Monday, March 18, 2019

When Does ‘Comprised Of’ Not Mean ‘Made Up Of’?

Merriam Webster defines ‘comprised of’ as ‘to be made up of.’  So, you’d think that as a timeshare owner, you would have certainly heard of an organization that is comprised of one million plus owners just like you. You’d be wrong. 

Welcome to the spin zone that’s timeshare. Read on. 

Chances are you’ve seen a line item on your annual maintenance fee bill of between $3 and $10, although I’ve heard from some owners $15, that is a voluntary contribution to ARDA-ROC. What is ARDA-ROC you ask, since many owners pay this fee without knowing that it’s voluntary or anything about the organization?

Here’s some information off of ARDA-ROC’s own website:

ARDA-ROC is comprised of one million-plus timeshare owners across the country who  voluntarily contribute between $3-$10 a year to advocate for local, state and federal policies that are beneficial to timeshare owners. 

Hmmm, I hear you saying. That’s pretty cool that more than 1 million timeshare owners comprise the organization. You had no idea that so many owners were involved in timeshare advocacy. Of course you didn’t, because that’s not really how the organization works. It seems that the phrase ‘comprised of one-million plus timeshare owners...’ doesn’t mean that ANY owners are involved in ROC’s activities. 

Again, from their own website is a list of companies that participate:

ARDA-ROC Participants 
ARDA wishes to thank the following companies and their owners for participating in ARDA-ROC and/or ARDA-ROC PAC. 

Bluegreen Corporation
Breckenridge Grand Vacations
Carriage House
Christie Lodge Owners Association
Daily Management, Inc.
Defender Resorts, Inc.
Diamond Resorts
Eastern Slope Inn Resort
East West Destination Hospitality
Exploria Resorts
Festiva Development Group
GoodManagement, Inc.
Harbor Ridge Condominium Association
Hilton Grand Vacations Company
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Hyatt Vacation Ownership, Inc
Kenoyer Real Estate Corp.
Las Olas Resorts, Inc.
Legacy Vacation Club
Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation
Royal Aloha Vacation Club
Royal Islander Club
Royal Suites IOA
Scottsdale Camelback Resort.
Silver Lake Resort, Ltd.
SPM Resorts, Inc.
Stoneridge Resort.
Trapp Family Housing Cooperative, Inc.
Trapp Family Housing Cooperative Two, Inc.
Vacation Resorts International
Vistana Signature Experiences
VSA Resorts
Welk Resorts
Wyndham Destinations

Wait, I hear you say. You own a timeshare at one of these timeshares and have never been told anything about ROC, never been asked if you’d like to participate in what they do or been kept up to date on what they’re doing?  Imagine that. 

Surely, there must be an average owners, or better yet an owners’ advocate sitting on ROC’s Board that is standing up for owners’ rights. Wrong. Here, again directly from their own website is a listing of their Board Members:

Ken McKelvey CPA, RRP, ARDA-ROC Chairman, Defender Resorts, Inc.
John Albert, Marriott Vacations Worldwide
Travis Bary, RRP, Capital Vacations 
 Ada Grzywna, Bluegreen Vacations
Janice Feirstein RRP, Daily Management, Inc.
Jon Fredericks, RRP, Welk Resorts
Don Harrill RRP, Holiday Inn Club Vacations 

Neil Hutchinson RRP, Hilton Grand Vacations Company 
William Ingersoll RRP, Holland & Knight 
 Robert Miller, RRP, Marriott Vacations Worldwide
 Richard Muller, RRP, VRI Resorts
 Ron Naves, Welk Resorts
 Tom Nelson, Holiday Inn Club Vacations
 Howard Nusbaum RRP, ARDA
 Geoff Richards, Wyndham Destinations
 Lisa Siegert-Free RRP, Christie Lodge
 Robert Spottswood, Spottswood Companies, Inc.
 Sverre Thomassen, Marriott Desert Springs Villas
  Kimberly Tramontana RRP, Breckenridge Grand Vacations
 Chris Van Ruiten RRP, Comerica Securities, Inc.   
  Mark Wang, Hilton Grand Vacations
  Robert Webb Esq., RRP, Baker & Hostetler 
  Stephen Weisz, RRP, Marriott Vacations Worldwide

No owners. No owners groups. No owner advocates. Just timeshare industry people. Taking the low number, ARDA-ROC obtains $3,000,000 from voluntary owner contributions annually. It’s probably closer to $5,000,000. 

