Bluegreen Vacations has suspended hundreds of accounts “suspected” of renting for commercial activity. Suspicion seems to be based only on reservations in the names of people other than the owner. Bluegreen allows owners to book reservations for friends or family. Ashley in Texas said her account was suspended without warning, despite the only names Bluegreen provided as the reason for the suspension were her grandmother, two friends and a family member.
Ashley’s grandparents bought high-demand “cabin weeks” in 2003. “Inventory grab” is a term that some owners have used to describe the reason for Bluegreen’s actions. As the highest-loyalty Platinum members, Ashley’s grandparents would have spent over $100,000 for their initial purchase and subsequent upgrades.
The timeshare was transferred to Ashley in July of 2022 following the passing of her grandfather in 2021. Ashley must rely on friends and family to help her with maintenance fees because of her medically compromised five-year-old son. His care involves 12 doctors and Ashley is a single mom with little child support. Maintenance fees increased by $600 to $5,500 this year.
Before transferring the timeshare to Ashley, her grandmother asked Bluegreen if points could be given back as there is an ever-present concern that Ashley’s son’s condition will worsen. Bluegreen said there was the availability of a “Relief” program whereby points could be given back at no cost. Frustrated with the suspension, Ashley contacted Bluegreen and was informed that the Relief program had been modified and would now cost $8,165! The amount represents 1 1/2 years of maintenance fees. Ashley is left with no choice but to default.
Ashley’s extended family loved their Bluegreen vacations. Instead of leaving with fond memories, like the year Ashley’s family had 21 people stay at Big Cedar to celebrate Ashley’s grandmother’s birthday, they leave with a devastating nightmare. Ashley’s grandfather loved Big Cedar so much that when he was recovering from his first heart surgery in 2003, he asked in the recovery room, “Can we go to Big Cedar now?”
Ashley did once attempt to rent on a Bluegreen Condo Marketplace Facebook Group when a relative had to cancel a reservation due to an emergency. Based on a bizarre response, as Ashley explains below, she suspects the person who responded to the rental listing may have been part of a conspiracy to take back their weeks.
A recent Facebook post about Bluegreen’s rental policy:
“I spoke with Bluegreen yesterday as this is the very first year I had to rent my spaces as I am having surgeries. They told me it was fine. The ones getting kicked out are ones who have multiple reservations for the same days several times with all different names which to them proves they are doing it commercially. Whew!”
“Steamboat (Colorado) is going to lengths to make sure people are not buying properties and simply renting them out,” Gamel said. “But timeshare owners can rent out their properties like anyone else does, and prohibitions don’t make a lot of sense if the renter is one of 25 or 50 other owners in a unit. We want to make sure owners are caught up in regulations that say, for example, that they need to register with the city before they can rent their property, which cannot be a primary residence.”
The Bluegreen owners we have heard from, that have had their accounts suspended, all reported that Bluegreen’s sales agents encouraged them to buy more points to rent to offset costs. Some reported that their sales agent even provided them with the name of a rental company to contact! A whistleblower reported that she observed sales agents pitching to rent. It is bad enough to suspend the accounts of those who did rent through a third-party company after their sales agent advised them to, but Ashley never signed an agreement with any rental company.
Ashley’s grandmother rented out a few reservations to friends and family to help her offset maintenance fees. Her grandfather was not able to travel after his second heart attack in 2013. He was also diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which progressed to the point he could no longer walk. She never used a third-party rental company either. After her husband died, she inquired about selling their points through Pinnacle, an approved sales site, but learned there were hundreds of listings. A lady at Pinnacle gave little hope, so Ashley agreed to take over the points, only because Bluegreen had a Relief Program that would not cost anything if her son’s condition worsened.
According to Ashley:
I would have never accepted the points had I known I would have to pay over $8,000 to give back our weeks. Less than a year ago I paid $1,500 to transfer my grandmother’s three contracts to me. In addition to the $8,165, they said I likely will have to pay my next fiscal year’s maintenance fees of $5,543 for September 2023 – 2024, billed August 1. I would have to take money from my son’s medical expense account.
