Woman Requests Timeshare Exit Refund After Deciding to Keep Condo.

Woman Requests Timeshare Exit Refund After Deciding to Keep Condo.

When it comes to vacation ownership, many people periodically enjoy their weekly interval before growing tired of its limitations. Whether this be booking concerns or boredom with the resort’s destination, it’s difficult for consumers to see the value once the initial euphoria wears off. Gisele Cabrera, a divorced mother of two, is one of these buyers. After making the purchase back in 2001 for a measly $13K, she was very pleased with the overall experience. Despite her satisfaction, she found herself asking for a timeshare exit refund from a third party company that persuaded her to offload her timeshare contract.

It’s very rare to see someone pursue cancellation without some sort of complaint. We’ve talked to hundreds of thousands of owners desperate to get out of a timeshare contract. But unlike many vacation owners, Gisele really had no qualms with the timeshare resort. In an interview with 7 News Miami, she even described the travel package as “affordable” because she was able to “swap it [interval] out with other timeshare owners.” So why would she pay thousands of dollars for a cancellation process she’d quickly regret? Like timeshare presentations themselves, the answer lies in the aggressiveness of the sale.

Last year, Gisele had finally paid off her mortgage and the only payment she was facing was for annual maintenance fees. When she signed the contract back in 2001, they were $200. Nineteen years later, she was paying $350. While vacation owners look forward to paying off their loans, many aren’t aware that annual fees never cease. In Gisele’s case, she was still looking at a $3500 additional expense over the next 10 years. This doesn’t include the possibility of a special assessment either. But it wasn’t the resort that explained this to her.

Third Parties Prey on Vulnerable Timeshare Owners.

Shortly after eliminating mortgage payments, Gisele was asked to attend a “meeting” regarding her timeshare. During the presentation, she was informed that maintenance fees were beginning to skyrocket and that she should be concerned. After the scare tactic elicited fear from the single mother, she recalls telling the salesman, “Maybe I can’t afford that.” This is all the presenter needed to hear. At this point, she was reassured that getting rid of the expense for good with their company was in her best interest.

At first, Gisele was hesitant to hand over $4K to cancel something that might eventually exceed her budget. But once the company told her the offer was only good for that day, she took the bait. She was extremely worried that this was her only chance to avoid a potential pitfall that could leave her handicapped financially. Unfortunately this is how many consumers are duped in the timeshare industry. The simple fact that Gisele wasn’t looking to cancel and still agreed to do so goes to show how compellingly convincing timeshare exit companies can be.

Changing Her Mind and Asking for Timeshare Exit Refund Was Still Costly.

A few days after her decision, Gisele concluded she had made a mistake. So she called the salesman to ask for the timeshare exit refund. But it wasn’t that simple. VOI Consulting Group, who seemingly has a good reputation online, responded by telling their client it was too late to change her mind. She recalls pleading with them saying, “I am not agreeing with this decision that I did. I don’t wanna do it.” Since her credit card was processed days prior to her outreach, she was certain a refund was attainable. “They have to charge me $4,000 for nothing? I don’t think that is fair,” she said. Unfortunately, her contract gave her no option to back out.

Eduardo Balderas, owner of VOI, told reporters that the company takes a lot of pride in their work and that their lawyer had already drawn up the paperwork. Aside from legal “costs,” he also stated they had paid for merchant fees, marketing and the sales team’s commission. All within a few days. Long story short, they had no intention of giving Ms. Cabrera any type of timeshare exit refund. 

This forced Gisele to work with the local news to mediate the situation. Since she didn’t actually go through with the deal or even start the cancellation process, VOI was talked into refunding the remaining balance they had yet to spend. While this was only $1,592, Gisele gladly took it.

The Negative Narrative on Timeshare Exit Companies Continues.

