Three active duty service members, all serving with the same branch of our U.S. Armed Forces, recently reported that they had been falsely told that they could easily rent out their timeshare to offset loan and maintenance fee payments. Other service members reported that they were falsely told that they could easily refinance a timeshare loan because they are military.
The timeshares purchased were sold by Orange Lake, Westgate and Diamond Resorts. Loan amounts ranged from $44,000 to $120,000. The active-duty service member who purchased from Diamond Resorts was able to resolve his dispute. The other two service members have filed complaints with Florida’s Office of the Attorney General and are awaiting a response.
Trapping an active duty service member into an unaffordable timeshare loan, financed at 12% to 16.99%, can jeopardize a security clearance if the borrower is forced to default. It can also lead to the loss of a military career. A few years ago, we reported that one Marine lost his air unit command due to a Bluegreen foreclosure. Predatory timeshare lending poses a risk to our national security.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, PLAINTIFFS’ RESPONSE IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS (filed 1/17/2022), alleges that Bluegreen Vacations violated the Military Lending Act (MLA). According to the Federal Trade Commission,
The Military Lending Act, as amended, imposes a 36% rate cap, bans mandatory arbitration, and imposes other restrictions, and requires disclosures for “consumer credit” (as defined by rule issued by the Department of Defense (DoD)) extended to service members and their dependents. The FTC enforces the Act as to most non-depository institutions, and is part of the interagency group with whom the DoD is required to consult at least every two years.
Top Class Actions is following the lawsuit:
According to the claim, Bluegreen failed to determine whether Louis was a covered borrower, and failed to disclose a Military Annual Percentage Rate (MAPR), disclosing to the couple and other Class Members an annual percentage rate (APR) that was significantly lower than the true MAPR. (September 17, 2021)
Bluegreen’s defence is that timeshare lending fits within the “residential mortgage exemption.” A timeshare mortgage should not be compared to a traditional home mortgage loan, which is exempted from the MLA. Nothing could be further from a residential mortgage than a timeshare loan. Unlike a residential home, a timeshare with an outstanding loan is impossible to sell. Even unencumbered there is little to no resale value. A service member can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
A timeshare member’s right-to-use, non-deeded “membership” points are comparable to a country club or a gym club membership. Timeshare members have no more ownership in the brick and mortar of a timeshare resort than they do as members of a country club or a gym.
Bluegreen cites a Marriott Vacation Club lawsuit that challenged charging closing costs for right-to-use timeshare points. One line from that complaint proclaimed, “Not since Moses has land been created out of nothing!” What the attorney author meant, is that former Florida Governor Rick Scott and industry executives legislated their way around the lawsuit by changing Florida’s definition of “beneficial interest” to exclude timeshare from the definition of beneficial interest.
In 2015, the courts ruled that Bluegreen had to remove “foreclosure” from 11,000 Bluegreen member reports:
LARGO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A class action settlement has been reached with Bluegreen Corporation, Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and Equifax Information Services, LLC. over allegations that timeshare owners’ delinquent accounts were reported as foreclosures in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida debt collection laws.
The Bluegreen complaint also references arbitration as it applies to the MLA. If arbitration were fair, it would not be slipped into a contract signed while on vacation. The choice should be made when a dispute arises. There is a bill before Congress to end forced pre-dispute arbitration: Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act.
One timeshare member who lost in arbitration was issued a judgment of $95,000, contesting loans less than $5,000. The judgment amount included $79,000 for the resort’s attorney’s fees. Our volunteers helped the member file an Amicus Letter with a state Supreme Court, supporting an unfair arbitration petition under review. The judgment was eventually reversed, only because of our intervention.
It is the belief of all the active duty service members I spoke with – timeshare lending needs to go the way of Payday loans – off-limits to the military.
Excerpts from the Bluegreen 1/17/2022 court filing, Case 0:21-cv-61938-RAR
Citations omitted, Emphasis in bold added
TAMARAH C. LOUIS and EMMANUEL G. LOUIS, JR., individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated Plaintiffs, v. CASE NO. 21-CV-61938-RAR, BLUEGREEN VACATIONS UNLIMITED INC., a Florida corporation and BLUEGREEN VACATIONS CORPORATION, a Florida corporation, Defendants.
