Today’s article is by Joan in Louisiana. Joan and her husband, both seniors, had not used their Westgate Resort timeshare in 15 years. They contacted Westgate in 2019 asking to be released. They were told that they would need to pay their past-due maintenance fees of over $2,000, including late fees. They did and were denied. The Westgate representative told them to find someone to sell the timeshare, so in 2020 they contacted Omni Ellis and paid them $6,000 to sell it. They didn’t and advised Joan last week that they are in the process of filing for bankruptcy. Joan and her husband lost their home as a result of the Louisiana hurricanes of 2020.
What Is Financial Elder Abuse?
Financial elder abuse involves taking advantage of older people and unfairly benefiting from their monetary resources.
The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) lists Westgate as having a responsible exit program. Based on 551 Westgate complaints received in response to a Florida Public Records Request, Westgate Resorts should be removed from ARDA’s Responsible Exit Website. Many of the reports are from people with no loan outstanding but still denied a release. Someone with authority should question Westgate to find out how many owners requested a release, and how many requests were granted.
ARDA’s Responsible Exit website states:
The Legacy Program by Westgate Resorts assist owners in understanding available options for transitioning away from vacation ownership
Over 1,000 have joined a Westgate Timeshare Hostages Facebook Group launched in late December of 2021.
The Westgate Public Records Request Report: https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=1449
The Queen of Versailles Documentary Trailer about the owners of Westgate:
We definitely feel we are victims of financial elder abuse based on our experience with Westgate Resorts and Omni Ellis. Ms Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General, said she is protecting seniors. My husband and I are seniors.
We purchased a week at Westgate Palace Resort in Florida for $17,879.59 on October 1, 2007. When we attempted to book a stay, there was no availability and there were additional charges we did not know about. Our maintenance fees are about $1,100 a year. We have not used the timeshare in 15 years. We did not pay our Westgate maintenance fees for 2021 and 2022 because in 2020 we lost our home due to Louisiana storms Laura and Delta. There was also an ice storm and a flood. Our home is still being repaired.
When we reached out to Westgate in 2019 to see about being released they said that we would need to pay over $2,000 in past due maintenance fees to be considered for an exit. We did and were denied. They said to give the timeshare away or sell it. I listed our week on Timeshare Users Group (TUG). No one inquired. On March 6, 2020, I paid Omni Ellis $6,000 to sell the timeshare. They did not sell it. I reached out to Westgate again and was told we were not eligible for release because we had retained a third party. That’s what they told us to do!
The Omni Ellis agent said that if they could not sell the timeshare, they would refund our money after 18 months from the date of our agreement. Last week, on September 7th, we received a call at 6 pm from someone who informed us that Omni Ellis is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. The caller said I would be contacted by another firm to continue our efforts, but I would have to pay them more money.
A Cleveland TV Reporter interviewed Chuck McFarren. He also paid Omni Ellis to be released from his timeshare. Mr McFarren could not sell his timeshare, commenting, “That’s like selling Covid-19. Nobody wants it.” Mr McFarren, like us, learned the hard way – don’t buy a timeshare. No one should buy anything you can’t sell or give away, especially having to pay lifelong annual fees.
In 2021, we stayed in Florida, but not at Westgate. We went to visit The Palace. When we arrived, they said they were not letting guests in unless they were staying there for that week. We were supposed to be owners! We had paid thousands of dollars! They said we could try to visit another Westgate property.
I read Benn Dover’s article about Westgate hiding their CD ROM, or disc as I would call it. Our Westgate documents got damaged in the flood. When we found our folder of documents there was a disc but everything else in the folder was damaged. The disc we found was not visible until the folder was damaged.
Comments from Irene Parker followed by Omni Ellis Information
After Inside Timeshare has heard from many Westgate buyers. At a Florida legislative workshop in 2019, an ARDA representative testified that “All resorts have a dissolution policy.” That’s not true. We are aware of resorts that will not take back a resort under any circumstances.
Wyndham’s Carriage Hills and Carriage Ridge in Ontario, Canada, provide meaningful examples. They would not allow any of their 14,000 owners an exit. A group of determined volunteers led efforts that resulted in both resorts being sold. The two resorts are no longer timeshare properties.
I wrote an article called Senior Defaults because so many seniors denied a responsible exit have reached out. The article is a summary of ten families denied a responsible exit, including three families who bought from Westgate, all with debilitating medical conditions. One Westgate owner was 90 years old, his wife 72. Westgate refused to take the timeshare back if he paid his broker his $800 commission after the broker had found them a buyer for $500.
Omni Ellis – an excerpt from a Reddit post:
Last year in Dallas I attended a meeting at the Marriott hotel about lawyers suing Holiday Inn over their timeshare program. This meeting was held by a middle-aged man who said his name is William Wells and gave me a business card with that name. He said he was with a company called Omni Ellis after an hour of hearing about the lawsuit and Omni Ellis I hired the firm to sue on my behalf for 4,000 dollars. After I paid I never heard from this company again. I have spoken to an attorney and he is telling me suing Omni Ellis most likely won’t do me any good because they have filed for bankruptcy.
A Small Claims Court Filing
Active Duty Service members and veterans – Security Clearance jeopardized
Once again we have another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street“, echoing all the previous testimonies we have published, no matter which developer is involved they all point to the same thing, sales agents lies and the complicity of their employers. They hide behind statements like “we are not responsible for what our sales agents say”, or what is known in the contract as the “Oral Representation Clause“, which you are not made aware of until it is too late.
There is no compassion or decency towards their “MEMBERS” who may be facing hardship, financial or medical, there is no thought for the careers and lives that will be ruined, our Military article bares witness to that. They sold a lie, now they continue to profit from that lie with the never-ending maintenance fees with no way out.
How can an industry survive with all the unethical and in some cases bordering on the illegal, practices we have so often published, a conundrum* if ever we saw one?
Until there is proper legislation covering all timeshare sales which really does protect the consumer and not just pay “lip service” to them, then friends, we are going to be publishing stories like these for a very long time.
Thank you to Joan and all involved with the preparation of our articles, to all our readers we hope you have a great weekend, Baby Dog has already begun his weekend wanting to play while I’m still working.
a confusing and difficult problem or question.