timeshare (2)

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Judge’s Ruling Demonstrates the Pattern of Fraud and Deception Perpetrated by Exit Firms on Unsuspecting Timeshare Owners  

Consumers Should Report Timeshare Exit Scams to Authorities 

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2019 – A judge for the United States District Court Middle District of Florida Orlando Division ruled against Mitchell Reed Sussman & Associates, a timeshare exit firm, in the case brought on by Westgate Resorts, a resort developer headquartered in Orlando, Florida. In the summary judgment ruling, the judge stated, “Mr. Sussman’s letters informing timeshare owners they successfully exited… are objectively deceptive.” The court also stated that, “Contrary to what owners were told, stopping payments does not effectuate a timeshare exit,” which is a tactic many companies and individuals in the timeshare exit industry attempt to use. 

“This is another case where timeshare owners were deceived into paying large upfront fees for services that the exit company knew it could not deliver,” said VP of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel of ARDA, Robert Clements. “The court found the scheme didn’t stop there. Owners were told to stop all communication with their timeshare company while the exit company kept them in the dark about the status of their matter. The final insult came when the exit company told the owners they were out of their timeshare, only to find out later that was false, leaving many of the owners in a worse situation with damaged credit, facing a foreclosure and no refund of the fees they paid to the exit company,” continued Clements.  

The court, in its order, not only ruled against the defendant but broadened its statement to include other exit industry players by noting the relationship between “Mr. Sussman and Timeshare Exit Team (Reed Hein & Associates), a self-proclaimed ‘exit’ company that was built on the unlawful and deceptive business model Mr. Sussman ‘pioneered.’” Clements continued, “Many of these exit firms have the same model and tell people it will take 12-18 months for the process to be complete when they know that the services they are promising cannot be delivered.”  

Westgate brought the lawsuit against Sussman for (1) tortious interference with existing contracts and (2) violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”). (Doc. 7, ¶¶ 90-100, 112-118.) A copy of the entire order can be found here.  

“Our owners were being scammed and told lies,” said Westgate Resorts Chief Business Officer Jared Saft. “Many of these consumers were long-term owners that had happily used their timeshare over many years and were lured into this exit scheme by false statements and misrepresentations, and in all cases were not aware of the fraud that was being committed on their behalf. We are pleased that the judge acknowledged the reckless behavior of Mr. Sussman and clearly outlined the lies that continue to be told by many exit companies. In the past few years, Westgate has launched The Legacy Program where we specifically address and discuss the needs of owners who have enjoyed the use of their timeshare, but due to lifestyle changes or other factors, would like to discuss and explore what options are available to safely and effectively exit their timeshare either to a family member, through a resale or back to the developer,” Saft continued.  

The timeshare industry, which has over nine million owners in the United States and generates over 540,000 jobs and $10.8 billion in federal, state and local taxes in the U.S., has become a target for unscrupulous individuals and companies. Many third-party exit companies present owners with misleading information, often using scare tactics and false advertising, in order to convince unsuspecting owners to sign up for services that require large upfront fees. As a result, the industry has committed to better communicating with owners who want to understand safe ​exit timeshare options, often directly through their developer or property manager, which may be available for exiting their product. This information can be found at responsibleexit.com.  

Author Bio:

Sophia D'Souza is a Content Marketer, Blogger and Story Teller at Timeshare Advice. She enjoys connecting with people, keeping her self updated with the latest in the field of business, technology, travel & fashion and spending quality time with her family.

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How To Be A Satisfied Timeshare Owner?

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A timeshare is a form of vacation ownership. Simply put, buying a timeshare means buying the right to vacation for a set period (usually one week), every year, at a specific resort. For many years now, timesharing has become a popular way to vacation, but a lot of travelers don’t know a lot about how it works.

When you own a vacation home, you have dominion over a physical property. You can use it anytime and every time you want. Ownership comes with responsibility though. You pay for the full value of the property including the year-round maintenance cost. Having a timeshare is different. With a timeshare, you own an allotted amount of “time” wherein you can use your resort’s accommodation. The amount you pay for ownership and maintenance is a lot less. If you own a 3-bedroom timeshare at a Queensland resort for the first week of January every year, your vacation accommodations are guaranteed at that time, every year. If you are a frequent traveler or vacationer, timesharing will benefit you because you get the perks of a high-end vacation home without having to spend for its upkeep. A lot of timeshare ownership programs now offer the option for timeshare exchange. It allows you to go on vacation at a different resort, in a different location. This way, you are not tied down to the same vacation spot every year.

There are a lot of unsatisfied timeshare owners. If you listen to their complaints you will find out that the dissatisfaction stems from not knowing how what timeshare is and how it works. Timeshare is a significant purchase that you shouldn’t do with your eyes closed. Equip yourself with knowledge before you sign the dotted line and you would be a satisfied owner of a timeshare.