My grandparents over the years accumulated enough points to become platinum-level owners based on what one of the closing agents said. My grandfather asked what would happen if they didn’t want the points anymore. The closing agent answered, “We take a 30% commission. My grandmother, who used to work in banking, asked if that meant they would get 70% of their money back. The agent said yes.
After the timeshare was transferred to me, my grandmother gave me a list of friends and family that had rented from her. She had in the past used the official Bluegreen Big Cedar rental program called “Gold Charter” with a 65/35 split.
The Nightmare on Timeshare Street begins:
One of my relatives had to cancel a reservation due to a family emergency. I went to the Bluegreen Condo Marketplace Facebook Group and posted a listing for the Wilderness Club at Big Cedar. Somebody responded by Private Message saying they were going to send me $5 on PayPal to make sure the posting was not a scam. I never received the $5. She then asked to perform the transaction on Venmo. I sent the request, but she denied it and told me this was a scam and was going to report me to Bluegreen. Around six weeks after this incident, I had a reservation in early July that I needed to cancel as my family wanted a different location to enjoy our summer vacation. After that reservation was cancelled, I tried to book at a different location and could not. The alert message stated that I need to call Customer Service. I suspect I was baited by someone at Bluegreen because cabin weeks are in high demand.
A Bluegreen supervisor explained that my account was locked under a suspension notice and that I should have received a certified letter. I did not receive a notification until two weeks later when I received a suspension notice in the mail (not certified), with a phone number to call. The number was no longer in service. When I called to get in contact, they would not relay the phone number of Paul McLaughlin who sent the notification. They would only provide his email address. After a few back-and-forth emails, I did not hear back from Mr McLaughlin until Irene at After Inside Timeshare sent my report to a contact she had and copied Mr McLaughlin. He responded with the email address of a person in their “responsible exit” department. I emailed her. It’s been over a week and there has been no response.
Before we stopped communicating by email, Mr McLaughlin sent me the names of people who used our reservations. One is my grandmother, two are my friends, and the other is a family member.
Hell Hath No Fury
Rarely do I reach out to a resort on behalf of a timeshare owner or member, but the more I thought about a loyal Bluegreen family, and a five-year-old boy that has had surgery every year of his life since birth, now told there will be no vacation as planned, the angrier I became. The little guy’s symptoms include heart failure, lung disease, and other debilitating symptoms. Treatment is expensive.
We reached out to Bluegreen for comment. They did not respond.
Last week we reported on Florida House Bill 869 which goes into effect tomorrow, July 1. It eased industry disclosure requirements concerning “incidental benefits” that can come and go at the whim of the Developer. The ability to rent is considered an incidental benefit. Exit programs are also incidental. In Ashley’s case, the modification of a formerly no-cost Bluegreen exit program will force her into default. Buyers should never count on incidental benefits.
Angela’s Bluegreen account suspension
Thank you, Irene, our title banner today says it all, only recently ARDA published a report in conjunction with Skift. Jason Gamel in the report stated that “Steamboat is going to lengths to make sure people are not buying properties and simply renting them out,” that seems a fair statement, if blocks of weeks are sold to one person or entity, then that does look like “commercial gain”. The statement continues with: “But timeshare owners can rent out their properties like anyone else does, and prohibitions don’t make a lot of sense if the renter is one of 25 or 50 other owners in a unit.” That seems pretty clear from the Industry Trade Body, owners can rent out their weeks.
We must admit we are a little confused by the remainder of his quote: “We want to make sure owners are caught up in regulations that say, for example, that they need to register with the city before they can rent their property, which cannot be a primary residence.” Is it an editing error or what, do they actually mean “owners are caught up” or do they mean “not caught up“? The omission of that one simple word changes everything, rather than making it easier for owners to rent their weeks, it says that ARDA will go out of its way to ensure it is nigh on impossible. We leave you to decide.
That is all for this week, please do leave your comments and share on your social media. Have a great weekend, we will, Baby Dog is trying to attract my attention by fighting with his blanket, a sure sign of things to come.