Welcome to the end of this week with AIT, today we have another look at what is happening to our “Timeshare Cousins” across the “Great Lake” and what they are facing, to those in Europe with the “adequate” protection of EU Directives and Domestic Laws, it does look as though consumer protection is being seriously eroded in the US timeshare world. Today we introduce Benn Dover, a “Westgate Timeshare Hostage”, AIT came across Benn by accident and immediately there was a chuckle at the name, we had to know more. This is the result, the first of we hope many more articles.
Who is Benn Dover?
Benn Dover is an enigma representing many families who believed their sales agents. An enigma is someone or something that is puzzling, mysterious, or difficult to understand. The only people who don’t understand Benn are those who blame the timeshare consumer, enabling the harm being done to thousands and thousands of families who made the grievous error of believing their sales agent.
Florida HB 575, after it becomes law, will provide contract documents electronically, including the Public Offering Statement (POS), under certain circumstances. Instead of the POS being presented at, or prior to, signing a timeshare contract, as mandated in other states, House Bill 575 would allow the purchaser 10 days to review the POS after signing a contract. How could this possibly be considered a pro-consumer measure?
One of the four sentences on the cover of a Florida 3/8/2018 POS advises in all caps: NOT TO RELY ON ORAL REPRESENTATIONS. Irene Roberts’s article explains why this disclosure should be made PRIOR to attending a sales presentation, especially if the POS is not presented at or before signing a contract. https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=362
Ten families have reported that they were told that they could rent a Westgate unit to cover maintenance fees and loan payments. Today is Benn’s report. Next Friday we will publish a synopsis of the other nine families who bought Westgate units to rent. Samantha even launched a Facebook to solicit leads. An active duty service member bought a 4-bedroom unit to rent, despite only three travelling. He could find his security clearance in jeopardy if he is forced to default.
Being promised the ability to rent, when renting is either not allowed or not feasible, is a common complaint. This is a report from a timeshare member about a California sales agent working for another developer:
We were invited to an educational dinner. Todd told us if you give us an additional $29,000 you can write it off by renting. He said we could deduct the maintenance since renting points can be run as a business. We learned this is not allowed. Todd used as an example, if people want to ski in CA, we could book a trip, then post an ad and make money. He told us this is because he noticed we don’t use the points. The dinner started at 6 PM and we signed the contract at 10:30 PM or 11 PM at night.
The Search for our Public Offering Statement
By Benn, a Westgate Timeshare Hostage
I first purchased a Westgate unit in 2010. I purchased a second unit in 2012 because our sales agents assured me I would be able to rent the second unit to cover maintenance fees for both units. This turned out to not be feasible. One year I spent several hundred dollars listing my unit. There were no offers. One time I was able to rent a two-bedroom unit, but Westgate had only two separate units available. The family needed to be together. I was forced to default after Westgate refused to take the second unit back because I could not afford maintenance fees for two units. Attempts to sell the unit were unsuccessful.
I did not discover our Westgate Public Offering Statement (POS) until 2020 in what is best described as a secret compartment contained within a leather folio of what was supposed to contain all documents. In 2020 I asked about the banking system after one of our units got banked. We were told the information about banking was in the POS. That’s what prompted my search.
In my folio of documents, I found a “Receipt of Documents” that listed 13 documents. The first item was: “Public Offering Statement Text.” It sounded like it might be a paragraph, since it said “statement” and “text.” There was no hard copy despite my having checked that I wanted a hard copy. At the bottom of the page, referencing the POS, it states that the POS is on the CD-ROM.
The Secret Compartment Holding the CD-ROM
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.
Follow this link to see the full video, James Bond eat your heart out!
The Public Offering Statement discloses, along with other important information, the purchaser’s right to cancel. Since we had checked we wanted all documents in paper form, we were under the impression that we had received all documents in paper form. As we were checking off the items during the closing process, it was explained that the CD ROM was a backup for our hard copy documents.
