Cantrell v Westgate Resorts – The Elusive Public Offering Statement

By Benn Dover, a Westgate Timeshare Hostage

https://www.facebook.com/groups/westgatehostages/members  

Plaintiffs William Cantrell and Sheneka Kimbro filed an amended complaint on October 3, 2022, concerning a lawsuit they had filed against Westgate Resorts on September 14, 2022, in Sevier County, Tennessee. The lawsuit alleges that Westgate violated the Tennessee Timeshare Act when they purchased a timeshare at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Water Park. Case No. 22-CV-241

Pertinent claims stated in the lawsuit include:

  • First Claim: The sales agent, manager and closing agent were not real estate licensed, as required by the Tennessee Timeshare Act.
  • Second Claim: The Public Offering Statement was not provided before the purchase, or on the date of sale, as required by the Tennessee Timeshare Act.

The Public Offering Statement (POS) discloses, along with other important information, the purchaser’s right to cancel. The lawsuit complaint mentioned that Westgate’s Public Offering Statement was hidden from view:

  1. Defendant hid the public offering statement on a flash drive containing hundreds of pages of documents. Defendant’s surreptitious behavior prevented the Plaintiffs from ever finding the public offering statement. 

I was particularly interested in this because, on February 25, 2022, I filmed a video demonstrating how I found my Public Offering Statement hidden in a secret compartment long after I had purchased a timeshare in 2010 at Westgate Smoky Mountains Resort. I did not discover our Public Offering Statement until 2020. At purchase, we had been given a leather folio that was supposed to contain all our documents. I called Westgate in 2020 to ask a question. We were told the information we needed was in the POS, prompting my search.

Follow this link to see the full video of my search through numerous computer files – James Bond eat your heart out!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iRfrBGdGjSmnbProINila4rFRIDpMJXI/view?usp=drive_web

The Secret Compartment Holding the CD-ROM with no CD in the packet designed to hold a CD

Top photo: Bottom left side with the Westgate emblem is a compartment the size of a CD-ROM, Middle bottom photo: Taken with a flashlight shows the secret compartment that held the POS; Left bottom photo: Taken without a flashlight.

When we complained about the hidden compartment, Westgate claimed that we were aware of the POS and knew where we could find it. If Westgate does not have to disclose the location of the POS, how would a purchaser find it in a timely manner – before the rescission period ended? The burden should be on the resort to present the POS conspicuously.

How many lawsuits have to be filed before the Tennessee Attorney General takes note?

A “secret pocket” has been mentioned in several lawsuits, including:

Plaintiffs MARILYN MOORE, RYAN and LAURA SPADO, CYNTHIA LOVELESS, and ELLEN and LARRY GILLILAND, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, v. WESTGATE RESORTS, LTD., L.P. a/k/a WESTGATE RESORTS, LTD., CENTRAL FLORIDA INVESTMENTS, INC., WESTGATE RESORTS, INC., WESTGATE MARKETING, LLC, WESTGATE VACATION VILLAS, LLC, and CFI RESORTS MANAGEMENT, INC. Defendants

Westgate relies on its closing agents to provide written disclosures, but then provides them with a closing folio to use that contains a “secret pocket” where the closing officers can conceal legally required disclosures about the purchasers’ rights, including their statutory right to rescind their purchase. Case 3:18-cv-00410 filed on September 25, 2018  in the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division. 

Moore vs Westgate Moore Vs Westgate Case 3:18-cv-00410

Timeshare Industry Lobbyists Amended Florida’s Timeshare Act to allow all documents to be provided electronically. 

Florida HB 575 was signed into law this year allowing all contract documents to be provided electronically, including the Public Offering Statement. Instead of the POS being presented at, or prior to signing a timeshare contract, as mandated in other states, this law allows the purchaser 10 days to review the POS after signing a contract. One of the four sentences on the cover of a Florida 3/8/2018 POS advises in all caps: DO NOT RELY ON ORAL REPRESENTATIONS. If the developers really wanted us to know this, it would be disclosed prior to a sales presentation.

