Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Manhattan Club News

Some of you are aware of the ongoing nasty business at The Manhattan Club.

If you're not, I urge you to do some research; it will serve as a cautionary tale and spur you to pay more attention to what is going on at your resort.

For those of you who are affected, here's some important information:


Court:   New York Civil Supreme

Index Number:  654023/2015

Case Name:        BARNETT, GLENN E vs. EICHNER, IAN BRUCE

Case Type:          Cd-Econtract

Track:    Complex

This is Class Action so will include all owners. Mr. Wasser's group is separate. People don't Have to join Class Action.

This is a separate action from the one that Mr. Wasser is handling.

Owners should continue to contact NYAG's office.

Additionally:


TMC has new counsel—that is why the early February hearing on unfreezing legal fees was postponed until 3/31. new firm, Gibson Dunn .. and the bad news: http://www.gibsondunn.com/lawyers/rmastro;

He is a NYC mover and shaker, and a very expensive lawyer and law firm. It is costing TMC/Urban a ton. This is the law firm that represented the State of New Jersey/Gov. Christie in the Bridgegate case.

Everyone should make sure they have written to the judge objecting to this; and (2) maybe getting some people to the argument on 3/31 even if it might be postponed again. This is a big hearing—if the judge allows TMC’s/Urban’s motion, they may be allowed to be paid legal fees out of owner maintenance fees. In previous briefs filed with the court, TMC has already argued that its legal fees for all defendants are running $50K-$100K/month. Once the discovery gets going, it will cost even more.
Write to:


Honorable Justice Eileen Rakower,
Supreme Court of the State of New York 
71 Thomas St.
Part 15
New York, New York 10013

Questions?

Guest Post-Fake News and Timeshare

Today's Guest Post is from attorney Michael Finn.  As always, respectful comments are welcome.


Whatever your political affiliation, you’ve probably heard of – and groaned at – the idea of “fake news.” It was the political buzzword of 2016, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the months ahead.

For anyone wondering what we’re talking about, here’s a handy primer on the “fake news” phenomenon from Vox.com. The gist of the issue is that many, many parties are taking made-up stories and presenting them as if they are from real, viable sources. While this act isn’t necessarily new, its prevalence and impact have been magnified by social media, and it’s become a huge talking point on both sides of the aisle.

The rise of “fake news” is a confounding legal, political, technological, and ethical question – and it strikes a chord with many of the stories we’ve heard from timeshare consumers over the years.

So, what do “fake news” and the shared vacation industry have to do with one another?

Like the fake news phenomenon, the timeshare hard sell is all about telling consumers what they want to hear: Easy, lifetime vacations! Flawless resorts! Easy to exchange or resell! Pass the value down to your kids!

In reality, it’s easy to debunk many of these claims, from the notion of the points-based timeshare as a real estate investment (a largely false marketing gimmick) to the efficacy of the secondary timeshare market (which is actually all but non-existent, largely due to suppressive actions on the part of major resort developers).

And, what’s more, these bold claims are given a certain level of protection. Just as the wild stories disseminated around the internet are given leeway by the anonymity of their authors and the undiscriminating algorithms of your Google search page or Facebook feed, so are the big, often dubious claims of timeshare developers protected by what Michael Finn has dubbed the “salesman’s license to lie clause.”

We’ve written about the “license to lie” clause repeatedly. In a nutshell, we’re referring to a common clause included in the mountain of paperwork executed at closing that states that the purchaser did not rely on any oral representations when making their purchasing decision.

In many ways, this clause frees up unethical salespeople to say whatever they have to in order to close the deal that day, potentially leading to situations in which a consumer signs up for something on paper that may well be diametrically different from what they were promised in the room. And given that the statutory protections for consumers – we’re speaking here of state-mandated rescission periods and the release of a Prospectus/Public Offering Statement (POS) – are largely inadequate to suit the needs of the average modern consumer, many are left “stuck” with a lifelong financial obligation and very little recourse for dispute. In other words, once the damage of misinformation is done, its effects could last for a long, long time.

As mentioned above, the timeshare aftermarket generally takes place on the fringes of the industry, outside of the direct purview of the major resort developers (who have publicly stated that they see a healthy secondary market as a threat to their bottom lines, and have behaved accordingly). So consumers looking for relief must often wander into some of the murkiest back corners of the internet, where misinformation reigns and scammers run rampant, and every claim seems too good to be true because it likely is.