Congress enacted the Military Lending Act to protect service members from predatory lending practices that had a documented impact on members of the armed forces and our Nation’s military readiness. (Page 1)
Timeshare plans are among the most predatory agreements that impact our troop’s financial strength. These plans essentially require a lifetime commitment to escalating fees and dues. (Page 1)
Plaintiffs and the proposed class entered into Bluegreen Vacations’ standard Owner Beneficiary Agreement (“OBA”) in order to finance the purchase of a “Bluegreen Vacation Club” membership. (Page 1)
Bluegreen Vacations failed to provide any of the mandated disclosures required by the Military Lending Act, failed to provide accurate cost of credit financing and contractually mandated that Plaintiffs submit to arbitration. (Page 2)
Bluegreen Vacations primarily argues in support of its Motion to Dismiss that Plaintiffs lack standing and that its’ vacation timeshare plans fit within the residential mortgage exception to the MLA. (Page 2)
Bluegreen Vacations also attempts to introduce the Mortgage Deed in order to argue that Plaintiffs’ timeshare transaction is not subject to the MLA because it is encumbered by a mortgage. (Page 4)
A closer look at the Mortgage Deed shows that Plaintiffs are not even parties to this agreement. The Mortgage Deed is between Vacation Trust, Inc. (mortgagor) and Bluegreen Vacations Corporation (mortgagee) and executed by these parties only. (Page 4)
The separate violation relating to the arbitration clause arises from the inclusion of an arbitration clause in and of itself, and the MLA provides that any such agreement is unenforceable and void. (Page 9)
- A TIMESHARE SALE DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR THE RESIDENTIAL MORTGAGE EXCEPTION
Regulation Z dictates that timeshares are excluded from the definition of residential mortgage which the DOD says controls in the absence of a definition under the MLA. Consistent with these interpretations, the OBA provides that Plaintiffs are merely “afforded the opportunity to use the Accommodations of the timeshare Plan on a biennial recurring basis.” That is a timeshare plan not a residential mortgage. (Pages 12 – 13)
Not a single federal agency includes timeshare plans within the definition of a residential mortgage under any other federal statute or interpretation. (Page 13)
Unlike a mortgage on a home, the deed to their timeshare interest is in the name of Bluegreen Vacation Club Trust (“Bluegreen Trust), which is a trust owned by Vacation Trust Inc. (“Vacation Trust”). (Page 14)
Moreover, permitting timeshares to satisfy the MLA’s exception for residential mortgages would undermine the statute’s basic purpose of protecting service members. (Page 14)
“Predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force,” (Page 15)
Bluegreen Vacations cites to no case law, legislative history, DOD interpretation or other source showing any indication that timeshares were intended to be excluded from the protections provided by the MLA. Instead, they rely on Lennen v. Marriot Ownership Resorts, Inc., in support of its claim that beneficial interests in timeshare vacations trusts are real property under the Florida Land Trust Act and the Florida Timeshare Act. However, this case is distinguishable because whether or not a timeshare interest is considered real property under a specific state law is not determinative of whether the MLA applies. (Page 15)
Contact After Inside Timeshare if you are an active duty service member, or know an active duty service member who has been negatively affected by timeshare lending. We have also heard from many veterans.
Thank you, Irene, for the time and effort in writing this article and to the significant other half who does the editing for you. I don’t know about our readers, but personally, I am horrified at what is happening, For several years now, myself and Irene have written and published many of the horror stories from Active and Retired Military. These are people who have served their country, yet they are targets for the “PREDATORS” with their false promises. No one deserves this treatment.
After Inside Timeshare would like to hear from any Military in the UK and Europe who have been subject to similar, did it affect your standing such as security clearance? This is for research purposes only, we are quite sure this predatory behaviour has occurred and we believe that it is about time figures are complied. If you would like to ask any questions on this please use our contact page.
Have a good weekend.