Our Westgate Smoky Mountain Purchases

I first purchased a 2 BR Smoky Mountains Westgate week in 2010 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. In 2012 I purchased a second 4 BR week after my sales agent Jesse convinced me that I could rent the second unit to offset the maintenance fees for both units. The agents showed me Westgate listings on Craigslist, eBay and a third-party website that showed a 1 BR going for $1,500. Some sheets had rental prices and some had sale prices. According to our sales agents, I would be able to easily cover annual maintenance fees for both units! This turned out to not be feasible. Attempts to sell the unit were unsuccessful.

After learning that renting to cover maintenance fees on both units is unfeasible, I asked to be released. We have no outstanding loan. Westgate informed me that there is no option to be released, despite being prominently featured on the American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA)  timeshare industry’s Responsible Exit website. Westgate said they don’t have to give a reason to deny a release.

Westgate, the BBB, and the FL and TN AG Responses 

I filed complaints with the BBB, the Tennessee and Florida Attorney General, and other departments. Westgate responded by re-stating my complaint incorrectly, saying that I claimed I did not receive the CD-ROMs or that I claimed the CD-ROMs did not work. Our complaint was that I checked that I wanted documents in hard copy format. The regulators didn’t care that the POS was hidden from view.

A Public Records Request filed with the state of Florida produced 551 complaints (over 4,000 pages). The dollar amount of the complaints totalled over $4 million. Nearly half of the complaints complained of being assured it would be easy to rent out the timeshare to cover costs.

Related article

Are my Consumer Rights being eroded? February 25, 2022

https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=394

Thank you Benn Dover for providing an update on the subject of Public Offering Statements and the efforts to hide them from scrutiny by consumers. If the point of a “secret pocket” has been raised many times before, surely that should send the various Attorneys General alarm bells ringing, or do they need hearing aids?

In the end, it still comes down to the developers allowing their sales agents to lie, always hiding behind their pathetic excuse “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say“. By “hiding” the information contained in the POS especially the right to cancel, they are endorsing what the agents are doing and profiting from it. AIT also believes it is bordering on fraud, by ensuring the consumer doesn’t cancel within the time permitted, they are now locked into a contract they don’t want and the never-ending costs.

As always your comments are welcome on this or any other article, please place them on the relevant page, if you require further information regarding your own timeshare please use the details supplied on our contact page.

That is all for this week, we hope you have a great weekend, Baby Dog is pleased to have his Tio back and promptly grabbed his toy.

 

 

14 comments

  1. Sherida Nett

    The midterms are upon us. Especially in states where Westgate, Vacation Village, Diamond, Hilton, etc. are located, educate your state legislative candidates and ask them how they will work to craft bills to deal with these criminals.

    1. Pamela Stilwell

      Sounds like a great idea! I keep a copy of all the state and federal officials by my computer and I write real letters; not an email which come back with some automatic response.

  2. Pamela Stilwell

    Every industry I have ever dealt with which has a recission period (cooling off time) has always been up front. In some areas of the country the contract can be canceled by either party – not only buyer’s regret but seller’s regret. For any industry to be able to hide information pertaining to consumer rights is simply fraud and deceptive practices. Shame on the timeshare companies, regulators, and legislators for continuing/allowing these conditions to exist.

    Pehaps everyone reading should file a request for information from the AG’s office. Time for action!

  3. Donna Upshaw-Combs

    I understand exactly how you feel. Horrible practice. Timeshares should not because lifetime commitment.

  4. Marl

    A purchase for a lifetime like TS should be discussed carefully by both side (seller and buyer) and laid out both pros and cons with all honesty. Timeshare if not bad if the practice and what the developer offered are realistic however because the developer has full control of the property and contract they becoming abusive and aggressive to the owners. Its time for the legislator and regulator to act without bias. Who else can help thousands of victims hard earn money were put to waste. This all begins from irresponsible agents and its time to have them accountable. I hope this case will end in favor to the complainant.

  5. Sheilah

    Your articles are very informative and I just wish we could reach out to people before they ever go into a timeshare meeting. Once you put 1 foot into that room you are stuck. Yes, it should be a law that the public offering statement be the first thing given to people to read even before they sit with a sales agent. The second thing people should be given is the paper that tells them how much time they have to rescind that contract. I have learned that when you can’t get away from these deceitful agents and I sign to get away I go straight to my room and find the rescind paperwork. I do what I need to do and get it to the post office next day, with what I needed and mail it back to where I was told to send by certified mail with request for signed receipt. Make sure post office date stamps in front of me. This way the sales rep and timeshare has wasted time and any gift not just me.

