Timeshare News and Lawsuits
Those that purchase a timeshare unit for the first time rarely think about an eventual need to escape the binding agreement. Thomas and Huguette Game learned this the hard way when medical conditions halted their ability to travel in 2014.
If you own a timeshare package, then you’re probably well aware of the smoothe-takers in the conference room. Sadly, many like you wish they would have just said “No.” While the presentation itself can be quite riveting, the experience rarely lives up to the hype. This is because timeshare companies pay cunning salespeople to persuade unsavvy consumers.
The state of Colorado determined that Highlands Resorts and Todd Herrick “Intentionally deceived, misled and financially injured consumers.” But the purported deceitful operation didn’t act alone. The lawsuit states that Highlands Resorts paid third party telemarketers (that weren’t legally registered) to dishonestly undercut law-abiding competitors.
According to the U.S. District Court’s filings, the plaintiffs stated the timeshare interval was not only more expensive than what was originally presented to them, but the promised benefits never transpired. Attorneys Todd Friedman and Jason Whittemore wrote, “Contrary to claims made by Bluegreen sales people, annual maintenance fees on the units increased substantially each year.”
After finding herself concerned with a wedding invite that her boyfriend wanted to turn into a vacation, Katie turned to a friend for advice. Upon hearing the details of the trip, the friend agreed that her hesitation was valid. Aside from expecting their guests to pay for airfare and lodging, the couple getting married told invitees they’d have to attend a timeshare presentation in order to come.
Like many vacation owners, Ron Russelburg eventually grew tired of his timeshare contract. Once his kids were all grown up and the family was somewhat dispersed, he didn’t have much of a need for the travel package anymore.
Last summer, we covered a large scale scam where Daniel “Wolf” Boyer paid dozens of co-conspirators to sell fraudulent timeshare resale services to vulnerable owners. While a majority have already pleaded guilty, the investigation presumes. Paul Michael Marciniak is the second primary co-conspirator to receive his sentence.
When vacation owners walk away from resort obligations or legally cancel the contract altogether, most don’t realize the impact it has on the city in which the interval is hosted. A number of towns across our country have suffered from the inadequacies of timeshare travel. In recent years, the Acadia Village Resort, a once coveted property that’s located just south of Graham Lake in Maine, has not only struggled to retain timeshare owners, but attract them as well.
When greed drives an organization, the consumer normally is the one that pays the price. This was especially true at the Caribbean Service Group (CSG), starting back in 2009 when the original owner passed away. Kathy Tice Craig managed The Woodbourne Estates Resort in Freeport, Bahamas into the ground by embezzling timeshare owners for her own selfish gain.
Corrine Adams, an 83 years old widow, learned this the hard way. After purchasing a Hawaiian interval with her husband nearly 30 years prior, she decided it was time to move on from the expensive purchase. Her primary reason was the increased cost of maintenance fees. Once she hadn’t been able to travel to the resort for a few years, she grew tired of the unnecessary expense and didn’t want her kids to acquire the burden.
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. But this wasn’t the case for Gisele.
Over the course of the buyer’s ownership experience, 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.
Similar to maintenance costs for timeshare owners, resorts randomly charge travelers for things like add-ons and upkeep during check out without any transparency. Because most hotel chains do this, it’s been accepted as normal by consumers. While it’s made them a lot of money in the past, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be tolerated much longer.
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 the inquirer’s frustrations before shedding light on the reality of the situation.
Despite the Osceola County Property Appraiser’s Office’s timeshare tax assessment of $92.85 million for both 2011 and 2012, Wyndham challenged the obligations of their resort, Cypress Palms, by alleging they only owed around $41.5 million total. According to court documents, Katrina Scarborough processed a proper valuation in Kissimmee, Florida.
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 refute this with actual data. Out of Disney’s 200K+ owners, they say only 0.5% are involved with foreclosure auctions.
In the past, timeshare companies have been able to keep concerns regarding special assessments under wraps. But in recent years, a number of stories with vague insight have surfaced. One of them involved Bluegreen Vacations’ swift notice of foreclosure to hundreds of their owners in Louisa County, Virginia.
After investigating consumer complaints from Harbor Hill timeshare owners, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) found that Donna Zoppi had been manipulating the resort to her advantage from the late 2000’s all the way until 2015. While the criminal actions of Zoppi were definitely disturbing, what she did wasn’t a simple case of stealing.
Devastating financial blows, like special assessments, can really leave fractional owners reeling. This partly due to laws that limit the their ability to challenge unexpected costs. So today, we wanted to highlight a Florida bill from 2015 that enabled resorts to charge more for assessment costs while limiting the buyer’s ability to cancel timeshare contracts.
Up to this point, all has worked out in the fractional owner’s favor as they weren’t exactly liable for the unexpected fees. However, future assessments are pretty much guaranteed to be on the horizon. Random expenses like these are eventually passed down to the owners who are perpetually obligated to pay their share on the vacation property. The lack of clarity amongst these mandatory costs is disappointing to say the least.