Proposal to eliminate timeshare exit assistance draws concern from House committee

by | Mar 13, 2019

Florida has more timeshare properties than any other state in the nation. But now some state lawmakers are looking at restricting the options consumers have when they want to get out of a timeshare deal.

Members of the House Business and Professions Subcommittee heard from representatives in the timeshare industry, including both timeshare developers and the exit companies that help consumers sell or get out of these deals when life circumstances change.

The subcommittee conversation centered around a proposal being considered that would impose regulations and penalties on the companies that assist people when they want get out of these products. The exit companies contend that this bill is being pushed by timeshare developers to essentially legislate exit companies out of business, while timeshare developers argue tighter restrictions on exit companies are needed.

Timeshare contracts are typically complex. Many such contracts even contain “in perpetuity” clauses that can pass the fees and financial obligations from the original owner to their heirs after death.

According to a study by the University of Central Florida, 85 percent of timeshare owners who go to contract later regret their purchase. Those customers often hire exit companies that help them sell, trade, or even give away their timeshare.

Shannon Zetrouer, an attorney who represents consumers looking to get out of their timeshares, says many timeshare companies misrepresent the nature and characteristics of their timeshare products, trapping consumers in bad deals. 

“The average timeshare consumer who is looking to retain [a timeshare exit company] is doing so because they either feel victimized by the developers’ high-pressure sales tactics at the point of sale,”  Zetrouer said, “or perhaps they simply can no longer afford the contract or are unable to utilize their timeshare.”

Many lawmakers criticized these supposedly high-pressure sales tactics used by timeshare companies and shared personal anecdotes about their own timeshare experiences.

“I myself have sat through one of these presentations, and as an attorney, I found it to be a high-pressure situation,” said Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin. “A 90-minute presentation turned into a three-hour presentation.”

“I too owned a timeshare and had to go to bankruptcy to get out of it,” added Rep. Wengay Newton.

James Gamel with Wyndham Vacations, one of the largest timeshare developers in the industry, is a strong proponent of the legislation.

“It would provide consumers hopefully with better choices and more information to make the choices about hiring counsel,” said Gamel.

Gamel noted that Wyndham Vacations spends approximately 30-40 percent of product sales on marketing efforts to attract new timeshare customers.

While no vote was taken on HB 435 by Rep. Wyman Duggan, the bill has raised concern among some lawmakers about the necessity of this legislation.

15 Comments

  1. Janie

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged by certain vacation clubs, that a vacationing person in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of points.” (Jane Austin, with some alteration)

    Reply
  2. NT

    Presentation is long, high sales pressure and an on the spot decision required. No time to digest and consider the pros and cons. They talk a good talk but I don’t think I will see the value that they push. Get you in and it still costs more.

    Reply
  3. Sandy Talbott

    How long do you think this will take to get resolved? I have paid 5013.00 to get out of my timeshare therefore I am very concerned!

    Reply
  4. Karen Levins

    Open Letter to Mr. JAMES GAMEL, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ARDA

    Dear Mr. Gamel,

    I read your recent commentary in the Orlando Sentinel (October 19, 2019).

    You’re kidding, right?

    You say in your commentary that “The timeshare industry understands life circumstances can change after making a purchase and there are programs in place to assist those customers who wish to conclude their membership by working directly with their homeowners association or developer.”

    Specifically, what “programs” are you referring to for owners at WYNDHAM’s Carriage Hills timeshare property in Ontario Canada?

    Think carefully and please do your homework before you direct us to your ResponsibleExit website. I’ve already “been there, done that”. And after spending a lot of time trying to figure out how our Wyndham Shell Vacations Owners in need are supposed to apply ARDA’s ResponsibleExit solution to their ‘life circumstances’, I have been told by Wyndham staff, that Wyndham is denying its Carriage timeshare Owners from accessing its Responsible Exit option, namely the “Wyndham’s Ovations” program.

    So what reliable and useful advice do you have for us, Mr. Gamel? I see from your LinkedIn profile that for 5 years you served as a ‘trusted counselor and partner to various business departments and a leader in the legal department’ at Wyndham Destinations. When you combine that experience with your current role as President and CEO of ARDA, I’m really hoping that this robust experience makes you uniquely and perfectly qualified to help us owners at Wyndham’s Carriage Resort with our need to transition out of timeshare ownership.

    If you are saying that industry reform is not needed because Developers offer ResponsibleExit options, how exactly do you explain the dilemma faced by us Wyndham timeshare owners at Carriage resorts?

    What exactly are you ‘urging’ for us, Mr. Gamel?

    We may be ‘nice’ Canadian, but we won’t accept a reply of “Sorry, eh?”.

    Thank you in advance for what I hope is a productive and prompt reply.

    Kindest regards,
    Karen Levins

    Reply
  5. Janice Moore

    We own at Carriage Hills and at Carriage Ridge. We specifically asked during both presentations “looking down the road when we are older, can we sell our timeshare”? He replied “yes, and if you have difficulty, we will help you sell it”. That was one of the main reasons we bought, not one, but two timeshares!! Several years ago when we wanted out, we contacted Shell and of course, were told “I’m sorry, we don’t get involved in the selling of timeshares”!!!! So we are hog tied to these two units!!! Shell’s Sales Agents at the time should be ashamed of themselves for lying and not being honest with us!!!! Where’s the protection for us as owners?????

