By Larry Lobbyist, a Westgate Resorts Timeshare Buyer
The Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA) met on October 24. According to a conference attendee, an ARDA spokesperson stated that they did not know if any of the resale companies that appear on ARDA’s resource list charge an upfront fee. They do. He added that it’s up to ARDA’s resale department to vet the providers. He did not know if ARDA uses upfront fees as a criterion for vetting.
ARDA stands for the American Resort Development Association. They are the timeshare industry’s Washington-based trade group. The ROC in ARDA-ROC stands for Resort Owner’s Coalition. ARDA-ROC is a Political Action Committee.
Timeshare Users Group (TUG) admin, Brian Rodgers, produced a YouTube video, obviously displeased by ARDA-ROC recommending companies that charge upfront fees to list a timeshare. There are over 45 licensed timeshare resale brokers, with decades of experience, that do not charge an upfront fee, including members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. In addition to questioning why ARDA is recommending listing agents who charge an upfront fee, Brian also questioned:
- ARDA’s voluntary contribution that does not meet the definition of voluntary,
- ARDA’s Responsible Exit website, given many owners have been denied an exit.
Is the Consumer being Protected?
ARDA-ROC’s contradictory statements about timeshare foreclosure:
From ARDA-ROCs website: Working on every regulatory and legislative level, ARDA-ROC engages in key issues affecting timeshare owners, such as consumer protections against scams, accountability for fraudulent timeshare exit companies, taxes on owners, non-judicial foreclosure (emphasis added), and timeshare owner privacy laws.
ARDA-ROC is currently working on legislative issues in 14 states. There are four core state issues (including): Supports non-judicial foreclosure laws which provide strong consumer protection provisions. (RedWeek, December 2, 2019)
ARDA-ROC Chairman Kenneth McKelvey stated this in letterhead minutes of the April 10, 2019 ARDA-ROC meeting at ARDA’s World Annual Conference:
April 2019: “The best thing we can do with exit (is) judicial foreclosure, ruin the credit and enforce the contract.”
And they are! Not only judicial foreclosure, but suing on promissory notes, double dipping. If a member defaults on, say a $50,000 financed timeshare, the developer forecloses, takes back the timeshare, resells for $50,000, and then turns around and sues the member for the promissory (unsecured) note. No other product allows this. If a homeowner defaults on a $150,000 primary home loan mortgage balance, for example, and if the bank forecloses and sells the home for $300,000, the bank must pay the homeowner $150,000.
Nine new Westgate Resorts lawsuits filed:
Westgate Resorts owners David and Jackie Siegel
We previously reported on Edward, an Army veteran awaiting a lung transplant. Edward is 100% disabled, having served our country overseas for 24 years in military intelligence. He needs his income working at the Pentagon, but his Security Clearance is in jeopardy because of a Westgate Resorts timeshare loan default. Edward reported that his sales agent told him he could rent to offset cost, but this is not so easy to do. Westgate denied Edward a hardship release.
An incident of ARDA promoting resale agents who charge an upfront fee:
Brenda George at ARDA-ROC said I could contact people who would sell my Diamond points. She provided a list of timeshare resellers. She told me there may be an upfront fee of $500 to $1,000. Diamond points have little to no resale value. You have to pay Diamond $1,000 per contract to take points back. I reviewed ARDA’s Code of Ethics.
What Ms George did not explain, is Diamond’s restriction on the use of secondary points. If I buy 20,000 points from another member, those points are considered “dirty” points and must be cleaned by buying 10,000 points (50%) directly from Diamond, to be eligible to join The Club (for about $40,000), which allows the member to book at multiple locations. A timeshare broker, who does not charge an upfront fee, explained, “What the seller sells, turns into a different product.” Honest timeshare brokers will not accept a listing for Diamond points.
Email from firstname.lastname@example.org dated December 19, 2020:
I am sorry to hear about your experience with Diamond Resorts. I would recommend calling their customer service department and file a formal complaint against the sales person 855-342-3689. I understand you have already contacted the Transition department for Diamond Resorts. ARDA has a list of timeshare advertising and resale companies. Please click here to access the list of ARDA members specializing in timeshare advertising and resale. Please note: there is an up-front fee for these advertising services and that fee varies by company and advertising package selected. We always recommend using an ARDA-member company for your resale needs to avoid being the victim of a scam, however you can also list your timeshare “for sale by owner” on websites such The Timeshare Users Group or eBay, just note these groups are not affiliated with ARDA.
Thank you again for contacting ARDA-ROC. If you have any additional questions, please let me know.
ARDA-ROC Consumer Support
The ARDA-ROC “Donation” that is automatically billed to invoices
In informal questioning over several years, not one of over 2,000 members that have reached out to After Inside Timeshare have been able to answer the question, “What is ARDA?” However, members still donate $5 million a year in “voluntary” donations.
Most of the larger timeshare developers charge their members a voluntary “opt-out” ARDA-ROC donation of $5 to $10 that is billed to maintenance fee invoices. The member must contact the resort to have the charge removed. Opting out of the donation is not always so easy. Some resorts, like Marriott, ask for an opt-in donation, instead of automatically billing the donation. At least opt-in donors may take the time to learn about the organization.