And what does ROC do with these funds?  Recently they had one of their lobbyists in Arizona working hard against legislation that would give more protections to owners and prospective owners. They also were hard at work in Florida last week, petitioning legislators to mandate that a consumer be given 24 hours to look over and review a contract from any company or individual who claimed to be able to get someone out of a timeshare. Which sounds good, if you overlook the fact that they’re unwilling to mandate that same review period to anyone purchasing a timeshare. 

Now, I’m not saying that ROC hasn’t done owners any good. What I am saying is that consumers and legislators alike had better start paying more attention to anything and everything timeshare related. 

Imagine if 1,000,000 plus owners stopped voluntarily contributing unless/until they knew for certain their voices were being heard. 

Here’s the first thing owners should do:  Go back and review your last 5 years of maintenance fees and see how much you’ve unknowingly ‘voluntarily’ contributed to ROC. Then call both your resort and ARDA-ROC and ask why you’re not being kept up to date on what is going on with your contributions. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

When Is A Timeshare a “401-V”?

I’ve previously written about the pending legislation in both Florida and Arizona. In the case of the pending legislation in Arizona, I’ve quoted Don Issacson who is a lobbyist for ARDA as saying, “The state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.”  He continued, “You are buying real estate, you are buying it as an adult. You read the documents and unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

I’d love to hear what Mr Issacson has to say about this encounter with a sales agent:

“Sales agent Eric told us that we were buying points at a low rate, less than $4 per point, and that “at this price the point value can only go up.” We could sell some points at a profit and keep the original base points for travel. Ultimately getting our entire purchase for free, he called it a “401-V”.  He said he would lock the price for one year in case we decided to get more points later to utilize our “401-V”. We have since learned REDACTED DEVELOPER NAME points are virtually worthless on resale.

The forms were long and extensive. We asked for time to review the documents but were pressured into signing “today” or not get the price per point offered.  After seven hours, my husband got upset and left. Eric followed us to our room insisting that we sign. We thought that Eric must be telling the truth, because if he wasn’t, there would be some sort of regulation. We incorrectly put our faith in Eric.”

This is an example of why consumers need more protection from unscrupulous sales personnel 

If you live in, own timeshare in, or just feel it’s important as I do, contact the legislators in those states. A call to Mr Issacson might be in order as well. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Arizona Certainly Is Paying Attention

This is HUGE news. 

Things are getting quite interesting in Arizona, which while not quite the hotbed of timeshare activity that Florida is, is still an important state. 

House Bill 2639 which has already passed  UNANIMOUSLY out of the House Committee on Regulatory Affairs contains some major points. Among them:

>It would make it possible for people who buy a timeshare and keep it for at least ten years to simply walk away from it if they no longer want it

>Doubling the current rescission period from 7 days to 14 days

> Another quasi-rescission period that would a secondary ‘rescission’ period which would allow buyers to opt out within 14 days of actually using their timeshare and be entitled to 90% of their money back (Someone has obviously read my blog about a “timeshare restocking fee”

You can read the entire Bill here:

ARDA; the organization that represents the timeshare industry, is very much against the bill, or at least large portions of it to no one’s surprise. Don Isaacson, one of ARDA’s lobbyists was quoted in an article by the Arizona Capitol Times which you can read in it’s entirety here

“This bill goes too far. No state allows someone to simply give back a unit after 10 years.”

More telling and insane he said “The 
state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.”  He continued, “You are buying real estate, you are buying it as an adult. You read the documents and unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

BUYING REAL ESTATE?  READ THE DOCUMENTS?  Seriously? The vast majority of timeshares being sold by developers these days have little to no relation to real  estate, they’re simply an allocation of points that allow the purchaser, and the general public alike, the right to access an oftentimes Byzantine reservation system. No one is given the full set of documents until after they’ve signed on the dotted line. I wonder if Mr Isaacson has ever been on the receiving end of a timeshare sales pitch. I’m kidding of course, I don’t wonder at all. 