We’ll never know how much of that $4K+ actually was spent, but this story should be a fair warning to all timeshare owners. Nearly everything pitched within the industry is misleading. A lot of the sales lingo and product offerings are geared towards possibilities. If you’re going to listen to a pitch, then you have to be willing to question the information and research the company making the offer. If you’re unable to find conclusive evidence that the promised services are valid – or you are being solicited with aggressive sales tactics – then it’s always best to walk away

At VOC we believe in making sense of all the noise that’s spewed by the industry in order to help educate fractional owners. We do not believe in utilizing standard timeshare practices such as soliciting unsuspecting buyers or engaging in aggressive sales tactics like “today only deals” to acquire a new client. Unfortunately, many exit services give the industry a bad rap by mirroring these distasteful and unethical techniques of the timeshare industry. 

We are simply here to serve those seeking assistance with unresolved timeshare complaints. Timeshare cancellation should be an owner’s last resort and only pursued after they’ve exhausted all viable options. If you’d like to learn more about our attorney based process, you can schedule a free consultation at any time.

Marriott Vacation Club Class Action Lawsuit Claims Buyers Were Defrauded

Marriott Vacation Club Class Action Lawsuit Claims Buyers Were Defrauded

In recent years, the successful litigation of major timeshare resorts has really opened the eyes of many consumers. But as fractional owners increasingly voice their displeasure with the way the purchase plays out, resorts continue to find new ways to retain their users and find new buyers. While one might assume timeshares have altered their strategy to better satisfy customers and keep up with travel trends, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, they’ve simply altered the product itself to better benefit themselves. One of the first cases to confirm this pivot was a Marriott Vacation Club class action lawsuit in 2016.

Despite the need to create a more appealing product, we have to go back to the real estate market crash to really understand the depth of Marriott’s alleged deceit in this case. This period of time left the hotel chain with an inventory full of foreclosed and unused condos throughout the country that they needed to get rid of. Since the market was scarce and many current owners wanted to get out of contracts, Marriott adopted a points program that promised beneficial interest and land trusts to potential buyers. The problem was, a Florida company named First American Trust was the actual trustee of the land that held all of the timeshare properties.

Why this Timeshare Lawsuit has a Strong Case.

Despite only being able to offer licensing to use the timeshare properties (because they were owned by affiliate businesses), Marriott told potential buyers they could purchase a title that included interest in a land trust. In reality, the new points program simply gave “owners” access to condos that were held in the land trust. Throughout all marketing efforts, Marriott placed value on owning more points to gain even more access. This led buyers to believe the opportunity was valuable. By positioning the product this way, Marriott was able to not only charge buyers for points programs, but also closing costs, title policy premiums, real estate tax and recording fees. 

Over the course of the buyer’s ownership experience, it appears Marriott did a poor job of providing transparency regarding the purchase. Although the points program wasn’t “illegal” itself, Marriott should have never charged buyers for something they’d never be able to acquire. After the purchase, members of the lawsuit claim they never really understood what they paid for. Even the ownership percentage of their trust fluctuated on a daily basis. 

While Marriott was able to manipulate the system for quite some time, buyers eventually grew tired of the lack of disclosure. They decided that filing the Marriott Vacation Club class action lawsuit was the only way they could escape the scheme. Amongst a plethora of complicated evidence against the hotel chain, allegations essentially stemmed from the initial point of sale.

More Details on the Marriott Vacation Club Lawsuit.

While it became apparent that the complainants, buyers, had definitely been misled by Marriott, additional parties involved also administered misconduct. After an investigation, it was found that the former Orange County Comptroller, Martha Haynie, accepted and filed deeds that didn’t exist. This is what led buyers to believe title costs were valid. Because of this, she was also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. First American Title’s role started when they charged Marriott to write title insurance policies without any type of legal title documentation. 

Selling this type of product and going extra lengths to attempt validation is usually considered criminal activity. It’s why the Marriott Vacation Club class action lawsuit didn’t have to focus on much outside of Florida law violations. While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, Marriott and those involved in the transaction faced racketeering charges. 

Over the years, it’s been proven that some timeshare companies will do nearly anything to recoup losses. Participating in questionable sales tactics is how many have been able to remain afloat for so long. Hundreds of thousands of vacation owners have been told one thing and sold another. It’s why we’ve made it a priority to help you understand the traps of the timeshare trade. 

This Marriott Vacation Club class action lawsuit should tell you that even the most prominent resorts may have something up their sleeve. So be careful what you’re signing up for and always confirm the terms.

