You can check out any time, but you can never leave, The Eagles, 1977.
By Larry Lobbyist
Westgate Resorts sued one of their former owners, four named defendants, for perjury. The former owners stated in an affidavit that they were not working with an exit company, but they were. Case No.: 2022-CC-00183-O, County Court, Orange County, Florida
From the lawsuit complaint:
Pg 50, 11. Plaintiff Westgate Resorts, LTD. respectively requests that this court enter a Final Judgment against Defendants for the outstanding principal on the re-established Note, plus prejudgment interest, court costs, reasonable attorneys fees, and for such other and further relief that this court deems just and proper.
Pg 3, 12. Westgate assists timeshare owners in understanding available options for transitioning away from their timeshare ownership…..
Pg 3, 13. These options provided by Westgate serve as an important counter to the large number of “timeshare exit” companies and law firms (emphasis added) that falsely and fraudulently represent and advertise to owners that they can legally relieve timeshare owners of the obligations and timeshare interests for thousands of dollar (and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars) paid upfront.
Anyone in America, who feels they have been harmed by unfair and deceptive sales practices, has the right to seek legal counsel.
Pg 3, 14. These outfits generally advance unsubstantiated and generalized allegations of deception during the timeshare sale process to give their customer the false appearance of leverage over the timeshare developer in obtaining a surrender or cancellation of the timeshare interest. – since no leverage is generated by their false and unsubstantiated claims of deception….
A 2015 lawsuit Westgate Resorts lost:
“Westgate engaged in intentional and fraudulent conduct … and willfully violated both the Tennessee Time-share Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act,” Frierson wrote in his opinion.
The Overtons recovered their losses and won further damages, for a total award of $500,000. An attorney who represented the Overtons said he is representing other buyers suing Westgate.
Michael Marder, attorney for Westgate, said the Overton case wasn’t representative of Westgate’s policies.
“This was an isolated foul-up,” Marder said. “We had an unsympathetic judge, in Sevierville, Tennessee.”
Two judges actually ruled on the case, at the lower court level and at the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Westgate Timeshare Hostages Facebook Group
Fed up with being told we have no proof, on December 30, 2021, a handful of “unsubstantiated” angry buyers launched a Facebook Group called Westgate Timeshare Hostages. Since December 30, over 500 Westgate Hostages have joined our group. We intend to stage protests following the guidelines required, because the only defense seems to be an informed and educated consumer.
Multiple families have reported that they were told they could easily rent out the timeshare to cover maintenance fees and loan payments. Their articles are listed at the end of this report. Renting to cover costs is unfeasible, so the buyer is often forced to default.
Westgate’s VP of Mortgage Services stated in court documents, in an unrelated case (Case 6:18-cv-01088-GAP-DCI), that Westgate has a default rate of approximately 30%. The court documents also stated that Westgate has not sought judicial foreclosure in the past. Westgate could change their policy to pursue judicial foreclosure and seek deficiency judgments. In the Forbes article linked below, dated April 22, 2022, ARDA-ROC Chairman Kenneth McKelvey was quoted from letterhead minutes of an April 10, 2019 ARDA-ROC meeting (link taken down):
“The best thing we can do with exit (is) judicial foreclosure, ruin the credit and enforce the contract,” McKelvey said.
NEVER FINANCE A TIMESHARE OR PAY CASH – IF YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO RECORD THE SALES PRESENTATION
Florida is a one-party state. This means that you cannot legally record a conversation without the other party aware. Conveniently buried in the fine print of a timeshare contract is a weaponized sentence that basically states that the purchaser did not rely on anything a timeshare sales agent said. The clause reads, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase,” or similar language. If the developer wanted you to know that you can’t believe a timeshare sales agent, this almighty sentence would be disclosed at, or prior to, a presentation.
Selling timeshares as a rental opportunity investment is illegal in Florida, as one industry expert explained. Since renting is allowed, reading the contract does not help. The contract rescission period does not help, because few would attempt to rent out their newly purchased timeshare while on a short vacation.
The Heir Scare
Pg 10, 43. Defendants, their heirs, devices, successors and assigns are the owners, subject to any Deed of Trust.
According to a RedWeek post:
To all those inquiring about your heirs being saddled with this albatross: I have been a practicing estates lawyer in NY for nearly 50 years. The information given to you by Laura (I believe her name) was basically correct: your beneficiary cannot be “forced” to inherit (and therefore have to pay for maintenance etc.) for the timeshare. The legal route is to execute a disclaimer within 9 months after death, and make sure that you do NOT accept the timeshare by using it or otherwise indicating acceptance (e.g., trying to sell it as if you own it). However, each state has its own laws as to how one disclaims. ……Note though: the (resort) can then also disclaim it, so there are some further fine points legal steps that must be implemented in your Will or trust to deal with that possibility. But most definitely your heirs are NOT bound to accept the timeshare and make the payments if a proper disclaimer strategy is included in your estate planning documents. stevenw on May 02, 2017 06:01 PM.
MINIMIZE THE RISK – BUY RESALE
The Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association consists of timeshare brokers that function like residential market real estate agents, paid after closing. By contacting a member of this organization, you will get straight answers, and be able to compare the pros and cons of various resorts.
Reputable licensed timeshare brokers that we spoke with, will not accept a listing to sell a Westgate timeshare for reasons explained below.