In another article, Mr Issacson was quoted as saying, “The state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal."  I couldn’t make this up if I tried. 

If you live in Arizona, or quite frankly own timeshare in Arizona, I urge you to contact one or more of these legislators and let them know your thoughts on the subject. 

Bolick, Shawnna  (602) 926-3244         (Bill sponsor)
Biasiucci, Leo (602) 926-3018
Blackman, Walter (602) 926-3043
Carroll, Frank (602) 926-3249
Dunn, Timothy M. (602) 926-4139
Fillmore, John (602) 926-3187
Finchem, Mark (602) 926-3122
Grantham, Travis (602) 926-4868   (Committee Chair)
Kavanagh, John (602) 926-5170
Payne, Kevin (602) 926-4854
Roberts, Bret (602) 926-3158
Toma, Ben (602) 926-3298
Weninger, Jeff (602) 926-3092

I’m glad that someone in Arizona at least is paying here. Consumers have gotten the bad end of a deal for too long. It’s about time to increase consumers’ rights and bring some transparency to timeshare. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Something’s Fishy With This Broker’s Fiduciary Responsibilty

Look at these listings, the first page of many, that I found on a timeshare broker’s site for Wyndham points at their Bonnet Creek property. 

400,000  $48,500 
154,000   $1,900
126,000    $17,000
105,000    $11,000
189,000     $21,000
 64,000      $12,000
 84,000       $10,352
320,000     $21,900
 84,000      $152,258
126,000      $8,500
105,000      $10,500
168,000      $11,281
105,000      $8,600
128,000      $15,832
 84,000       $12,277.70
511,000       $60,000
525,000      $28,000
 84,000        $12,507
166,000       $12,130

I don’t know about you, but these listings make absolutely no sense and send a clear warning sign that something is amiss. All of these listings are for the same resort and all are for points. Points, for those of you unfamiliar with timeshare, are the ‘currency’ whereby an owner has access to a reservation system. You don’t actually own much of anything. So while no one house or condo is exactly the same-difference with lot size, view, layout, floor of building, etc. , points at a resort are all exactly the same. 

Now how is it that in this broker’s exact words from their own website; “15 years of experience and an outstanding reputation in the timeshare industry, our licensed real estate agents are vacation ownership experts and we promote timeshare listings using extensive digital marketing
that provides exposure to prospective buyers from across the globe” they can charge such drastically different prices for the exact same product while all the while, operating with the seller’s fiduciary interests at heart?

One of the reasons I tell people to work with a broker when selling their timeshare is that in theory, a broker will help owners determine a sensible price to list their timeshare for in order to maximize their chances of a sale. 

If these insane listings aren’t bad enough, a quick glance at will clearly show that the average selling price of a timeshare at Wyndham Bonnet Creek dating back from 2012 is $1,000 based on more than 1,000 verified sales. 

Something is fishy here and this broker has some questions they need to answer. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

There Aren’t Enough Cliches To Describe These Proposed Laws

The people who run the very large timeshare industry in Florida have proposed some significant changes to the existing laws as they pertain to the so-called timeshare exit companies. 

You can read the entire proposed bill here:

Now while I agree that consumers are being ripped off at an alarming rate by the vast majority of these firms, some, if not most of the proposals being put forth are laughable. If this isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is. 

While these proposed rules and oversights directed at timeshare exit companies, are well intended and do provide some protection for consumers, I feel strongly that they go above and beyond current rules and oversights in place for the timeshare industry. If the legislature chooses to implement these rules, I ask that similar rules be implemented for the timeshare developers engaged in the sale of timeshare interests, whether weeks or points. 

In particular I find that if the consumer is to be provided with a copy of the agreement to review at least 1 business day before the purchaser is to sign the agreement (Lines 316-318), the same methodology must be implemented by the developer attempting to sell a timeshare interest. It’s important to remember that the current paradigm of a “90 minute sales presentation after which the consumer is forced to make a purchasing decision or forfeit their right to make a decision in the future without benefit of seeing, much less reading the contract, POS, etc.” was instituted 40 years ago by the timeshare industry and can be easily changed if they wanted to change it. 

Additionally I find that if exit companies are to perform “random recording and testing of the oral representations made by employees or independent contractors
engaged in sales or other customer service functions, if the provider uses telemarketing” the timeshare developer should do the same as a way to protect the interests of the consumer. 