Misleading Booking Fees Spark Lawsuit vs Hilton by Nebraska’s Attorney General

Misleading Booking Fees Spark Lawsuit vs Hilton by Nebraska’s Attorney General

Over the last decade, the travel industry has increasingly seen more and more lawsuits rule outside of their favor – specifically for timeshare companies. The disappointment of the expensive product usually encourages many buyers to look for a way out. Either way, when you look at all of the legal battles within the marketplace, most defendants are represented by major hospitality chains, somewhere beneath the corporate umbrella. Earlier this summer, Hilton found themselves back in the headlines as they’re under pressure from Doug Peterson, the Attorney General (AG) in Nebraska. 

Unsurprisingly, this lawsuit is very similar to Marriott’s battle with Karl A. Racine, the Attorney General of Washington DC – that was announced two weeks prior. The latest litigation effort goes to show consumer protection agencies are determined to crack down on hotel chains that manipulate online booking prices. Because of the cut-throat competition of the travel industry, resorts have been known to lower promotional prices while increasing mandatory booking fees. This makes it extremely difficult for consumers to know which hotel actually has the best deal. 

Like maintenance costs for timeshare owners, resorts basically charge whatever they want for add-ons and fees during check out. While it’s made them a lot of money in the past, it seems as though it won’t be tolerated any longer. Peterson is seeking injunctive relief that requires Hilton to market hotel rooms with actual prices and repay Nebraska consumers for damages. The lawsuit also asks the court to force Hilton to cover court costs and investigation expenses while being held responsible for $2K in statutory civil penalties for every violation incurred.

Resorts Have Manipulated Prices with Fees for a While Now.

Dating back to 2012, it’s been well-documented that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been heavily involved in warning hotel chains about manipulating booking fees and room prices. From writing letters to creating a special task force to publishing reports – they’ve given hospitality conglomerates plenty of opportunity to pivot away from deception. Unfortunately, Hilton, Marriott and others aren’t going to fold that easy. 

According to some reports, they’ve already begun looking for loopholes that claim booking platforms and third parties are outside of their control. In other words, they don’t believe they’re liable for the misleading booking fees and prices that frustrate aspiring travelers. But Peterson isn’t buying it. “[The] defendant is liable for this practice, regardless of whether the property charging the resort fee was owned, managed, or franchised by Defendant, as Defendant’s own policies strictly control which properties may charge resort fees, under what circumstances, and in what amounts.” In other words, they should be held accountable for their actions.

While a win for each Attorney General would be a huge boon for those burdened by hidden, mandatory booking fees, it’s also a win for the travel industry as a whole. A small victory here could mean it’s only a matter of time before all price manipulation tactics are removed. One can only assume the framework is being set. There’s no one else that this would impact more than fractional owners. Maintenance fees and special assessments plague their mailbox every year. Due to a lack of disclosure, some refuse to pay these and walk away. Sadly, this creates even more fees and penalties that handicap them financially for a long time.

While improved technology has given travelers an ability to document and leverage misconduct online, the main reason legal battles are starting to rule in the consumer’s favor is what’s learned from previous lawsuits. The more informed everyone becomes, the better all of our travel experiences will be. It’s why we’ve committed to sharing as much as we can about the perks and pitfalls of the industry.

Relative of a Deceased Timeshare Owner Seeks Help From ABC 15 Arizona.

Relative of a Deceased Timeshare Owner Seeks Help From ABC 15 Arizona.

If you take the time to search the world wide web, you’ll find all sorts of bias timeshare information. All kinds of people from different walks of life have a variety of vacation home experiences. Although the travel industry has become a revolving door of superior options, timesharing has continued signing users up for perpetual agreements. The thing is, for over half a century, they’ve also continued to let down buyers in the same ways. 

Like we’ve mentioned a lot in previous articles, misleading sales practices cause those intrigued by vacation ownership to believe they’re purchasing something of value. In most cases, impulse buyers with high hopes eventually realize they’re liable to pay for something that is more expensive than they thought and rarely available. The frustration usually compounds when they confirm it’s also something they’ll never be able to resell

While a majority disgruntled owners turn to review platforms, consumer protection agencies or timeshare relief programs for help, some aren’t even able to voice their displeasure – because they’re deceased. Back in 2017, a local Arizona resident reached out to ABC 15’s Joe Ducey to do a story on his deceased mother’s timeshare in Las Vegas. In the reporter’s routine installment titled “Let Joe Know,” he aired out some of the inquirer’s frustrations before shedding light on the reality of the situation.