    Reply
  6. Linda Baker

    We own at Carriage Hills inOntArio. We would like an exit strategy as our children are not interested in inheriting something they can not afford to maintain or not interested in owning.

    Reply
  7. Liz Avison

    Exit companies are a problem, BUT TIMESHARE AGREEMENTS are at the root of the problem.

    Big timeshare “developers” over-sell, hoodwink potential owners, & pressure-sell with unrealistic promises. They insist on same day signing & discourage any real time to review or getting appropriate counsel.

    Legislators should address the CORE problem: Timeshares have been over sold & now the industry faces an owner demographic aging out & travel trends that demand greater flexibility than they can provide.

    Exit companies utilize the same tactics to attract desperate (often elderly in poor health & financial difficulty) to there also unrealistic promises & shady money back offers.

    Reply
  8. Arlene Smetaniuk

    I have owned Every other year timeshares at Carriage Hills/Carriage Ridge for a long time. My circumstances have changed over time. I am retired, my husband of 56 years died of pancreatic cancer in 2016. I do not have a driver’s license do I can no longer use the resorts unless I can find someone to drive me. My pensions care my only source of income. I have always paid my maintenance fees, but if they continue to increase, I will not be able to pay them in the future. We were told when we bought that the value would increase and we could sell and make a profit when we no longer wished to own.I have been asking about an exit strategy for some time, to no avail.I feel betrayed by Wyndham. In all the conversations I have had,they keep trying to sell me points and get more of my hard earned money. An exit strategy is needed ASAP.

    Reply
  9. Cinthya Halifax

    We own at Carriage Hills.. it was sold to us as an investment and as a cheaper way to travel to nicer resorts. Both wrong. We are retired.. we cannot afford the ever increasing maintenance fees… and our children want NOTHING to do with it (smarter than us, thankfully). Where is Canadian consumer protection? Many of us need help getting a fair exit plan.

    Reply
  10. Nicki Charbonneau

    We also own at Carriage Hills in Ontario. We are dealing with escalating maintenance fees and no secondary market. While I agree that Exit companies require stricter regulations so do timeshare developers. They told us lies took our money and now we are stuck with a product we can’t even rent out to help recoup costs because Wyndham under cut the rental prices. We are looking for a fair exit plan.
    Nicki Charbonneau

    Reply
  11. Dave

    We have been owners of Carriage Hills Resort since June 1997. We own an annual 2 bedroom, week 52. Although it has served us well over the years with vacations abroad and going to our home resort, we are quickly nearing the end of our line. With the ever increasing maintenance fees this year’s being the biggest increase we’ve experienced to date-$1488.19 !!! This is becoming unsustainable and will definitely be unsustainable for our children in future years. We too like others were promised that this would be an investment and something we could will to our future children. What we are willing our children are expenses and potential debts they never agreed to and signed up for. So what I want to ask is; “How can children who were not even born yet be held accountable for years to come for a deeded vacation property their parents bought???!!!” This is ludicrous and should not be allowed to continue or even exist. These timeshare companies are holding us hostage and it is time to stop this. We need an exit strategy and more people need to be aware of what they signed up for and how you’ve been handcuffed for life and beyond affecting your innocent heirs. Fed up and want out !!!

    Reply
  12. Don Agnew

    What a joke! According to U of Central Florida they found 85% of Timeshare buyers regret their purchase and now they want to legislate restrictions only on the exit companies. Why not apply stiff regulation on Timeshare companies that caused the problem. Timeshare sales people are given a licence to lie as long those lies are left out of the contract.

    Reply
  13. Julie S.

    I don’t understand how timeshare sales are legal. I am also an owner in Carriage Ridge in Ontario, Canada. There is no exit. An investment that is worthless on paper and costs $1485 per year. We can no longer exchange for “amazing world travel” as our points are worth less. And Wyndham rents out units at rates less than our yearly fees. So people using Expedia get a better deal than I do, as an owner. Calling about booking rooms – nothing available. Calling as an outsider….tons of rooms. Is this unfair business practices or anti-competitive since we can’t easily book to rent out our weeks. Fed up, and looking for legitimate exit.

    Reply
  14. Sandra

    Gamel, ur not spending money at the carriage resorts in ontario. No exit, no sales office, just abandoned us…thats what Wyndham has done

    Reply
  15. Valerie Blezius

    I am joining the group of owners from Carriage Hills timeshare in Ontario Canada in confirming that there is absolutely NO EXIT STRATEGY AND NO HELP FROM WYNDHAM at Carriage Hills. The “in perpetuity” clause is in force so the debt passes on to your heirs. To make it worse, Wyndham closed down their Sales Office a few years ago and have said Carriage Hills IS NOT ELIGIBLE to access the “exit relief” provided through their Ovations program. Also note that I have sat through several very high pressure timeshare pitches in the past and NEVER did any of them provide any detail on how you would exit, other than saying it would not be a problem …… which is 100% untrue. I recently saw an ad from one owner at Carriage Hills offering to pay $3,000 PLUS all legal fees to anyone who would buy his timeshare. Does this sound like exiting is “not a problem”? Timeshare companies everywhere are experiencing an aging population that want to exit their supposedly wonderful investment opportunity and they are now asking for this legislation to protect them from the onslaught of owners over the next decade who want to turn in their deed! This is just the tip of the iceberg!

    Reply

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