Part II Bill Ogburn’s ongoing battle with interwoven Timeshare Exit Companies Dreamworld International, Resort Management Group (RMG), and CCS Group, LLC.
Why did Bill and his wife think Marriott would put a lien on their personal residence?
Part I: Bill unnecessarily paid Dream World $12,000 to exit his Wyndham timeshare points
Bill is one of many who reached out to the wrong people seeking release from his timeshare. On May 12, 2022, Bill paid Dream World International $12,000 for help with his delinquent Wyndham maintenance fees. It all began with correspondence from Dream World that said, “Are you having trouble with a timeshare? We can get you out!” They didn’t – because he retained them.
What drives timeshare members into the arms of exit companies and lawyers
Letters from Developers stating, “We will foreclose on your property” leads already distressed timeshare owners to think that their timeshare company is going to foreclose on their personal residence. Scary wording is by design, hoping to make distressed owners pay up. Had the letter said “We will foreclose on your Sheraton property; no sleep would have been lost. The letter was simply the Developer following procedures to foreclose on the timeshare property. It is these actions that drive people to law firms or exit companies—the lack of a viable secondary market forces desperate people to do desperate things.
Bill is not the only timeshare member or owner who thought they were going to lose their home to a timeshare company. A few months ago, a widow, age 80, in New York, also reached out in a panic. She thought Marriott was going to pursue acquiring her personal property. Without getting too legal, Developers can pursue a judgment that could allow them to put a lien on personal property, but that was not what the letters said. Non-judicial foreclosure means the company will not purse a judgment. As stated in the letters received:
Regarding the loan, if the foreclosure is completed by a non-judicial trustee sale, the non-judicial foreclosure process will not result in a person judgment or liability against you.
Unlike Bill’s Wyndham timeshare, his Sheraton Flex/Vistana timeshare has an outstanding loan of about $6,000. Bill paid another exit company $6,000 for help with this timeshare, angry beyond words after Sheraton had him arrested as he tried to arrange a handicapped room. He explains below what happened.
Given Bill has no email or computer, the exit company agreed to refund Bill’s $6,000. Also, Bill did not report any deception in purchasing his Marriott/Sheraton timeshare. I can’t afford it, as a reason to cancel a loan, doesn’t work for timeshare or your personal residence. The difference is you can sell a house, even with a loan outstanding.
Tom Kessler, a Florida licensed broker with True Timeshare Realty, reached out to Bill after seeing a Central Virginia ABC News 8 report about his timeshare nightmares. Tom specializes in Marriott resales but did not know that Bill was seeking release from Marriott. Bill told Tom he was afraid Marriott was going to “take his home” and added, “I have lost 95 pounds over the stress and worry.”
I introduced Bill to our other Marriott owner in New York to offer Bill moral support.
A Marriott Vacation Club journey to resolution
It all started when our other Marriott buyer received the scary letter. Unlike some Developers, Marriott doesn’t mind if a volunteer is on the phone with an owner due to extreme distress, age-related impairment, or English as a second language. Like Bill’s wife, she is also battling cancer. Given the stress level, and several failed attempts to get to the bottom of things, I suggested we call Marriott together.
Diligent efforts on the part of this Marriott owner, following calls we made to Marriott Vacation Club, resulted in a long-awaited release. She no longer wanted the timeshare after her husband’s passing in 2022. It helped that she used to be an administrative secretary. She took the initiative to reach out to the New York Attorney General’s office to obtain helpful information.
We spoke with Marriott customer service representative Roger near the end of April. Like Bill, this owner also owned Vistana Resort (Sheraton). Roger said she was sent a letter dated earlier in April that was an offer for a “deed in lieu of foreclosure.” She had not mentioned anything to me about a letter. She told us she did receive a letter but it did not say deed in lieu of foreclosure so she did not respond as requested. Roger said no problem. He could note that she accepted the offer and would send the necessary paperwork within 90 days.
We’re not born with the knowledge of what a deed in lieu of foreclosure means. I explained to our owner that if Roger had spoken in understandable English, he would have said that Marriott was offering to “take back your deed instead of foreclosing.” This means the dreaded word “foreclosure” will not appear on a credit report. Roger was helpful, and understandably used to real estate lingo.
With a grateful “whew” we said goodbye to Roger while waiting for the document package. The owner called a few weeks later in another panic because she received a demand for past-due maintenance fees! I told her that it was likely that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. She contacted Marriott and was told that was indeed the case.
Developers will counter that millions love their timeshare. Of course, they do, but the Better Business Bureau and others say the majority of the complaints center around timeshare release, often when life takes an adverse turn.
Tom Kessler explained, “Companies that offer a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure are smart. Marriott saves money by offering to take back the timeshare. It keeps maintenance fees current because there is not a lengthy foreclosure process. After Marriott acquires a Legacy (before timeshare points) week, they turn the week into points that can be resold at any resort. In other words, it adds inventory to Marriott’s system. Much of the Legacy inventory is highly desirable. The owner needs to be delinquent on maintenance fees before being offered a Deed in Lieu, the short form name.”