If a consumer is to be informed about options before dealing with an exit company, then should timeshare developers not give out similar options to consumers, such as AirBnB, etc?  At the very least, the timeshare seller should be required to make it clear that they are working in the interests of the developer, such as a real estate agent must disclose they are a seller’s agent. 

These are just a few of what I consider salient points of this proposed legislation that deserve a very careful review. As I said, at first glance it seems both innocuous and a boom to consumers. Read it again. 

Of course, none of these proposed rules and oversights would be necessary for timeshare exit companies if in fact the timeshare developers themselves offered viable alternatives for consumers who for one reason or another, do not want their timeshare interest any longer. The timeshare industry has done everything in its power to suppress a secondary market, thereby opening the doors for these exit companies to thrive as consumers feel they have no other choice. 

If you feel strongly about this, as I do, here’s who you should contact

Senator Travis Hutson

Representative Mike LaRosa

Representative Wyman Duggan

Friday, February 1, 2019

Governor Bryan Wants Overhaul of Timeshare Sales Regime in USVI

The United States Virgin Islands won't have a timeshare amendment added to the books this year, after newly elected Governor Albert Bryan took a strong, independent stance and vetoed Timeshare Bill 32-0351. The American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the industry trade group of developers in the United States, drafted what it called a new set of "model laws" that would take recent changes in the industry into account. 

What were those changes? In the most basic terms, the current laws in the USVI are similar to most states in the U.S. which are structured around the sale of deeded timeshare ownership, which is real property, as opposed to what many consider a service contract of a points club membership which do not involve any real estate interest whatsoever. Today, nearly every major resort developer sells a points model program with only a small number  still selling the original deeded vacation product. So ARDA worked to get their bill sponsored and lobbied aggressively to get it passed through the territory's legislature. 

Many observers agreed that this bill favored developers to the detriment of the consumer. Last year, ARDA also filed litigation against the territory after the "timeshare room tax" was deleted and replaced with an impact fee that appeared to have no difference in cost to consumers, but had apparently never been enforced. Developers said those extra fees would make it more difficult for them to sell vacation club points to members. 

While ARDA was seeking to get its "model" amendments added to the existing laws, both the litigation and perhaps more importantly the recent changes to the vacation club product seem to have crossed the Govenor's desk at the same time. In one of his first acts, he decided not to sign the bill and requested instead that the legislature act on a comprehensive overhaul of the timeshare sales regime to include ownership rights, sales protocols, licensing and regulation of salespersons, property taxation reporting and foreclosure.  

This more stringent overhaul sends a clear message that Governor Bryan is not willing to settle for the same old practices that have been in place and perhaps signals that consumers need more protection than had been previously granted them in the US Virgin Islands. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

If It’s Important To You Ask To See It In The Contract

As if last week’s post of common lies, I mean misrepresentations, told at a timeshare sales session wasn’t enough, here’s a recap of an email I received:

Here is a list of some of the lies we were told:

>They said we would own property that wouldn’t depreciate and we could use it as a tax write off

>They said there was a resale department that we could use if we ever wanted to get out of the timeshare. What they purposely didn’t mention when they misled us was that it has to be paid off first

>They said we could cover maintenance costs by renting the timeshare out. Unfortunately, the rental market is as overcrowded with useless timeshares as the resale market. So, we do not have a penny from rentals but we do have increasing maintenance fees

>They neglected to tell us about many charges including not booking 60 days in advance as well as for booking in places other than where we signed up

>They told us we could use our points for airfare, cruises, car rental and other amenities. What they didn’t say as that it would take hundreds and thousands of dollars to get this many points

>They told us we were buying in the location that they showed us but
our contract is actually located at a different place

>They didn’t tell us about the rescission period either

ALL of this could have been easily avoided by the consumer a) using a modicum of common sense and b) asking to see exactly where the pertinent clause is in the contract. This person paid over $12,000 for her timeshare. 

What I don’t understand is this:  If these things were so important to her and may have been some of the reasons she purchased seeing as she clearly remembers these items more than 4 years after purchasing, WHY didn’t she ask to see where these items were covered in the contract?