There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. Timeshare members should not decide to exit a timeshare based only on negative reports. Check pro and con social media sites. When a timeshare is sold honestly, it can be of great benefit to families, but for those who experience unfair and deceptive marketing and sales practices, a timeshare can quickly turn into a financial disaster. I was able to resolve my timeshare dispute by working directly with my resort. I relied on the support of volunteers to answer questions as to how to file regulatory complaints.
Licensed timeshare resale brokers, those who charge no upfront money to list a timeshare, work with all the different timeshare companies. They can offer an unbiased opinion if you’re thinking of buying or selling a timeshare. We maintain a list of honest resale brokers.
Resolving a timeshare dispute can take days or years. If we have learned one thing, it’s that those disputing a timeshare purchase need support. After Inside Timeshare published a list of timeshare member-sponsored Facebook pages, but not all posting on social media sites provide accurate advice. Email any questions about your timeshare to After Inside Timeshare, or post a comment at the end of an article. Charles or another volunteer will respond with accurate information.
Volunteers don’t review documents but will review your report. This helps us direct you to the appropriate regulatory agencies. Filing complaints with regulators can be daunting. This is what one State Attorney General’s Office requests:
Documentation our office would appreciate includes the “Disclosure Statement Review Confirmation,” “Acknowledgement of bonus points or promotions.” “Purchaser’s Acknowledgment Of Additional Benefits,” “Receipt For Core Documents,” “Receipt For Time Share Disclosure Statement,” “Transaction Record,” “Credit Sale Contract,” “UCC Vacation Interest Policy,” “Promissory Note,” “Disclosure Statement,” “Purchaser’s Understanding and Acknowledgement of Purchase,” “Truth In Lending Disclosure Statement,” “Signature Verification,” “Credit Sale Contract Purchase Money Note,” “Notice of Right of Cancellation,” proof of payment(s), correspondence (e.g. e-mails, text messages, letters, etc.), business cards and directory/booklet.
Sometimes the only choice is to default or pay for a product you don’t want for the rest of your life. Self-advocacy continues after exhausting regulatory routes by writing to credit reporting agencies.
There have been floods of complaints from members who retained obscure exit companies that offered money-back guarantees not honored. It’s no wonder Timeshare Elimination Team never responded to our request for comment.
Review the BBB profile and history of complaints about your resort to see if there has been a volume and pattern of complaints. One family paid Consumer Law Protection in Pevely, MO $6,000 to be released from their timeshare. A volunteer found this response from the resort in response to another owner seeking release:
First, a timeshare owner can sell the unit on their own at whatever price and whatever way that suits them. Second, our resort does allow for the association to take back the timeshare if the owner can prove they are having extreme financial or medical hardships. Third, if the former does not apply, we do allow owners to deed back their weeks. There is a charge for this of $1900. This charge covers the fees to transfer the deeds and to compensate the association for marketing and resale costs.
Following is a summary of our self-advocacy process from start to finish.
Step 1: GATHER INFORMATION
Read Your Contract(s) and supporting documents
Find your Public Offering Statement (POS), sometimes called a Disclosure Statement. If you don’t know what that is, it means a state statute has been violated. You may be unaware that you initialled that you read and understood the POS. Volunteer Irene Roberts explains the POS:
Step 2: EDUCATE YOURSELF
There are resources and consumer protection laws in place that are supposed to protect consumers, but it takes volumes of complaints before a state or federal agency will take action.
LIST OF RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH
- The Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency in the U.S. that defines “unfair and deceptive sales and marketing practices.” https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc. In 2020 Timeshare Sales were #9 on the FTC’s Top Ten Frauds list and Timeshare Resales (fake buyers), #10. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/ftc-top-scams.html Sadly, Romance Scams were #1.
- Office of the Attorney General (OAG) – Start by filing in the state where you signed your contract. They may refer you to the state’s Real Estate or Consumer Protection division. We’ve learned some AGs are pro-industry and some are pro-consumer. It’s always important to file. A resort many ignore you, but will not likely ignore an attorney general. If the resort denies your complaint, file a rebuttal if you don’t agree with the resort’s conclusion.
- The Better Business Bureau: The BBB will attempt to mediate your dispute. File a rebuttal if you disagree with the company’s response. You can file a review or complaint, but not both.
- ARDA-ROC firstname.lastname@example.org: The American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners Coalition doesn’t mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics: Excerpts from ARDA Code of Ethics. Timeshare members contribute approximately $5 million a year to ARDA-ROC via “opt-out” donations called voluntary, $5 to $10 that is added onto maintenance fees invoices.
- Association of Vacation Owners (AVO) https://avoworldwide.com/
- Legal Action: Self-advocacy can be admittedly time-consuming. Not everyone has the time or temperament to self-advocate. We maintain a list of law firms we trust that specialize in timeshare.
- TUG: Timeshare Users Group TUG forums are great for gathering information from other timeshare owners.
- Local and national media
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulates banks.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) if sold as an investment. The FBI: The definition of White Collar Crime is “Deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” File an online complaint at IC3.gov if your complaint is of a more serious nature. Select “Internet Crime” even though your timeshare complaint is not about internet crime. Don’t expect to hear back from the FBI. They don’t work like that.
The Secret Service investigates credit card fraud
Step 3: WRITE OUT YOUR COMPLAINT
Organize your information: Begin with the transaction you are disputing. Provide as much detail as you can. Keep paragraphs short. State the outcome you desire in your opening paragraph. A historical summary of what led up to the dispute can follow.
- Don’t make emotional statements or use inflammatory language.
- Don’t ask for all correspondence to be in writing.
- Don’t object to your call from the company being recorded.
- Don’t address your complaint “To whom it may concern.”
What to include in your narrative:
- Your name (s), state of residence, phone number
- Your member number, account, or loan number
- The date of the transaction, the name of the resort, the names of all sales agents/managers/staff involved and their ID numbers, if available
- The purchase price, down payment, amount financed and interest rate, account balance. State whether a down payment was charged to a personal or resort-issued credit card.
- Your report of unfair and deceptive practices
Step 4 EMAIL YOUR COMPLAINT
to the resort unless instructed otherwise
Copy and paste your complaint into the body of an email. Do not send as an attachment. If denied, compose a rebuttal and then file with the applicable resources listed above.
Additional information to include and consider:
Was it possible for you to have discovered what prompted your complaint during the contract rescission period? Were you allowed onto the booking site during the rescission period? In other words, was the contract rescission period dodged?
Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded and so will requests based on not being able to afford the timeshare, although a resort may consider a hardship release with a documented medical or financial hardship.
Document everything during the resolution or default process. Your complaint filed today can be used in the future when disputing negative credit reports.
An article by Steven Merrell at Monterey Private Wealth
Thank you Fran for your first contribution and welcome to After Inside Timeshare, thanks also to Irene Parker for editing, although no doubt hubby was doing most of the reading!
This article and our previous one by Irene, on Self Advocacy, has given a wealth of information to all timeshare owners and it is all in one place. We all hope that you will find it useful, if you require any assistance please email and it will be passed to the appropriate US volunteer. For those in Europe please use our contact page and we will get back to you.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week.