Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this weeks article is by a new contributor, Della Morris C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S. with the introduction by Irene Parker. As is usual with articles such as this, Inside Timeshare submitted the draft to the company concerned for comment. The reason for this is very simple, we hope that the situation can be resolved and on some occasions the article is then not published when a positive outcome is achieved.
In the case of some companies, no response is received, then when the article is published they start to issue legal notices, sending in the lawyers with threats because they don’t like what has been published. Well, that is their problem, they are given ample warning but fail to respond.
In the case of this article we did receive a response from ARC, all credit is due to them, you can read their comment in Irene’s introduction.
The Hardship created by Perpetual Timeshare Contracts without a Secondary Market
By Della Morris, an Americano Beach Resort owner in foreclosure
Introduction by Irene Parker
August 14, 2018
Inside Timeshare has published two articles about Americano Beach Resort as the developer, ARC, works toward reopening the resort damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Work is progressing, but today’s article is about how the perpetual timeshare contract is forcing senior after senior into foreclosure, often those with high credit scores who have rarely been late on a payment. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing, but for some seniors the relentless calls can affect their health and wellbeing. We’re not singling out Americano, or their current developer, ARC, as this is an industry wide problem. A few companies, like Wyndham and Diamond Resorts, are offering voluntary surrender programs, alleviating the problem for some.
My husband and I owned a deeded week at Port Elsewhere (named after the medical drama series St. Elsewhere from the 80s), Osage Beach in the Missouri Ozarks for almost 30 years. Living in Florida, we no longer desire to vacation in Branson. I called the resort, spoke to the person I had gotten to know over the years, who responded to my request to deed back with, “Yeah, we discussed this at our HOA meeting and decided it’s not fair to place such a hardship on aging owners, especially those who have faithfully paid their maintenance fees for so long. I’ll send you the form to sign and return.” We left Port Elsewhere holding no animosity, only fond memories. We knew it was time to go when all our neighbors said, “My grandma and grandpa bought this!”
Out of the 530 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare, not one was aware of how difficult getting out of a timeshare can be. Almost daily we hear from another senior bracing for timeshare foreclosure. Many of their stories are heartbreaking, and for more than a few, devastating.
For timeshare members, lucky enough to have purchased a timeshare that does have some salability, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no money upfront and can provide straight answers if your timeshare has no secondary market. Scams asking for upfront money to “get you out of your timeshare or your money back” abound. Based on 530 reader complaints, honesty is in short supply. Many of our readers have been duped by exit scams. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/
Della is at her wit’s end. She contacted Inside Timeshare after reading Meryl Stefan’s July 27 article that contained a description of Freedom 365, an exit and travel plan ARC is offering deeded owners. For many original buyers, the answer to their timeshare nightmare is not to spend more money by joining a Travel Club.
Della had already talked to ARC, but hoping to help find a solution I contacted ARC and was provided the following information. Della will follow up.
The Association does have a hardship surrender policy. It’s managed by the administrative manager at the resort (Contact information was provided). Generally, the policy is that the owner has to bring their account current before the Association will accept the deed, but we’ll work with every owner based on their specific needs.
I believe many complaints can be resolved by finding the right person to talk to. The salespeople are paid to sell, so the sales agents mentioned in Della’s article were probably not the proper people to talk to about a deed-back. Through dialog we hope to create a kinder, gentler relationship between disgruntled owners and developers.
By Della Morris, C.P.A., M.B.A., M.S.
I am 70 years old and currently live in Virginia. I bought my Americano timeshare in 1994. It has been difficult for me to pay my dues each year and many times I asked Americano Resort to take my week back, even before ARC acquired Americano. When I bought the timeshare, I had no idea timeshare can be a product that cannot be sold or given back.
I had a back and neck injury that resulted in eight surgeries from 1990 thru 1997. Many years my income was low, but I continued to pay the fees. I owe dues for 2017 and 2018, but cannot afford to pay them. I paid Americano maintenance fees from 1994 until 2016, despite never using the timeshare.
Sometimes you get the feeling that these resorts lump all seniors together like a herd of sheep. We are people. To give you an idea of my background, I worked for a company that audited corporations. A congressional law was passed by Senators Sarbanes and Oxley in response to the Enron scandal. The law required public companies with a certain amount of equity to have an independent audit by an auditing firm not connected with the company that prepared their annual report.
When my health failed, I did not apply for Social Security. It was such a cumbersome process, so I just worked the best I could, sometimes for minimum wage, taking anything I could get. I have lived in West Virginia, Florida and North Carolina and was eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation in each of those states.
My contact with ARC, (Bernie and Edwin)
Edwin from ARC called me August 8 about turning over my Americano unit with a quit claim deed so my special assessments and annual fees would be forgiven, but they were asking $5,000 in order to do so, to join their Travel Club, Freedom 365. He said this would be a better deal for me than staying with Americano Resort. Edwin said Americano will continue to have large annual assessment fees and I will have to pay assessments plus maintenance fees each year.
Edwin stated if I do not pay the assessment and maintenance fees, my timeshare would go to foreclosure, plus I will have to pay property taxes. I told Edwin I knew of many not happy with the current Americano situation, with the resort not open. In my situation, I would be paying out good money after bad. I could not decide that day. They said they had to have $1,000 to hold the offer. I paid $500 with my credit card, but disputed the charge because of their aggressive sales tactics.
Freedom 365 would require I travel to one of their properties at least one time per year at a cost of $299. I never even stayed at the resort I bought! They also offered 1,000 points each year to be deposited to my account so I could book other stays. The difference between the price given and the discount rate would come from the points. Points would not carry over if not used, or if some were remaining at the end of the year, after paying $299 for travel and the other travel destinations through Freedom 365. This plan sounded convoluted and the last thing I needed to do was pay an additional $5,000 for something I never used.
They told me foreclosure letters would be going out soon. I wrote a check for my 2017 dues but apparently the check was never cashed. I feel the industry needs to do something besides browbeat seniors who have been paying them money for years, holding them as financial hostages. So, I brace for the collection calls and demand letters. I find the industry shameful.
Thank you to Della for sharing her story and to ARC for their response. Della is not alone. Inside Timeshare has been flooded with complaints, and not just from seniors. We hope industry executives will wake up and realize this is not the way to keep timeshare viable and healthy. Many families are devastated.
If you or someone you know has a timeshare problem, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below.
We seek to provide timeshare members 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.
Thank you Della for your article and also to Irene for the editing and introduction, also a big thank you to ARC for responding, at least they have informed us and our readers that they do have a policy in place and who it is managed by. As Irene stated in her introduction, it really does depend on who you speak with, if only other timeshare resorts and developers informed members of the correct department, we would not have the situation we have today.
If you have any comments or questions on this or any other article published, Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you, use our contact page and please let us know where you are located. This helps us to make sure we get the correct answers for you.
Also it is that time of year, especially in Europe, when many cold calling “scam” companies start to make contact, if you are contacted by any company or even found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.