Escaping a Timeshare Burden is Not a “Quick” Process.

Like the media, we know that an awful lot of people don’t know what to do as a child or relative of a deceased timeshare owner. But they shouldn’t be expected to. Some living buyers don’t even know what to do with an unwanted timeshare contract. Before explaining anything in his article, Joe even acknowledges this by saying timeshares are pretty “easy to get into but nearly impossible to get out of.” He even went as far as saying, “dying won’t get rid of them.” 

If you’re faced with managing a timeshare agreement that you never signed up for, you have to understand the resort is always going to look for a way to continue profiting at your expense. Joe also covers this. Notifying the timeshare of an owner’s passing doesn’t eliminate the estate’s obligation to cover maintenance fees “because technically, it’s a piece of property.” Although the inquirer wasn’t thrilled about his deceased mother receiving bills for $1.5K in maintenance and assessment fees, his options are pretty limited. 

Unfortunately, this is how many resorts continue profiting while they look for a replacement owner. Tons of money is poured into sales presentations (especially those in Las Vegas). They’re not going to break the contract because someone is unhappy. If they did that then vacation ownership would die altogether.

You Might Be Able to Escape the Contract By…

According to Mr. Ducey, the easiest way to eliminate the problem would be to ask the timeshare if they’ll let you “deed it back to them.” While this may seem like the answer to all of your prayers, it’s not very likely. Resorts tend to feed off buyer desperation. So, be prepared to jump through additional hoops once the ball is rolling. A few hundred dollars can quickly turn into thousands. The introduction to Joe’s column even acknowledges, “there won’t be a quick fix.”

Although some readers turn to resale platforms to rent or sell the property, it’s not exactly the result they’re seeking. These can be just as misleading as the timeshare was. Listing the property can cost thousands of dollars when resellers aren’t able to find buyers. Anyone mentioning resale as a solution should provide some sort of disclaimer that warns timeshare owners of potential loss.

Ducey also discusses the idea of foreclosure and hiring a probate attorney towards the end of the article. The steps required for settling an estate will differ as they’re based on whether the decedent passed with a valid last will and testament or without leaving a valid will or other estate plan. However, foreclosing on the property forces the resort to take a financial hit, there may be unwelcome blowback that could cause for a more complicated situation.

“Let Joe Know” is a great platform that helps consumers with common problems, but seeking expert advice regarding your timeshare contract is a smart move. Although it’s difficult to find sound advice, investing the time is worth it. Not all timeshares are the same. If you’re a child or relative of a deceased timeshare owner, the best thing you can do is qualify the timeshare information you read. 

When a loved one passes and you’re stuck with a vacation property, speaking to someone who actually knows how to get out of timeshares will help you understand what makes the most sense for your and your family. We understand every option in the relief industry and we take pride in pointing people in the right direction – even when cancellation is not ideal for you.

Timeshare Tax Assessments on Florida Resort Spark Lawsuit vs Local Appraiser

Timeshare Tax Assessments on Florida Resort Spark Lawsuit vs Local Appraiser

For more than a decade now, Katrina Scarborough has been overseeing the Osceola County Property Appraiser’s Office in Kissimmee, Florida. But after her latest reelection in 2016, she found herself under a bit of scrutiny regarding timeshare tax assessments. Cypress Palms, a local timeshare resort that’s affiliated with Wyndham Vacation Ownership (a subsidiary of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation), went after Scarborough in a lawsuit for her 2011 and 2012 appraisals of their property. 

According to court documents, the resort believed that the valuation of their timeshare estate was not even close to being accurate and that they had “paid the taxes which have been assessed in full, pursuant to section 794.171(3)(4), Florida Statutes.” Despite Scarborough’s timeshare tax assessments of $92.85 million for both 2011 and 2012, Wyndham challenged the obligations of Cypress Palms by alleging the resort only owed $24.74 and $16.76 million for the timeframe.

