“Due to the fact that timeshare sales are highly regulated…..”
Westgate Resorts beginning response to Jackie.
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. March 3, 2020
By Sheri in Minnesota
After it was reported last week that Westgate Resorts sued former owners for perjury, I heard from Jackie, who is stuck with a Westgate timeshare she doesn’t want and cannot rent for profit. She had no desire to buy a timeshare for a Florida vacation because her parents live in Florida. She stays at the family home when she visits.
According to Jackie, when she told the agent that she didn’t need a timeshare to vacation, he suggested a rental opportunity. Jackie had explained to him that she is busy with her T-shirt business in Massachusetts (Jackie’s Tees & Custom Apparel). He suggested she combine her T-shirt business with a travel business. He even came up with the name:
Turning Vacation Dreams into Dream Vacations
Jackie’s father attended the presentation with her. He thought he would be helping Jackie expand and diversity her business. For reasons Jackie describes below, she learned that turning a Westgate timeshare into a viable business is unrealistic. She was alarmed to learn that, as of February 2022, Westgate owners cannot access their Westgate benefits account without agreeing to mandatory arbitration, despite this requirement not contained in the purchaser’s original contract.
ARBITRATION NOTICE: YOU AGREE THAT ALL DISPUTES BETWEEN YOU AND US REGARDING THE LOYALTY PROGRAM AND YOUR TIMESHARE OWNERSHIP WILL BE RESOLVED BY BINDING, INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION AND YOU WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT OR CLASS-WIDE ARBITRATION.
Declining the new terms cancels out all owner benefits. If you decline these terms you <and guests [sic]> will not be able to use your loyalty benefits until you accept terms. You will be able to get back to this page from the Loyalty Page.
Further down on the page: Notwithstanding the above, YOU MAY CHOOSE TO PURSUE A FUTURE CLAIM IN COURT AND NOT BY ARBITRATION IF YOU OPT-OUT OF THESE ARBITRATION PROCEDURES WITHIN 45 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF ENTERING THE WOW LOYALTY PROGRAM.
According to the National Consumer Law Center:
These (arbitration) clauses deprive people of their day in court when a company violates the law, forcing victims into a system that is often biased, secretive and lawless.
An excerpt from Westgate’s Response to Jackie:
Due to the fact that timeshare real estate sales are highly regulated and contractual in nature, we have examined the documents you signed at the time of purchase. Please understand, it is not possible to validate verbal communications you may have had with the sales agent; therefore, the Developer requires all owners to complete the Acknowledgment of Representations (AOR) document.
The “oral representation” clause is buried in the fine print. The purchaser unwittingly signs off that they did not believe anything their sales agent promised. Florida is a one-party state so you must ask your sales agent for permission to record. Contract disclosures state that they do not represent third party rental or resale agents, but that doesn’t prevent sales agents from informing their buyers that “they do it all the time!”
Jackie is timeshare owner/member #20 to report that she was told she could easily rent out her timeshare for-profit and Westgate family #12. I am one of the 20 families, told the same. My The Colonies at Williamsburg (Vacation Village) sales agent, another Jackie, provided me with the name of her personal friend, Ed McGee, a real estate agent with Vacation Services International, explaining that I could easily sell my Westgate timeshare so I could afford to buy at The Colonies. Ed charged me $299 to list my Westgate week for his suggested ludicrous price of $39,000! Jackie also advised renting out my bonus Colonies’ week. Ed charged $199 for the rental listing. The money disappeared as the listing grew cold.
With some extra help from Mike Kennedy at Koala, I was able to rent one week, after multiple nail-biting attempts trying other rental platforms. There are floods of rental listings out there.
Westgate Timeshare Hostages Facebook Group
Jackie is one of the founding members of the Westgate Timeshare Hostages Facebook Group. Since December 30, over 550 Westgate Hostages have joined. https://www.facebook.com/groups/westgatehostages/
Samantha in Georgia is in the default process as she also counted on renting to cover costs and make money:
My partner and I don’t have time to vacation. We were sold on the promise that the timeshare would pay for itself through Westgate marketing as we could rent it out for income if we could generate referrals. We launched a Facebook page gathering 243 followers, but no referrals. We spent money on ads. Our sales agent Derek told us he would always be available to help us market our unit, yet never answered our calls. I purchased a 2BR loft September 2021 in Orlando for $25,000, financed @ 17.99%.
Jackie’s Westgate Timeshare Nightmare
I flew from Boston to Florida to visit friends who were Westgate Lakes Resorts owners, after accepting a promotional trip. As a single woman, I don’t often vacation alone and I stay at our family home when visiting my parents in Florida. On November 14, 2020 my father and I attended the required Preview Tour at Westgate Lakes with sales agent Mina. When I explained my circumstances, Mina said that many of his owners use short-term rentals to generate income through AirBnB, VRBO, Trip Advisor, etc. He explained how I could subdivide my week into shorter stays to more easily generate income and purchase and resell Getaway Weeks through WestGate Cruise & Travel ($49-$399 Quarterly Specials & INTERVAL).