  6. KSV

    I was considering signing a contract; I was told the recission period (10 days) would start once the loan would was approved, and loan approved would take 2 weeks. By happy coincidence I found out the loan was approved in 2 days. The deceit about the approval processing time was to “ensure” the recission period expired without my knowledge. I rescinded the contract before I left the resort. The contract plainly stated that if the signee had buyer’s remorse, the contract should be returned to the sales office. When I took it back to the sales office, I requested a time stamp receipt. The clerk said she couldn’t accept the contract because it actually needed to be sent to the corporate office. I persisted, pointing to the written instructions on the contract. I got the receipt. The contract was rescinded.
    Who will protect consumers if an organization HAS to deceive to survive?

  7. Chuck Hoetaling

    This behavior by Westgate timeshare sale staff does not surprise me at all. It’s clearly a act to make it difficult for the consumer to understand all the terms. I’ve worked in consumer and commercial lending my entire career and when we run promotional financing the terms and their placement next to clearly communicated. The same standard should be applied for timeshare sales. It’s an shame that any organization can write contracts that last the life time of the consumer and can’t be canceled. How in the world is that even legal????

    1. Jackie

      Completely agree. A Time SHARE (glorified hotel room!), should be treated like a golf course membership…with a REALISTIC exit clause. (There is no exiting a Deed…only transferring this deal with the devil).

      A deed should be reserved for a true mortgage like a “real” condo (where an owner can actually leave their personal items).

  8. Kent knight

    Nothing surprising here. Time share companies do not care about anything but selling their product. The last time we bought, tha cancellation information was stuck in the very back if a stack of papers that was over an inch thick.
    They will lie, lie and lie some more,

  9. Jackie

    PLUS…FEES! The timeshare industry is getting worse as a result of Consumer Protection agencies oddly protecting the TS Corporations (that have lawyers to protect their interests), instead of the consumers whom they have been hired to protect.

    There is a substantial list of fees that are never mentioned during the sales pitch.

    This week I discovered in trying to rent out this Westgate albatross, that a 7 day week (for which there is a fee to split into 3 days and ANOTHER fee upon later booking the remaining 4 days), cannot be split during a HOLIDAY week! (ex: the week of New Year’s Eve).

    This is yet another omission by the “Real Estate” Sales Reps. 

    My VEHICLE came with better instructions, than this enormous lifetime purchase.

    These rules are very important to be mentioned. 

    People deserve to have all of the facts required, in order to make an intelligent purchase decision. 

    The small print cleverly disguises these rules with a blanket statement that there are rules…which are subject to change at anytime.

    W thousands of us sure would like to make a change… but these “changes” are only for the corporation to make!

    Note: Sales-pitch tours and 3 day stays (“presentations”, where very little actual information is “presented”) ARE available for the days leading up to New Years Eve & Day.

    Each phone call presents a new rule, for this lifetime burden that has NO resale value (though every rep has been instructed to insist that it does).

    Mr. Toney Sharpe is one of the Investigators with the
    Bureau of Compliance
    Division of Timeshares for the
    Florida Dept of Business and Professional Regulations.

    He states that he needs evidence to investigate.
    Toney.Sharpe@myfloridalicense.com

  10. Francine Dygulski

    Thank you for all your work in trying to expose these things. It is mind boggling that no AG or lawmakers in any state seem to be willing to go after these companies for all the deceptive practices and outright fraud!! Is it because of money or that they are so connected politically, prob both!!! Where are the investigative reports or makers of American greed?

  11. Chris B.

    As long as you vote for crooks, you will continue to have a crooked government. I don’t like the DNC, but they are much better than the GOP (republican party) that I was a member of but left due to it becoming increasing infected with corruption. Please vote the crooks out that defend timeshare parasitic and fraudulent tactics.

    1. Jackie

      Because of the tax dollars that tourism generates, all political party government officials have a conflict of interest thus turning a blind eye. The root of all evil is the love of money.

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