Another resale broker told us that Marriott won’t take a timeshare back if the rental prices are cheaper than what an owner pays in maintenance fees. That’s not fair to people who paid thousands of dollars to “own” a timeshare.
According to Our New York owner, “In addition to reaching out to Tom, I reached out to Magical Realty in Orlando. They also specialize in Marriott. Both Tom and the representative at Magical Realty said I would have to bring my maintenance fees current to list, but neither firm wanted to list my Sheraton Vistana deeded (red week) #33 at Fountains II condominium. I had been told my dual ownership at Orlando and Hutcheson Island was valuable. They both explained that only certain buildings at Vistana Villages have resale value. It didn’t seem right to be forced to default. I kept good financial habits throughout my life.”
Back to Bill
How did accepting an invitation to stay at Sheraton Broadway Resort Villas lead to Bill being arrested and sent to jail for one night because he accepted one of those three night deals from telemarketers!? Charges were expunged.
First, as reported by ABC News 8 in Virginia on March 11, 2020, Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Bill believed a “million-point buyer program” would relieve him of maintenance fees he could not afford. He estimates, that during better times, he spent about $100,000 with Marriott and about $130,000 with Wyndham.
After the ABC News 8 reporter helped Bill resolve his Wyndham dispute in 2020, he was still left with the problem of not being able to pay Wyndham maintenance fees. Unaware of Wyndham’s Ovations program, that would have allowed Bill to give back the points for free, Bill unfortunately turned to Dream World International:
ABC News 8 Rolynn Wilson’s report about exit companies, June 30, 2023
Can it get any worse?
Bill stopped his loan payments after Sheraton Broadway Resort Villas had him arrested trying to arrange a handicapped room! He spent one night in jail, the only night he ever spent incarcerated, and incurred significant expense because of the ambulance transport, his handicapped van impounded, and his wheelchair left at the jail.
The arrest, according to Bill
In July of 2021 I accepted an offer from Take Three to stay three nights at Sheraton Broadway Resort Villas in Myrtle Beach. This was during Covid. My wife had cancer. We accepted the invitation because we needed a getaway. I told Take Three I needed a handicapped room. I called the resort right away to make sure the handicapped room was available. They said they had no handicap rooms. I told them I had bought at this facility but they said I was a third-party guest and I would have to speak to Mr. Jones. He did not call me back, and this was the day before check-in. I drove on a Saturday to see about the handicapped room. We were supposed to check in on Sunday. I left at 10 on Saturday and arrived at 4:40. The guard would not let me in. I showed him my Sheraton/Marriott card. The guard said he had to get authorization. No one came. Traffic was lining up. I had to go to the bathroom. I could not turn around. The guard went into the shack. I got out of the car with my walker. I fell and accidentally knocked the gate down. It was flimsy aluminum and I had been moving around in a tight space with my walker. I stumbled and fell in the direction of the gate. I went in to see if I could use the bathroom. The police came. The ambulance showed up. They put me on a stretcher and said they were going to take me to the hospital, but I was handcuffed and taken to jail. I didn’t have my medications and had not eaten all day long. They asked the next day if I wanted to talk to the judge. I had never been in trouble before. I called and retained an attorney. I made bail. The jail called an ambulance. They took me to the ER. The ER called a taxi. Marriott had impounded my new handicapped van and my wheelchair was in the jail. This created significant expenses. The law firm of Axelrod & Associates, P.C. got the charges expunged but I was not reimbursed for any expenses.
We hope our “Buyer Beware” warnings about timeshares, timeshare exit companies, and vacation deals that sound to good to be true, help raise public awareness. To think a product sold for family fun and relaxation can so easily drive a family to financial despair means the business model is broken. Charles Thomas and I have heard from thousands of distressed owners spanning California to the Canary Islands.
An Attorney Speaks Out About Foreclosure
Kiplinger Personal Finance: Changing level of aggression
Thank you, Irene, Bill’s story is a classic example of how Timeshare has used certain words associated with Real Estate, all to give the illusion that you are purchasing property, and then to use words like “Foreclosure” really rams it home, all with the intention of keeping you paying the annual maintenance fees. It was the same in Europe, only the word that was used was “Repossession” another term associated with property ownership, which would frighten owners to carry on paying. After all, there is a perceived stigma attached to having a “foreclosure/repossession” on your record.
Timeshare is a “HOLIDAY” product, not real estate of property or an investment, you own nothing apart from the weeks or points equivalent which allows you use of the property. Admittedly there are some “timeshares” in which the property is “owned” jointly by several owners, who do hold the “title deeds” and are able to sell their share on the open real estate market at current property prices. This is commonly known as “Fractional”, not to be confused with the standard timeshare fractional which tends to have a points system in place for use, which was the system used in Europe.
There is a product that has been in operation since 1983, we highlighted this back in June, It is a fully regulated “investment” product providing holidays. It can be cashed in, subject to certain conditions, but it also warns that your “capital may be at risk”. It is not property ownership per se, but is probably the nearest you will get.
That is all for this week, We hope you all have a fabulous weekend, Baby Dog knows it’s the weekend and has given his instructions.