2020 has not been a fruitful year for the timeshare industry. Aside from a number of lawsuits and settlements working against their favor, travel bans have halted almost all of their revenue stream. In fact, they’re somewhat dependent on the steady flow of timeshare owner payments. When you really think about this, the irony is truly astonishing. Because of the lack of attention to obligated buyers, many of them are determining that owning a timeshare during COVID-19 isn’t worth it.
Is There Any True Hope Within the Timeshare Industry?
After speaking to a multitude of disgruntled buyers, we’ve come to the conclusion that most have been trying to contact their respective timeshares for any type of aid or insight on future expectations. But answers haven’t come easy. The industry’s priorities have seemed to involve finding a financial balance for themselves. Stock share buy backs, government relief, stakeholder care, furloughs and layoffs have taken precedence over those bound to payments. Contracts support them in this.
Nonetheless, when reasonable attempts to express concern during an unprecedented time continue to fall on deaf ears, any consumer would be upset. Would it be fair if the government banned us all from driving but we were forced to keep making car and insurance payments? Although contractual terms do play a role, it’s safe to say most of us would be thinking about ceasing payments. Owning a timeshare during COVID-19 is no different and owners are starting to take action.
Ignored Complaints Lead Vacation Owners to Cancel.
Since the pandemic took effect in March, one of our most recent clients made several attempts to work out their timeshare burden. Throughout their communication with the sales department at their resort, a plethora of concerns were laid out. A certified letter in July even explained how the couple was coaxed into “accepting an offer” to extend their stay in Las Vegas.
After attending an owner’s “update” meeting in January, they found themselves on the hook for a $150K deeded timeshare contract. Although the sale gave them an additional 19K points, credit cards were unfortunately established to fund the down payment ($25K), closing costs, administrative payments, yearly maintenance costs and taxes ($4600). As you can imagine, this decision did not play out well once lockdowns surfaced. If a special assessment follows the pandemic, matters will only become worse.
How the Pandemic Altered the Owner Experience.
On top of the thousands of dollars in front end costs they already paid, the couple has been covering a $1,650 monthly payment all year. Today, the retired, aging owners (72 and 69) are living on a fixed income with a timeshare mortgage payoff of nearly $119K. Aside from the financial grief, the couple is also very much so fearful of the virus. They believe elderly African Americans “bear the highest risk” and that there is “no prospective end in sight.”
Not only did they delve into the health risks of owning a timeshare during COVID-19, but they went into detail on the substantial impact the burden can have on their lives. “It is just more likely than not, that we will never benefit or live long enough to justify this 10-year mortgage at 13% interest, plus annual maintenance, taxes, and fees that will continue to increase over time,” said one of their letters.
The Fear of Credit Card Fees and Mortgage Interest.
They went on to say, “In addition, the $25K debt with the credit card must be paid off, at 0% interest for the first year, and 17% interest thereafter. This is an unnecessary financial hardship for us that we cannot sustain.” The buyers reiterated how they’ve owned a timeshare since 2016 and never faced delinquency while only using it 4 times! “We faithfully paid our monthly mortgage,” they pleaded in their last attempt.
“Under the current circumstance, this would be the moral and equitable solution,” they said. Despite “prayerfully awaiting” a response, the resort refused to take back the property and “release them from their contract without penalty.” The ownership duo clearly felt trapped after doing everything they could to find a compromise. In the end, owning a timeshare during COVID-19 just didn’t make sense anymore.
Has Owning a Timeshare During COVID-19 Been a Burden to You?
Now that they’ve begun our attorney based process, some sense of relief has settled in. At the same time, it’s hard for the couple to believe anything until they see it– and rightfully so. Nearly every promise they’ve been told has been a lie. Unfortunately, for timeshare companies, the principle of the purchase always seems to be more important – and their recent determination to recoup losses is proving this to their most important customer base.