Wyndham Worldwide is one of the largest timeshare conglomerates in North America. Timeshare companies are known to profit tremendously by cutting expenses and invoicing their perpetual owners for as much as they can. High timeshare tax assessments like these have given resorts further reason to aggressively sell vacation ownership and solicit current customers with misleading offers while adding undisclosed fees to timeshare contracts. Even buyers that aren’t contractually obligated to pay for assessment fees have been known to be threatened by resorts with penalties if assessments aren’t covered.

The main assertion that Wyndham at Cypress Palms Resort makes is that both annual valuations shouldn’t have been based on direct sales, rather individual-to-individual resales. What makes this interesting, and deeper than it appears, is the potential cause for consumer resales. It seems like Wyndham Worldwide wants to be rewarded in timeshare tax assessments even though their buyers are unable to sell their interval for profit. The lawsuit also sought a refund of more than $2.3 million for taxes already paid.

Timeshare Tax Assessments Shouldn’t Include Owner Resales.

For those unaware, the resale market for deeded ownership doesn’t exist. Unless you own a Disney timeshare that carries a demand, you’ll spend thousands trying to find someone to take it off your hands. Resorts knows this – but so do people like Katrina Scarborough. When she and Patsy Heffner processed Cypress Palms’ timeshare tax assessments, they took this into consideration. 

The fact of the matter is, sales tactics of Wyndham (and most timeshare companies) allow them to sell weekly intervals to the tune of $20k while owners can rarely get out of timeshares for a penny. Because of this, Judge Scott Polodna agreed that the assessments by the Osceola County Property Appraiser’s Office “properly rejected the individual-to-individual resale market as a basis for value and correctly relied upon sales by Wyndham” in their assessments. In turn, he upheld Scarborough’s assessments and ruled that she adhered to the statutory requirements for timeshare valuations and professionally performed proper appraisal practices.

Florida Circuit Judges Rules in Favor of Timeshare Assessor

The Osceola County Circuit Court’s decision was the first time since the 80’s that a timeshare valuation case ruled in favor of the assessor. Even then, Florida legislature was combatting disputes between fractional owners and property appraisal firms. Since most laws favor resort developers, it’s common to see timeshare tax assessments reduced. In Osceola County alone, timeshares are said to be valued at more than $2.3 billion. The ruling shows that timeshare companies have to start paying attention to assessments and the reality of resales.

As the lawsuit came to an end, Scarborough shed light on the pride she takes in her job and the importance of accurate timeshare valuations. “Our office works hard to maintain fair and equitable assessments for all property owners in Osceola County. Because of the significant tax dollars at risk, we decided that it was necessary to fully defend our assessments. If the outcome had been different, there could have potentially been a significant reduction in the valuation of all timeshare resorts in the state of Florida.” Well said, Katrina.

DVC Resellers Say Disney Timeshare Members Don’t Struggle With Default Mortgages.

DVC Resellers Say Disney Timeshare Members Don’t Struggle With Default Mortgages.

Over the years, it’s been rather difficult for many timeshare owners to determine if the travel purchase has actually been more affordable than retail trips. Because of undisclosed fees and the high, unchangeable interest rates of timeshare loans, a good amount of buyers want to know how to get out of vacation ownership. In fact, according to the ARDA (American Resort Development Association), nearly 1/15 fractional owners are over 120 days delinquent – most of which eventually default on timeshare mortgages and foreclose on the property. But despite documented industry trends, Disney timeshare vacation clubs believe their buyers simply don’t understand their options.

While it’s good to acknowledge that most fractional owners are uninformed, blaming the consumer isn’t a great strategy. Most people that stop making timeshare payments (because they can’t or refuse to) tend to have no faith in the system they bought into. When consumers are consistently outgrowing the purchase (in contrast to the Disney timeshare slogan), it shouldn’t be surprising, rather concerning. Although most buyers may recommend the product, understanding why a handful of some don’t should be a priority, not a dismissal.

The Reality of Delinquent Disney Timeshare Deeds.