As reported by the Broward Bulldog (renamed Florida Bulldog)
In 2008, the Federal Election Committee (FEC) disclosed that timeshare owners here and elsewhere had been misled into donating to ARDA-ROC PAC (Political Action Committee) while paying their regular property fees.
The American Resort Development Association — Resort Owners Coalition PAC will also pay a $300,000 civil penalty. It is the largest fine imposed by the FEC since 2007.
The charges, most $3 to $5, were billed to individual timeshare owners along with tax and maintenance charges. The small donations, not itemized by the PAC, totaled $8.4 million between 2003 and 2007, records show. Political contributions are voluntary, and federal law requires solicitations to make that clear.
Federal records show that since 2006, ARDA has spent more than $1.1 million on Washington lobbyists to oppose such things as mortgage reform legislation, including the expansion of truth-in-lending requirements to timeshare buyers.
Broward Bulldog is a not-for-profit online only newspaper created to provide local reporting in the public interest. 954-603-1351
Where is the owner/member’s voice?
The ARDA-ROC Board of Directors consists of only one owner representative: Sverre Thomassen, previous President for Desert Springs Villas II Timeshare Association. Collectively, ARDA-ROC raises approximately $5 million a year purported to finance lobbying efforts to protect timeshare members.
Five anti-consumer positions that ARDA and ARDA-ROC have taken
- In July of 2022 Florida House Bill 575 was signed into law that now allows all documents to be provided electronically:
Reasons for our opposition to providing contract documents and the Public Offering Statement electronically: cheap tablets often don’t work. Westgate buyers have reported that their CD ROM was hidden in a secret compartment. One Westgate member filmed having to search through 30 email files to locate her Public Offering Statement. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iRfrBGdGjSmnbProINila4rFRIDpMJXI/view
- A law was enacted in Florida in 2015 that made it more difficult to be released from a timeshare contract based on “non-material” errors.
- In 2019, ARDA lobbyists in Arizona argued against offering the timeshare buyer a 24 hour “cooling-off period” BEFORE signing a perpetual timeshare contract (financed at 12% to 19%), with little to no resale value. ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson commented, “But the bottom line is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal. You are buying real estate, you are buying it as an adult.” (Timeshare non-deeded points are a right-to-use product bearing no resemblance to real estate, similar to joining a country club) https://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2019/02/19/timeshare-bill-passes-out-of-house-committee/
- An ARDA board member applauded North Carolina for not requiring timeshare sales agents to hold a real estate license,
- Federal records show that since 2006 (thru 2010), ARDA has spent more than $1.1 million on Washington lobbyists to oppose such things as mortgage reform legislation, including the expansion of truth-in-lending requirements to timeshare buyers.
How does passing a law making it more difficult to be released from a timeshare contract, opposing greater truth and lending disclosures for timeshare buyers, not requiring agents to obtain a real estate license, and not allowing a timeshare buyer 24 hours to review documents, protect and advocate for timeshare members?
ARDA-ROC does not mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics. The following are only a few Attorney General settlements, lawsuits, and consumer alerts concerning unfair and deceptive timeshare marketing, sales and lending:
The Manhattan Club was ordered to pay $6.5 million, but took in over $100 million in maintenance fees paid to a corporation with no employees (rental income was not included):
Welk Resorts was ordered by the California Attorney General to pay up to $5.5 Million:
A jury awarded former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams $20 million
“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value, while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.”
According to the National Association of Attorneys General,
Unfortunately, the current landscape of the timeshare industry has exposed significant inadequacies in protection for those seeking to purchase, lease, or exit their timeshare contracts.
Larry Lobbyist 20 May 2022 article
Thank you Larry Lobbyist for your contribution this week, this is an argument that has been running for years. Companies who charge an upfront fee for listing your timeshare for resale, then you never hear from them again, it was one of the biggest scam operations in Europe. This practice was actually outlawed by the EU Timeshare Directives and also enshrined in Spanish Law, but there is a way they get around this. The RDO has three resale companies that are “Members”, they don’t charge an “upfront fee”, as the law and the “Code of Conduct” of the RDO stipulate, so how do they make their money?
The upfront fee is not allowed, so that leaves a commission payment once the sale is complete, that could be a very long time and with prices, as they are, not very profitable. The other way of gaining an income is the company will do a basic listing for free, that is just registering your timeshare for sale, but they will offer you various “marketing packages” at different prices, this may include your “very own” page, where you can place your own pictures and comments. But will it sell?
On Wednesday we published “MacDonald Resorts: The Worst Developer in Europe?” It followed the article by the TCA of “hikes” in maintenance fees and since publication, our friends at the TCA have already received reports from members at Doña Lola in Calahonda on the Costa Del Sol, it just happens to be the same resort as our Mrs B, and they are not happy. As we said MacDonalds has not placed a cap on how much the rise will be, Doña Lola is set to rise by 40%, that is not including VAT. It is going to be a very sizeable increase, one which is most definitely going to have a huge impact on the finances of the mainly “senior” members. We will be following this news and bringing you the latest developments.
That is all for this week, the weekend beckons and Baby Dog is getting in his zed’s before his weekend runaround, no mountains this week but a long walk is planned. Have a great weekend.