 

Frequently Asked Questions by Timeshare Buyers

  1. How is timeshare different from a hotel?

A timeshare resort offers more space and amenities compared to a traditional hotel. Usually a hotel room is a studio-sized area that has a bed, then there’s a small bathroom and nothing else. With timeshare, you usually get a condominium-style unit with several bedrooms, bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining area and a living room. Amenities are also offered in most timeshare resorts – recreational, sporting and social activities both for kids and adults. Many resorts also offer swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts, horseback riding, skiing and others all on site.

  1. What are the different types of timeshares?

Timeshare ownerships are either deeded or leased for a specified period.

  • Deeded – A deeded timeshare is like a regular real estate purchase. After you buy a deeded timeshare, you own it. You may sell, rent out or will your timeshare to your heirs. A deeded timeshare is a perpetual contract; there is no expiration date.
  • Leased – A leased timeshare gives you the right to use a property for a specific week or weeks for a definite period, usually 20 to 99 years. The right to use the property expires at the end of the leased period.
  • Licensed timeshare – A licensed timeshare requires you go join a “vacation club”. Members of the vacation club receive points that they can use to purchase vacations at several resorts.
  1. What are timeshare use periods?
  • Fixed week – A fixed week timeshare allows you to use the unit for that specific week. Fixed week starts on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
  • Floating week – A floating week timeshare allows you to use the unit anytime during the year based on availability.
  • Flex time – A flex time timeshare is similar with floating week. Flex time refers to a season though wherein you can use your timeshare – winter flex or spring flex.
  1. Can I afford to buy a timeshare?

If you are considering buying a timeshare, look at your finances to see what you can afford. Determine how much you can shell out for the initial purchase price. Most timeshares offer financing, and this can help you offset the cost. It’s common for timeshares to require an annual maintenance fee of up to $1,000 but this may cover an entire week if you are staying in a two-bedroom condo. If a hotel, a similar accommodation may cost you at least $300 per night.

  1. How does timeshare exchange work?

A big advantage in owning a timeshare is the flexibility to exchange your week. You can join a timeshare exchange company and trade your week with other timeshare owners. This flexibility allows you to use your home resort every year, if you want to, or trade for any of the affiliated resorts throughout the world. Some timeshare resorts have an internal exchange program while others use an external company. These external companies require an additional membership fee that you can either renew or cancel every year.

Accor Vacation Club

Accor Vacation Club is a licensed timeshare offering of AccorHotels. Members get an allocation of Premier Points annually and they can use this for holidays or short breaks. They can enjoy top-quality accommodation across Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

A membership in Accor Vacation Club is great if you’re the type of vacationer who plans your holiday in advance and likes the security knowing the type of accommodation you will get. Let’s say your work allows you two weeks of vacation per year that you can pre-schedule, a membership in Accor Vacation Club would be a good investment. You get a guaranteed pre-paid accommodation that allows you to spread out and fix your own meals.

Here are the top 5 Accor Vacation Club members rave about:

  1. Sebel Sydney Manly Beach – Your gateway to golden sand, snorkeling and surfing, the Sebel Sydney Manly Beach has a breathtaking waterfront setting. Members can enjoy a variety of fully-furnished accommodations, from studios to one and two-bedroom apartments that boasts of kitchenettes. They can also choose from an ocean view, superior and standard rooms that all have air condition, private bathrooms, LCD TVs and balconies.

  2. Sebel Melbourne Flinders Lane – Members who love the sophisticated city vibe of Melbourne have good things to say about Sebel Melbourne Flinders Lane. Right smack in the fashion and foodie district of Melbourne, this boutique hotel has 56 exquisitely-furnished apartments that have big bedrooms, living areas and kitchenette. Just a short stroll to theaters, museums and sporting venues and eateries, urban-loving vacationers surely enjoy Sebel Melbourne Flinders Lane.

  3. Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort – One of the most popular destinations included in the Accor Vacation Club membership, Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort is loved for the luxurious seclusion it provides. The stylish apartments with fare beautifully set against the laid-back ambiance of a mountain lodge.

  4. Grand Mercure Basildene Manor – Accor Vacation Club members love the old-world charm and modern comforts of Basildene Manor. This is the preferred destination of wine lovers because it’s located in Margaret River, a beautiful wine region that boasts of boasts of luxurious gardens. Needless to say, this rustic manor house is near wineries, cafes and restaurants.

  5. Sebel Pinnacle Valley – An exciting year-round destination, Sebel Pinnacle Valley offers stylish and modern apartments. Just 30 minutes away from the Mt Buller ski slopes, Accor Vacation Club members can choose from a wide selection of outdoor activities like snow skiing, bushwalking, horseback riding and golf.
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