I also noticed that the Public Offering Statement on our CD-ROM was for Westgate’s Park City Resort in Utah. We purchased Smoky Mountain weeks. I feel our contract was not valid because we did not receive THE CORRECT POS.
The Related Senate Bill 1216 states:
A developer is not required to file a separate public offering statement for any component site located within or outside the state in order to include the component site in the multistate timeshare plan. Lines 702 – 705
If this bill becomes law, purchasers would not receive a POS for the location they purchase. After I sent a letter to Westgate stating that our contract should be canceled because we never received the proper POS, they mailed us a copy of the Smoky Mountain POS.
When we complained about the secret compartment, Westgate claimed that we were aware of the POS and 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. I’ve heard that some developers provide documents on cheap tablets that often don’t work. This also makes it less likely that the POS will be reviewed during a ten-day cancellation period.
Our Westgate Smoky Mountain Purchases
I first purchased a 2-bedroom floating week in 2010 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The agents talked about how easy it was to reserve or rent out a unit for extra income. I never attempted to rent the unit. It was purchased for vacations. The agents also talked about “coming soon” amenities like babysitting, bowling, movie theaters and a zip line.
At our first stay in 2011, our Concierge explained that they had discovered some flaws with our contract that needed signatures. The meeting ended up being about a 4-bedroom pedestal “stand-alone cabin” that had just become available. We upgraded. They confirmed the “coming soon” amenities and how this upgrade would be even easier to rent out. The coming soon amenities never arrived.
In 2012 I purchased a second 4-bedroom Smoky Mountains Westgate week after 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 bedroom going for $1,500. They circled sales prices on various sheets. Some sheets had rental prices and some had sale prices. I would easily be able to cover annual maintenance fees for both units! Jesse no longer works for Westgate.
After learning that renting to cover maintenance fees on both units would be unfeasible, I asked to be released, Westgate informed me that there is no option to be released, despite being prominently featured on ARDA’s Responsible Exit website. They showed no concern that I am forced to default. They said they don’t have to give a reason.
Westgate, the BBB, and the FL and TN AG Responses
Westgate claimed our complaint is “time-barred.” I believe that when a cause of action has been concealed by a camouflaged POS, the statute of limitations is tolled until the action is discovered.
In November 2020 I sent a Certified Letter to Westgate’s Legal Department. They cannot confirm that they received the letter (sent return receipt requested). The signature on the signed receipt is not legible and the person did not print their name. 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 I wanted documents in hard copy format. No one cared that the POS was hidden from the purchaser or that we did not receive the POS for the Smoky Mountains.
After filing a complaint with ARDA-ROC, Westgate sent a response in a format I could not open. I never had a problem with a Westgate attachment before. Westgate said they responded to my complaint and that ARDA-ROC marked my file as resolved. I asked ARDA-ROC to send it in a different format. There was no response from ARDA or Westgate. ARDA-ROC does not resolve disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics developers are supposed to adhere to. https://www.arda.org/about-us/code-ethics
Clearly, in Florida, with HB 575, the deck is being further stacked against the timeshare consumer. One change in the law I suggest is that Florida becomes a one-party state, making it legal to record, or at least allow the prospective purchaser to record the sales session. At the very least, provide the consumer with the disclosure: PURCHASER SHOULD NOT RELY ON ORAL REPRESENTATIONS, before attending a presentation or tour.
Thank you Benn, your story of what we can only describe as deceit during sales then after and it is a recurring theme on these pages. Currently, AIT is running a series of articles on the Finance Industry and Timeshare Sales, it focuses more on UK purchasers but also shows the deceptive practices they have had to endure and their fight to get these loan agreements cancelled. On this particular theme, AIT is working with our US colleagues to prepare an article on the Barclaycard debacle. Not a pretty picture.
That is all for this week, the weekend menace, known as “Baby Dog”, will be wanting some attention from “Uncle”. this was him the other evening at a beach night stopover with “Mum & Dad”.
Have a Great Weekend.