Mina’s suggested that I could combine my T-shirt business with a rental business sounded like a great idea. He said he had bought a Utah ski trip through Westgate Cruise & Travel for just $29 per night and could have charged renters a lot more to make a profit, but he had invited friends. When MIna’s sales manager saw I was leary, he informed me that he had just seen a listing for a 3 BR unit that Westgate Resorts corporate bought back from an owner in NY, so he could offer it to us for the same price as a 2 BR!
After 5 hours we agreed to purchase a 2 BR floating week unit at Westgate Lakes for $15,000. The next step was to launch Jackie’s Vacays Facebook page. I won’t publish the link to the Facebook page because I don’t want to promote Westgate.
The Tangled Web
I learned that renting out our “every-other-year” Westgate week for $1750 would take over 30 years to break-even, factoring in mortgage payments and maintenance fees.
Westgate Cruise and & Travel (WG C&T) doesn’t activate the membership until 45 days after purchase, so it is conveniently too late to cancel the Westgate timeshare by the time you realize that there are outrageous restrictions and fees:
- Westgate Cruise & Travel requires a $348 upgrade to get Quarterly Specials, which are available only 4 weeks a year. They sell out quickly. Reselling them is risky.
- I would have to book a room through WG C&T, then try to find someone to rent it. If I don’t provide the guest’s name at the time of booking, there is a $59 fee to change it to my renter’s name later. Their credit card must be present upon check-in, at which time they receive a receipt as to what has been paid. This prevents opportunities to earn a profit. Additionally, there is a waiting period of up to 5 days to find out if the reservation is able to be confirmed. This process also makes it impossible to be a reseller, and provide guests with any kind of accommodation guarantee.
- RESORT FEES/CLEANING FEES: I paid $412, including tax & fees, to stay at Blue Heron Resort for one week. At check-in, I was informed that a mandatory $177.86 was due. I had to call Westgate C & T’’s Customer Service Department several times to get the fee reimbursed. Westgate C & T said they don’t have immediate access to resort rules & regulations. As a third party, they don’t know about those fees.
- When I looked at online booking sites, it appeared that on average, Westgate condos could be rented for up to $250 per night. This means I could rent out my Westgate week for $1750 (for our every other year ownership). However, there are hundreds of Westgate resort rentals available on Airbnb, VRBO, Expedia, Trip Advisor, etc.
- Mina told us we could trade in our “every other year” week to receive TWO weeks through Interval International to rent. However, the II rep enlightened me to the fact that their program restricts their members from reselling weeks. Violating the policy results in suspension and/or cancellation of your membership.
- To try out Westgate C & T, I booked a one night stay at Maingate Lakeside Resort. This resort is available online for as low as $24 per night. It was a dirty/dusty motel room in a run-down area of West Irlo Bronson Highway. I would never put anyone in a room like that. Travel credits are minimal. WG C&T allowed 5 credits ($5 off).
I could not run a business with this level of restriction and frivolous fees. I would have to price a week for as much as what the resort charges. I found most Westgate Cruise & Travel hotel options to be overpriced compared to booking directly through the hotel.
I attempted to cancel the contract withing the 10-day rescission period because a couple I met at the pool said they bought their week on resale for a fraction of the cost. After submitting the cancellation paperwork, I returned to the sales center. Mina’s sales manager offered to upgrade me to a three-bedroom for the same price as the two-bedroom unit, explaining that I could make EVEN MORE MONEY renting out a three-bedroom unit! They also explained that if I bought resale, my guests would not have owners benefits. What prompted my desire to share my experience was when, in shock, I learned that would have to agree to binding arbitration to access benefits.
Spending $15,000 for something that did not turn out to be a viable business opportunity is disheartening, and downright depressing, but demanding that owners agree to arbitration on a new pop-up “Terms & Conditions” clause isn’t right if that clause was not in the contract I signed. The relatively new (February 2022) policy states that the Loyalty Program AND the timeshare ownership will be “resolved by binding, individual arbitration.”
How can it be fair or even legal to slip in an arbitration clause TWO YEARS AFTER signing a contract?
Contact the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying a timeshare to get straight answers, and to comparison shop.
One of the homes of Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel
The Queen of Versailles Jackie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54DuxvrzKiU
Westgate Resorts sued former owners for perjury: https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=923
Are my Consumer Rights being eroded? A new law requiring documents being provided only electronically by Westgate owner, Benn Dover (Family 1), February 25, 2022
Nine Westgate Families (2 – 10) March 4, 2022
Is a Timeshare Foreclosure Considered Mortgage Foreclosure? Abdur Rashid (11) April 22, 2022
Thank you Sheri, Jackie and Irene for the work you put into this article, AIT have seen so many stories such as this, not just from the US but also elsewhere, most notably Spain, and the Silverpoint “Rental & Sales” for-profit pitch. These sales have cost the consumer millions, as can be seen from Wednesday’s article highlighting the loan agreements through Barclay Partner Finance, loan agreements brokered by the very same lying sales agents. The figures shown are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, yet we see no effort by the authorities to curb what we all know to be a fraud by sales agents and allowed to proliferate by the developers themselves. It is time for change, the industry must address these issues and clean up its act, if they do not, then the industry will not survive, consumer trust is already waning, and sales will decline as they have in Europe with virtually all sales now at an end. Trust is everything.
That is all for this week, we hope you all have a great weekend, Baby Dog is looking forward to his weekly drive out to the beach or the mountains, he just loves it in the car.