The key to successfully navigating the timeshare market – before, during, and after your sale – is, indeed, quite the same as separating real news from fake. Always do your research!

Don’t be afraid to consult with a real estate or legal professional with any questions or concerns at any step along the way, and be sure to thoroughly vet any developers, resellers, exchange companies, or any other groups you may come up against in your timeshare journey with the help of the BBB and consumer protection agencies for your state.

Wherever it may be coming from, the best defense against misinformation and exploitation is knowledge and expertise

Friday, January 27, 2017

Transparancy and Accountability

I rarely, if ever, reprint a Press Release from a timeshare developer.  This one caught my eye.
DRI is now embarking on a new program where transparency and accountability are front and center.
Read on:
LAS VEGAS, NV (January 24, 2017) — Diamond Resorts International® (“Diamond Resorts”), a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, has announced the launch of Diamond Clarity™, a new national program designed to transform the customer experience for current and prospective Diamond Resorts members. Diamond Clarity™ consists of a series of operational procedures and enhancements, new training and compliance procedures and protocols, and other customer-friendly changes to the sales process.
“At Diamond Resorts, we already excel in customer satisfaction, but we are constantly looking for ways to do even better,” said Michael Flaskey, Chief Operating Officer, Diamond Resorts International®. “Through Diamond Clarity™, Diamond Resorts will not just make a lasting impression, it will make the right first impression. It will increase transparency for the consumer and accountability for our team members, setting a new standard in our industry.”
Introducing Diamond Clarity™
Diamond Clarity™ formalizes a series of new and existing consumer protocols that define how the company engages with current and future members during the sales and documentation process. It is built on two core principles: transparency and accountability, and it begins with a simple PROMISE.
Diamond PROMISE memorializes a series of operational procedures and enhancements in a single document that will be provided to all customers at the beginning of every sales presentation. Knowing their rights, and knowing what Diamond Resorts representatives will and will not do throughout the sales process gives existing and potential members better control of the decision-making process. With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.
In addition to Diamond PROMISE, the company will roll out four key operational changes across its entire national platform in the near future:
  • Recording Quality Assurance sessions, subject to consent from purchasers, to review compliance with all policies and procedures, and to augment and enhance the company’s sales and quality assurance training.
  • Creating a Consumer Advocacy Channel within the company’s corporate headquarters, to quickly address any issues or concerns members may have. This new platform will allow Diamond Resorts to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.
  • Increased training of frontline personnel. All sales and marketing personnel will take part in quarterly training exercises to reinforce their awareness, understanding, and compliance with all sales and marketing rules, principles, and practices.
  • Regularly placing “Consumer Engagement Observers” at sales presentations to continuously provide the sales organization with feedback necessary to achieve constant improvement.
“The Diamond Clarity™ program is revolutionary in its simplicity,” said Mr. Flaskey. “A lot of its program elements are things we already are doing and have done for a long time. However, by combining them with new operational reforms and making the entire package more accessible to the consumer, and by applying it practically and prominently in all of our sales and marketing efforts, we are doubling down on our promise to put our members first. With the launch of Diamond Clarity™ we are continuing to improve industry best practices.”
Diamond Clarity™ seeks to build on Diamond Resorts’ already impressive standing with its members. Almost 70% of the company’s sales are to existing members seeking to increase their Diamond Resorts vacation memberships.
So, DRI members, what do you think?  Non-DRI members, would this factor in your purchasing decision?
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Not One, But Two Important Meetings

Greetings timeshare owners.

Announcing two important meetings:

Sunday, February 19th, the National Timeshare Owners Association will hold it's regional Florida meeting.  Call 727.502.6877 Extension 1001 to register.

Sunday, March 19th, the Florida Timeshare Owners Group will hold it's Spring meeting.  Call Frank Debar at 941.351.1384 to reserve your place.

Things are changing...not necessarily for the best.

Learn what you need to know to avoid being scammed.

See you there.

Friday, January 6, 2017

No Real Estate...So Why Closing Costs?

