Today we travel across The Pond and report on the battles that are going on in the US with regards to Diamond Resorts. We know from past articles that Diamond are not the favourite timeshare company in the US, their underhand tactics on sales presentations have been well reported here. We have also reported on Diamonds legal battles with “exit” companies, a problem which to be honest is of their own making, today we bring you news of yet another lawsuit brought by Diamond against one such company. We also include news of another case which was concluded last year which Diamond actually lost.
The case was filed at The United States District Court For The Western District Of Missouri Southern Division, with the case number 6:18 – cv – 03053 – MDH. This case ended with an injunction against the company and its agents and employees. This injunction is permanent.
The details of the injunction are far-reaching and basically ends this company’s involvement with any Diamond member. The full text of the injunction can be read at the following link:
According to our friends in the US, Branson is a bit of a hotbed for some rather deceitful sales agents. It seems that one former sales manager was named in a lawsuit by Wyndham against The Transfer Group. He was working for Diamond at the time.
Another former sales agent was found to be working for an “exit” company named Mutual Release. This was not long after he had sold a Diamond member points with the promise of “making good money” by renting out his Diamond points, but as we found out some time ago this is not allowed via any 3rd party website.
It turns out that Chudy was a former Branson sales manager and Dickleman a sales agent both with Diamond Resorts!
It also turns out that both had complaints made against them by consumers, which at first were ignored with the usual Diamond response “you signed the contract”. This dispute was later resolved.
According to our US friends, it is common knowledge that leave the company have “pirated” data, because Diamond points are not deeded, therefore that information is not readily available from any public records.
Well, we all know that sales staff keep records of all their own sales and clients, we also suspect that many will “download” further information from company records. Inside Timeshare has mentioned this on numerous occasions when answering the question “where did they get my information from as it was so detailed”!
The simple answer is it is their “insurance policy” in the case of being made redundant, don’t forget the vast majority of sales agents/reps are self-employed and paid on a commission-only basis.
Moving on now to The Newton Group, who were on the receiving end of Diamonds never-ending attacks on any “exit” company. It appears this company which has been running for 15 years has a very good reputation, with high ratings including an A+ from the BBB.
According to Diamonds complaint, The Newton Group used scare tactics in a letter about “unprecedented increases” in maintenance fees. Diamond claimed that the advertisement was “literally false”.
They petitioned the court to find a Newton Group mailshot which stated that timeshare owners “may be affected by new Timeshare Laws allowing developers to raise maintenance fees with no restriction” was false. According to Diamond, developers are not permitted to raise maintenance fees and that there are “no laws that allow maintenance fees to be raised without restriction”.
In response, The Newton Group produced evidence to the court which clearly showed that the law does indeed “permit developers such as Diamond Resorts to raise maintenance fees, and that certain maintenance fees may be raised without restriction, as evidenced by a publication made by Diamond Resorts itself wherein Diamond advises consumers that certain maintenance fees may be raised without limitation”.
They also produced evidence that Diamond does inform consumers of the following:
″[T]he only limit on any increase in Assessments for Collection Costs is the statutory general limit found in section 721.55(4)(h)2, Florida Statutes, which prohibits the total Assessments for Collection Costs from exceeding 125% of the total Assessments for the preceding fiscal year. This prohibition does not apply to the assessments levied by the Component Site Owners Associations.”
The judge agreed with The Newton Group and Diamond lost the case. The full story can be seen at the following link:
It certainly looks like the gloves are off in the US, with lawsuits between developers and “exit” companies being thrown about as if there was no tomorrow.
As we have said before, all the problems that owners/members have when it comes to ending any timeshare agreement begin with the developers themselves and their intransigent attitude to not allowing anyone to leave. Well, they will but they usually want huge sums of money to be paid to let you out, or you have to purchase another product with the promise it will end your contract in the next 2 years or whatever time scale they decide. Diamond is just one company who used this method in order to sell “fractional” in Europe, which in Spain is illegal as it is a points-based product.
Until the developers take steps to ensure that their sales agents and managers don’t lie, just to get the “sale” and allow an easy exit, then this problem will not go away. This can be seen by the number of “new exit” scams that are appearing not just in the US but also in Europe.
Inside Timeshare would like to thank our US friends for the information on this subject, we did not go into depth as the article is to show our European readers that their cousins over the pond are in the same situation.
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.