Seniors, Dorothy and Howard in Florida, Jackie in Virginia, forced to default:
Florida residents Dorothy and Howard, ages 72 and 90
July 7, 2020
To Westgate Development Services Department
I am writing on behalf of my grandparents. I am an attorney, but not officially representing my grandparents on this matter. They purchased a Westgate timeshare in January of 2011. In 2018 my grandfather, age 90, suffered serious medical problems requiring multiple hospitalizations.
We contacted a licensed broker to sell the timeshare for $99 and signed an agreement in May of 2019. A couple from New York agreed to the purchase in October of 2019. Paperwork was sent to Westgate November 2019. Westgate replied with a letter dated March 19, 2020, exercising their Right of First Refusal. On March 10, 2020, my grandparents had sent a letter to Westgate informing them that they had paid our broker $800. Westgate demanded $701, quoting Florida Statute 721.15 (#7). Westgate questioned the broker’s $800 commission!
What buyer wants to wait five months to close a real estate transaction? The actions of Westgate representatives seem harshly unfair, considering my grandparent’s age and medical circumstances. They were left with no alternative but to default.
We will reach out to the timeshare lobby ARDA ROC, as they have launched a Coalition for Responsible Exit. There is nothing responsible about a company that deliberately prevents a resale. To think that my grandparents lost a willing buyer because of Westgate objecting to a broker’s $800 commission is something that should be reported to the proper authorities.
We received a collection letter dated April 24, 2020, from Pinnacle Recovery demanding our 2020 maintenance fee plus late fees totaling $1,053.51. According to our sale contract the Buyer was responsible for the 2020 maintenance fees. We received a letter from Pinnacle dated May 15, stating they were no longer trying to collect.
On May 21, 2020, I expressed our frustration and said we felt they were forcing us to contact a lawyer. On May 28, we received a call from Edna in Research & Resolution wanting to know why. I explained. The line was disconnected by a storm. She never called back. I left three messages with no response.
According to a Florida licensed broker, “In the fine print of Westgate’s documents it states that Florida Ranchlands Real Estate gets 50% of the Broker’s commission. No other Developer does that.”
Reaction from another licensed broker: “The broker who talked about the ‘fine print of Westgate’s documents’ is wrong. There is nothing anywhere about taking a share of a broker’s commission. Westgate simply made it up on the fly. They basically told brokers, “Either play along and get half your commission or we won’t allow the sale to proceed.” Hundreds of deals have been taken from brokers. I never gave them one dime of my commissions. The other brokers simply gave up. There is a 2004 article from TimeSharing Today talking about this. I would think getting the Florida Real Estate Commission to look into this would be a worthy goal.”
Two Jackies: One in Virginia, and Jackie Siegel, Queen of Versailles
One of the homes of Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel
The Queen of Versailles Jackie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54DuxvrzKiU
By (Virginia) Jackie’s daughter, Toshia:
My mom is 69 years old. She is scheduled for her fourth surgery, replacing her second shoulder. It’s getting difficult for her to travel. Despite a serious medical hardship, she was told by Westgate’s Legacy representative that they would not take her week back because it was a one bedroom unit. She bought the timeshare in 2004. She used it once, I used it once, and a family member used it once. There is no loan.
Westgate #3 I spoke with a husband and wife both diagnosed with cancer. They bought a Westgate timeshare in 1990. They could no longer drive to Branson because of medical issues. Westgate’s Legacy department transferred them to Maureen, a Westgate Supervisor. She told them Westgate does not take timeshares back and that ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit website “is not our website.” According to this Resort Trades article, Westgate is one of the founders!
Other developers besides Westgate have been accused of employing sales agents who pitch renting to cover costs, including The Colonies at Williamsburg (Vacation Village), Club Exploria, Branson’s Nantucket and two other developers – a total of six. Out of 19 families, two were able to work with their resorts to resolve their dispute. Eleven of the 19 families purchased a Westgate timeshare.
If you feel that you have been harmed by predatory timeshare sales and lending, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) encourages you to file a complaint following installment loan prompts, even if your loan is paid off. Only Westgate buyers can file a complaint, using the link below. All other timeshare buyers need to select the “Tell Your Story” tab.
The CFPB spent two years investigating Westgate in 2015 and 2016.
A Westgate blog about timeshare lawyers states: The Legacy Program at Westgate Resorts works directly with owners to discuss all of their various options in an effort to determine the best solution for each individual situation.
When You Check-in, There’s a Lot to Check Out
Are my Consumer Rights being eroded? By Benn Dover (Westgate Family 1), February 25, 2022
Nine Westgate Families (2 – 10), March 4, 2022
Is a Timeshare Foreclosure Considered Mortgage Foreclosure? By Abdur Rashid (Westgate Family #11), April 22, 2022
Thank you Larry for your contribution and also thanks to Irene for the editing, certainly a great help. It is amazing that with all the stories Irene and myself have worked on over the past years, with all their similarities, the authorities in the US and elsewhere timeshare is sold are failing to regulate. What other industry gets away with all the unethical and in some cases illegal practices, and how? Well, I think you all know the answer to that, and it is probably the same as mine, greed, downright unadulterated greed!
We hope that you all have a good weekend, we hope that AIT will be back to normal next week and we apologise for the lack of articles. Unfortunately, this was due to personal reasons and being unable to work. Baby Dog has been his usual sleepy self and has helped to keep me company.