Orange County, California alone holds annual foreclosure auctions that include hundreds of Disney timeshare deeds that outgrew people’s budgets. Whether the owners don’t see the value or they can’t keep up with maintenance fees and assessment costs, the numbers are real. Unfortunately, the people opposing the data are those that are profiting tremendously from consumer’s inability (or refusal) to pay.

In 2015, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and some of their resale partners voiced that the default rates they experience are far less than the rest of the industry. What’s interesting is they didn’t exactly r“efute this with actual data. Out of Disney’s 200K+ owners, they say only 0.5% are involved with foreclosure auctions. This is about 1K buyers per year, which is still pretty high if you ask us. The problem is, DVC timeshare isn’t considering the hundreds of intervals they re-acquire or that entrepreneurs take over.

This is where the timeshare “experts,” that claim to specialize in Disney Vacation Club resale, come into play. DVC says they work extremely hard to find a viable option for unhappy buyers. They’re said to work with some DVC resale programs to offload contracts and that the demand is there. In reality, most of the deeded contracts are recouped by DVC for cheap and resold to new buyers. But encouraging people to trust resale programs that benefit Disney’s billion dollar timeshare operation seems a little selfish.

woman-fearful-on-cell-phone-on-parkbench-during-fall-in-blue-voc-sweater-talking-to-disney-timeshare-customer-sevices

Often times, what ends up happening is the original owners are still on the hook for past due fees and surcharges. Even when third parties take over the deed, most get stuck with these balances and court costs as well. Disney doesn’t have to cover backed fees when they take back the deed. This is why the resale market is so sketchy. The benefit that Disney promotes here is only theirs. Besides, they have the right to refuse any resale. Even knowledgeable people or organizations have been hesitant to invest in foreclosed Disney timeshares.

Reselling DVC Timeshares Masks Default Contracts.

The Orange County Clerk of Court records from 2011-2015 shed a lot of light on how DVC controls the resale market for Disney timeshares. During this time, nearly 1100 deeds were sold every year through a Disney Vacation Club resale partner, Palm Financial Services. The average has been steadily increasing since 2013 because more people are taking chances on the Disney resale opportunities. Because of the appeal of Disney’s brand, third parties are looking to find ways to strategically rent, resell or use the intervals for themselves. 

Instead of looking for ways to keep their owners happy, DVC has become committed to outbidding these risk-takers. It has gotten to a point where bidding wars are taking place. An attorney in Orlando, Justin Moorefield, shared that he and his wife attempted to buy a few dozen deeded Disney contracts but were “priced out.” In the past, entrepreneurs have been able to purchase DVC contracts for 20% less than the price of the resale market. Today, they’re lucky to find something for 10% under. 

While it may be costing Disney and its partners a little bit more to buy back their timeshares, it still allows them to profit. It’s disheartening that they’re squashing the fact that (about) 10% of their owners have remorse. Moorefield went on to say, “There are three or four large-level buyers [and] there aren’t any good deals. Disney is trying to fight this basically by bidding more and more.” 

How Is DVC Controlling Resale Opportunities?

Investors, Keith Dickerson and Bradley Schaffer have been able to get their skin in the game by partnering with a number of Disney-related operations like Monera Financial (DVC membership financing) and DVC Rental Store (timeshare points rental) to improve resale opportunities. “It looks like a lot more people have been bidding – not winning, but bidding,” Shaffer said. To date, the two have been able to enjoy and profit from buyer inconveniences by referring them to Disney affiliations.

Without the right connections, buying a foreclosed Disney timeshare can be very difficult. Fluctuating prices, inconsistencies and a resale market controlled by DVC makes it this way. While the opportunity to enjoy, rent or sell a Disney Vacation Club may be more appealing than most timeshare deeds, don’t let the prominence of the brand fool you. Even the retired CEO of ARDA, Howard Nusbaum, promotes caution here by saying, “The onus is on you to do your research.” 

If you have any questions about the actualities of your agreement or you’re considering selling a Disney timeshare, don’t make an impulse decision. Think things through and map out potential outcomes. Sometimes, legally canceling the contract is your best option – even when Disney and their partnership programs claim you’ll never outgrow the purchase.

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