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Friday’s Letter from America

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.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

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.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

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.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time a new person was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola.

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.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

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?

Finn

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.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

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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.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“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.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 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.

weekend

The Monday Briefing

Well, here we go the start of another week in the world of timeshare, over the weekend Inside Timeshare has received numerous enquiries regarding companies offering a variety of services.

One reader who unfortunately has been taken in by Armando Gareca Abogados and the Litigious Abogados family. They have paid Ricardo Sannino a substantial amount of money, they have since tried to contact them by telephone, but the number is out of service. Not a very good sign.

number no longer in service

To recap on how the scam works, timeshare owners are contacted usually via email and informed that a case has been filed at court against their timeshare company / resort, they can be included in the upcoming case (usually within the next few weeks). They are told how much they will receive and when this will happen, in order to have their case included in this prosecution, the procurator fees must be paid. This will be around 10% of the amount being claimed.

Within weeks, you receive confirmation that your case has been successful, that the Director, usually a Keith Baker or Keith Balker, has pleaded guilty. This name has been used as the director of the following companies:

Diamond; Club la Costa; Resort Properties / Silverpoint; Incentive Leisure Group / Designer Way Vacation Club, Club Class Concierge and several others.

Not bad really, the same person acting as director for many rival timeshare companies, who also pleads guilty to every case!

Part of the confirmation that you have been awarded this substantial amount is a copy of the “court” order verifying the amount and a copy of a cheque with your name and the amount on it. The problem is the cheque is made out on a Banesto cheque, this bank no longer exists, it was taken over in 2012 by Santander, who subsequently removed all Banesto logos and name from all cheques cards etc.

Compensation_Cheque-page-001

To receive this lovely amount, “tax” needs to be paid, this is around 21% of the awarded amount. This once again needs to be paid to the Procurador, before he can release the cheque.

So once you have paid this fee, you then receive an envelope by post, but surprisingly it has been opened, document from the court is there, but the cheque is missing. Then comes the next phase to the scam.

You receive a letter from another company, the last one was Manuel Valentin, who states that they have been charged by the court with the task of investigating the disappearance of the cheque and retrieving your money. They inform the client that a gang of Romanians have stolen the cheque and cashed it. Not bad considering the cheque was made out in your name.

In order to do this work, you must once again pay a fee of 10% of the amount, they will then work on your behalf and retrieve this money for you. Guess what, you will never get anything back, you are now several thousand pounds the lighter.

Some facts.

  • You do not have a case at court unless you have personally instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf.
  • Cases at court will take anything from 1 to 2 years to get there, not the weeks this lot say.
  • No cases will have gone to court in August, the courts are closed.
  • No director of any timeshare company or resort is going to plead guilty.
  • Courts do not issue cheques for money awarded. Certainly not using a bank that no longer exists.
  • No company is going to be charged by a court to investigate and retrieve stolen cheques.
  • There is no tax to pay on any awarded amount, Tax would have been paid to the court when your case was filed.
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will never be involved.
  • Unless your purchase was made in Spain, then you will not have a case in a Spanish court.

If you require any information on court procedures and payments of legal fees and taxes, contact Inside Timeshare and we will explain them to you.

Remember, before you ever pay out any money, do your due diligence and check who the company is, do not be taken in by the large sums these companies say is waiting for you. For the full story over the months search Litigious Abogados in the search box.

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Now on with another important story, this involves TimeshareTalk, a forum of timeshare owners, which was once seen as an independent place for the exchange of information and good advice.

Unfortunately there has been some dissention among the long standing members, as we know timeshare talk was the forum set up by the TCA, a once independent consumer website. These entities were sold a few months ago to Mark Rowe of Monster Credits, Hollywood Marketing and sellmytimeshare.tv fame.

Since his takeover, TCA have been doing nothing but extolling the virtues of of Mr Rowe’s new companies, such as ABC Lawyers. Timeshare talk members have had posts and discussions removed when they mention any of this person’s companies. The forum was no longer seen as the independent place for discussion. Totalitarian Regime practices took effect, the freedom of speech and expression which was the cornerstone of this forum had been eroded.

freedom of speach

But it is not all doom and gloom, many of those long standing members have now setup a new forum, Timeshare Users Forum, to bring in those lost ideals. It is a forum open for any timeshare user to join, you will need to go on the website and register as a user if you wish to participate.

Inside Timeshare has registered and will post any information that may be of interest to users, we will also be there to answer any questions with facts, if we do not know the answer, we will find out for you or point you in the right direction.

Inside Timeshare wishes this new forum the very best, we hope that the old ideals will be resurrected and also look forward to working with the members.

Follow the link to the new Timeshare Users Group Forum

https://www.timeshareusersforum.com/

August is almost over, so come September the courts will be back in full swing and we anticipate many more announcements of cases being won in favour of the consumer. Inside Timeshare will be keeping an eye on those announcements and will publish them here.

Tomorrow we will be publishing Part II of Hug your Haters, A Customer Service Message. This is based on the book, Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer, which is apparently available at most airport book stores. It is again written by our US colleague Irene Parker. Then this week’s Friday’s Letter from America will be travelling once again to the Land Down Under, for another installment from Justin Morgan our Antipodean colleague, in Friday’s Letter from Australia, this is titled “What Role Does Private Equity Play in Timeshare?”.

If you have any comments or questions, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try to answer them for you. If you have anything to share regarding your own experiences and would like others to benefit, we will work with you to publish your story.

So that is it for today, remember to do your due diligence, doing your homework will save you a lot of money and stress.

homework

Catching up on Some News.

Catching up with some of the news from last week, Canarian Legal Alliance look to be on a role, another four Supreme Court ruling have been announced. 2 November, they announce 3 rulings in one day, then on 11 November they announced another.

Again these ruling reaffirmed previous judgements from Spain’s Highest Court, contract over 50 years, Floating weeks and the taking of deposits during the cooling off period all ruled illegal, with the contracts being declared null and void. Just on these four alone a total of 95,570€ has been recovered.

CLA also announced the payout of 41,190€ by Anfi to their Finnish clients, the contract was also declared null and void. As the spokesperson for CLA confirmed, the courts are taking notice of the Supreme Court, sentences are coming through faster and the payments are also getting quicker.

It was also announced that Court No 5 of The First Instance in Tenerife, found for their British clients against Resort Properties / Silverpoint. In this judgement the court used the precedent of the contracts being over 50 years to make their ruling. The client will receive £17,476 plus legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

It certainly appears from the the way these judgements are coming in, the process is getting faster. With all the new cases this law firm has in various stages of the legal process, there will be many more being announced. At present, they seem to be announcing at least 3 rulings each week, sometimes more.

http://www.canarianlegalalliance.com/news/

On another note, it has been publicised that Tolemex Ltd (Bridgewell Consultants Ltd), owning company of the Timeshare Consumers Association and the forum timesharetalk has officially filed to be “struck off” the companies register. So the company is being dissolved, the question is why?

We know that this company is part of the Monster family, with Mark Rowe being the sole director, we also know there is a move by the law firm Athena Law to bring a case against them for liable. Could this be a method to avoid it?

To add to this it was also announced that Monster Travel and Sellmytimeshare.tv (Hollywood Marketing SL) have also had their membership terminated with the Direct Marketing Authority. This comes after an investigation by the Direct Marketing Commission, who found they had breached the codes of conduct laid down by the DMA.

So the next question is what will happen to the TCA if the owning company is dissolved?

Who or what company will take control?

Is it the end for the TCA?

These questions may be answered sometime in the future, but until then we will keep watching and report it when the news breaks.