RSB Legal. The unfortunate thing is that many people have paid and lost thousands, yet these companies are limited liability companies and go into liquidation after spiriting the money away leaving no way of retrieving what you have lost. It just makes you wonder what new companies and scams they owners are going to come up with next.
A good example is one reader, an elderly lady who saw one of his adverts in the Royal British Legion magazine, so naturally she thought it was genuine. The next thing is she had been sold Monster Credits. As we explained, just because the advert appears in a publication which we know and trust, does not mean it is genuine. After all, the magazine publishers need to sell advertising space to cover costs, they don’t check if advertisers are genuine, they only take the money.
Back in February we also reported on the jailing of several people involved in a long running timeshare scam, this revolved around the resale of timeshare. It then went on to contacting those who paid to sell their timeshare being contacted yet again, this time to get the money back from the original scam. There was then a third part, another company called to say they had been appointed by the Spanish courts to contact clients who had been scammed before, that there was money waiting for them and a tax needed to be paid to release the money.
The full article can be seen by following the link below:
There is still no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or his Daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group. From information received this may not be taking place until around September. This leaves it very difficult for those taken in by the Leisure Credits to be able to get their money back. When new information becomes available we will publish it here.
So, we are losing some of these companies, but how long before other surface to take their place, as always, beware the calls offering “no win no fee” claims, the guaranteed exit solution or the “fake”law firm that tells you a case against your timeshare company is about to go to court or has been to court. Check, check and check again, do your homework, contact Inside Timeshare if you want help in checking the validity of any company that has contacted you or even one you have found either on the internet or advertising in the press.
Tomorrow we publish another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this week it is about “Special Assessments” at the Americano Beach Resort.
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.