The bill originated in the Florida House of Representatives by Eric Eisenaugle was replicated by Senator Kelli Stargel. According to Lobby Tools.com, the bill(s) “Revises provisions relating to timeshares, including amendments made to timeshare instrument, public offering statements, release of certain escrow funds, written advertising materials, real estate licensure requirements, fee requirements, multisite timeshare plans, substitutions & deletions of component site accommodations or facilities, etc.”
Sounds like a small amendment, however vague. However, when the National Timeshare Owners Association got late wind of this bill and took a closer look at it, what they saw alarmed them. “This legislation is detrimental to timeshare owners and their ownership interests as well as to good developers who have no problem complying with current laws”, says Gregory Crist, the Association’s President. “We think consumers will likely be exposed to certain rouge developer practices that we haven’t seen since the 80s and 90s. What this could do to the reputation of the industry remains to be seen.” For those of you not old enough to remember, the 80s and 90s was when the timeshare industry gained its less than stellar reputation for honesty and transparency, and to their credit, continues to make strides towards overcoming that reputation to this day.
Prospective timeshare purchasers as well as owners are already at a disadvantage due to language written into all timeshare purchase contracts which state that any and all oral representations made by anyone during an oftentimes 3-4 hour intense presentation are deemed immaterial. Basically that means anything told to the consumer by the marketing person, the front desk person, the sales person, the sales manager or anyone else representing the resort means absolutely nothing, even if the consumer relied on it to make a purchase A license to lie? You tell me.
The NTOA started an online petition designed to persuade Florida Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill. It states in part; “The bill allows developers to almost unilaterally decide what constitutes “compliance” and “materiality” with regard to mistakes and omissions in contracts. The bill also restricts owners’ ability to challenge the legality of their contract after the 10-day rescission period required by current law. As you know, developers already hold all of the cards in timeshare transactions; Potential buyers are subjected to verbal high-pressure sales tactics that, under current law, are not actionable. Developers provide buyers with long and complicated contracts that are very difficult to read much less understand, and which are written to protect the developer. Beyond that, most timeshare developers don’t even offer, to this day, programs that will allow longtime Florida owners with medical or financial hardship to get OUT of their timeshare contracts while their mandatory maintenance fees continue to increase.”
The cause and the petition have gained support from consumer friendly organizations such as RedWeek.com (2.1 million registered users), TUG (50,000 members), TimeSharing Today magazine, the Timeshare Board Members Association, Frank DeBar, President of the Florida Timeshare Owner Group and Florida Real Estate Broker and timeshare reseller Tom Tubbs who says; “The timeshare industry has had more than its fair share of negative publicity through the years. This legislation has the power to peel back years of consumer protections and return the industry to the “us first, consumer last” or “us vs. them” way of thinking. It is shortsighted to the nth degree.” Robert Brooke, President of The Villages Timeshare Owners Group had this to say, “Timeshare owners' rights need to be protected. Lack of buyer/owner confidence will cause the industry to collapse.”
Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel recently wrote; “What should surprise — and gall — you is that the Florida Legislature is trying to pass a law to decrease the industry’s obligation to disclose things and make it tougher for buyers to get out of faulty contracts.”
The bill is being supported by the American Resort Developers Association-Resort Owners’ Coalition which has this to say on it’s website; “The proposed amendments to the legislation would provide benefits for the timeshare industry at large by clarifying current law to include the operations of timeshare plans organized as real estate trusts, which are not currently addressed in the statute. Additionally, the bills propose to make a number of changes that would potentially save owners hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, provide additional detail and transparency to current disclosures and provide new tools for associations.”
The NTOA and the above named organizations and I do NOT see how this bill would provide “additional detail and transparency to current disclosers.” In fact, we see exactly the opposite, e.g.; “The bill allows developers to almost unilaterally decide what constitutes “compliance” and “materiality” with regard to mistakes and omissions in contracts.”
No consumer input was considered by Representative Eisenaugle or Senator Stargel. Clearly, consumers are the lifeblood of the timeshare industry. They deserve a better deal than what this set of laws offers them.