Lately, I've reviewed a number of timeshare sales contracts and to my dismay, discovered that developers were charging and consumers were paying "closing costs" when there was no real estate involved.

Here is how Wikipedia defines closing costs:

Closing costs are fees paid at the closing of a real estate transaction. This point in time called the closing is when the title to the property is conveyed (transferred) to the buyer. Closing costs are incurred by either the buyer or the seller.

Pretty straightforward to me.

Later in the document are examples of what can be included in closing costs.  I found these three particularly interesting:

  • Attorney (Lawyer) Fees, paid by either or both parties, for the preparation and recording of official documents. The principals and/or lender may each be represented by their own attorney. Typically required by institutional/commercial lenders to ensure documents are prepared correctly.
    • Appraisal Fees, usually paid by the buyer[citation needed] (although occasionally by the seller through negotiation), charged by a licensed professional Appraiser. Many lenders will require that an appraisal be performed as a condition of the mortgage loan. The purpose of this appraisal is to verify that the sale price of the property (upon which the underwriting of the loan is based) is equal to or less than the fair market value of the property.
      • Inspection Fees, usually paid by the buyer[citation needed] (although occasionally by the seller), charged by licensed home, pest, or other inspectors. Some lenders require inspections (such as termite inspection) to verify that the property is in good condition, which is necessary to assure that the property will retain the necessary collateral value to secure the mortgage loan.
So, assuming the timeshare in question is in fact real estate (if you are unsure, I strongly caution you to STOP and figure it out), you should be asking these questions:
1)  Were you represented by an attorney at time of purchase?
2)  Was an appraisal conducted on the timeshare and did you have access to it before you purchased?
3)  Was an inspection done on the exact piece of real estate and did you have access to it before you purchased?
 
STOP blindly paying fees without asking questions.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Are The Good Guys Doomed?

Another day, another sad e-mail.  I've redacted name of the resort, although truth be told, I'm sick and tired of redacting the name of companies that continue to engage in these practices.

I'm sick and tired of unsuspecting prospective timeshare owners being told that if they no longer want the timeshare that the developer will buy it back.  I'm sick and tired of finding out that the average resale price of a timeshare is $15.  And yes, I'm sick and tired of consumers doing no research at all and just accepting the salespersons' word as gospel.

Lisa - I must admit that it floors me to be reading all these other (name redacted) time share owner's blogs. My wife & I are in the same nightmare these other people are. Unfortunately, we made this terrible mistake twice when we finally did use some points & take a short vacation at their place in the Dells. We "had to" go see one of their reps in Christmas Village to be schooled a little more on the program. We were victims of a well thought scam in being told we got our points extremely cheap by mistake & were put in at a higher level than we were supposed to be at. With this "mistake" we had the privilege of taking advantage of their mistake & buying more points at half their value. Sucked in by a very believable rep, we walked out of there with 25,000 points & much more debt. It has been two years since & we have not been able to use them, due to my wife falling ill to cancer. The medical bills had stacked up, along with the (name redacted) maintenance fees. It sucks only using the program once in 4 years, while paying thousands into them. We need out like all these other nice people. Any help would be appreciated.

I'm sure this is a nice guy.  I'm sure the majority of the nearly 800 e-mails I have in my inbox come from nice guys.

Are the nice guys doomed?  Have the bad guys won?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Information on CWR/Festiva Class Action Suit

There's news on this matter:

Festiva Class Action Settlement
This webpage was created to provide you with additional documents regarding the pending settlement in the case known as Reeves, et. al v. Zealandia Holding Company, Inc., f/k/a Festiva Hospitality Group, Inc., et. al. Case No. 6:13-cv-00597-28TBS.

Attorneys for all parties attended a hearing with the magistrate judge on July 7, 2016 and requested that the court finally approve the settlement. At the hearing, the magistrate judge told the attorneys that he expects to issue a report and recommendation for the judge to finally approve the settlement. 

Once the judge receives the magistrate’s report and recommendation, he will then decide whether to finally approve the settlement. We do not have a timeframe on when the magistrate judge will issue his report or how long the judge will consider the report prior to issuing an order.  Any additional information regarding the settlement can be found on the Class Notice that was previously mailed to all class members and the documents found herein.

The documents referenced below can be viewed by clicking on their respective links.