March 21, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver
If you are about to attend a vacation time share sales presentation and have difficulty in saying “No!,” then our story today could easily save you thousands of dollars, and we begin with this question:
Let’s say that you plan to lease an apartment, or retain the services of an attorney, or are presented a contract to sign, but first, you would like to have it reviewed by family members. So, you ask for a copy but are refused.
In our many years of writing this column, not a single reader ever complained of being unable to obtain a draft copy of any document requiring their signature with one expensive, glaring exception: Vacation time share sales contracts. Why?
Selma readers Bennie and Donna — both 75 years young — contacted You and the Law after having attended a vacation club resort sales presentation in Newport Beach “Which,” as Bennie explained, “was just like the brochure describes, a truly beautiful property, near the Pacific Ocean.”
The couple were taking advantage of a “Three-Night, 4 Day” promotion which required attending a 90 minute time share sales presentation.
“While it did exceed 90 minutes, which did not bother us, we felt an intense pressure to plunk down $80,000 for points which would give us two weeks of use at many of their resorts. They made it seem that if we did not buy right then and there, that all the other perks offered would not be obtainable. It was a now or never kind of an attitude they left us with.”
“What do you mean I can’t get out?”
There is nothing per se wrong in owning a vacation time share. Millions of them have been sold, directly by developers using incredibly high commissioned, high pressure salespeople — or on the resale market for a fraction of the cost by folks trying to get out of their contract.
So, why would someone who puts down $15,000 to $80,000 or finances a time share want to dump the thing? The most common reasons are discovering what they were told by the salesperson doesn’t stand up. It is often difficult to make use of this “investment” which for many is money tossed down a black hole, impossible to obtain a certain room or time of the year, or even a specific resort.
This column has met dozens of time share owners who left their common sense in the hotel room and were seduced by all the pretty pictures and images of staying in great resorts, saving money. Once awake from their endorphin-infused hangover, they realized just how expensive one of these white-elephants can be, every year being charged thousands of dollars for taxes and maintenance even when they do not use their points or stay at a property.
“And those fees never end! You are buying a real property interest and these charges go on forever unless they let you out or someone buys it from you at a huge loss,” Bennie correctly learned. But it’s what he discovered about the vacation club that was even more upsetting:
“The salesman suggested that they might soon have a resignation/resale program which would let people out and showed me a contract with that language. But when I asked for a copy of anything we had to sign so we could take it to our son, who is a lawyer, they flat-out refused.
“The only way to get a copy was to sign the contracts! We refused and left. No one has ever pushed us around and no one will,” feisty Bennie’s email concluded.
What we found
We paid a visit to the resort and, like our readers, were shown a “Quality Assurance Checklist” which stated their intention:
“To provide a resignation/resale program for owners who wish to exit the program in the future… which is not guaranteed to occur and may be turned on or off at our sole discretion.”
But when a copy of that form, and anything else they wanted signed was requested, the answer was a firm no! Days later, we phoned, were promised the “Checklist” via an email, which has never been received. We obtained the actual checklist through other, legal means.
What’s the problem with that language?
“This kind of wishful thinking, maybe we will, type of language may look impressive, but is not legally enforceable as it not a commitment. In my legal opinion, it has no place in a contract because it can easily be misread, sending a completely opposite message,” commented Hanford attorney Ron Jones.
Jones added that, in his legal opinion, the checklist was “vague, ambiguous, and utterly confusing except that the buyer must pay and pay and pay.” We agree,
Hats off to Bennie and Darla for just walking away.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.