Timeshare too much? The Timeshare Gestapo story
This is a typical story we hear from our clients who call for help so we wanted to share this article from www.thisismoney.co.uk so you can hear it in their words not ours.
These are not isolated cases, as a regulated law firm this infuriates us especially when people find themselves in scam after scam.
Carol Jones lives in fear of what she calls the Timeshare Gestapo, who lie in wait at her holiday apartment in Florida. She’s so scared of their intimidation and legal threats that she doesn’t want to visit her property and has asked for her identity to be kept secret. For two years, Mrs Jones (whose name we agreed to change) has been trying to sell the two-week timeshare in a three-bedroom property in Westgate Resorts, Florida.
Dream homes turning into nightmares: Many of the 600,000 British timeshare owners are desperate to sell now – but there an estimated 400 sellers to every one buyer. The salesmen refuse to release her from her contract even though husband Peter is in poor health and can no longer take a long-haul flight across the Atlantic. So far she has spent £25,900 for just four weeks of holiday.
In one final bid to get out, she flew to Florida to beg with the owners — but ended up being harangued into taking out a new deal. Mrs Jones says: ‘The salesmen at the timeshare are like the Gestapo. Whenever we visit they hang around the front door lying in wait for you to try to drag you to more sales meetings.
‘They even hammer on the door if you don’t turn up. ‘We just want to get out but, as yet, we’ve had no takers.’
The sell-off is being driven by holidaymakers desperate to rid themselves of properties they can no longer use and which cost them thousands of pounds in fees every year. In 2013, 780 people contacted the Timeshares Owners and Committees Organisation about selling up. There are currently more than 500 on sale on auction website eBay — many for less than £1.
For example, there is a two-week timeshare in June in a two-bedroom apartment in the Costa del Sol. It’s at a four-star building, with excellent facilities and a beautiful pool — and costs 1p. The seller says her husband isn’t well so they can longer holiday there. But the catch is the annual fees of £900 — and the £115 transfer fee.
Also on eBay for 99p is a stunning two-bed luxury two-week timeshare in Portugal. It has three swimming pools, a gym, squash courts and a bar and restaurant But the maintenance fees are £1,250 a year. It is fees such as this that prevent many timeshares from selling. Now con men who promise to find buyers are trying to lure these vulnerable owners out of even more cash. But often once money has exchanged hands the salesmen are never heard of again.
During the Eighties and Nineties, thousands of holidaymakers were convinced to sign up for timeshares abroad. Most of these were sold on the Spanish Costas, but in the property boom at the turn of the century holidaymakers in Florida were also targeted. For an upfront fee plus annual charges they would be able to use a room or apartment for a set number of weeks each year. Often holidaymakers were duped into these deals after being given the hard-sell by developers. As a result, many buyers never got the deal they bargained for.
They have been lumbered with contracts they can’t get out of and properties that failed to live up to the dream they were sold.
Many of the sellers can no longer afford spiralling maintenance fees of up to £1,500 a year. Others can’t visit because they are too old or frail and can’t get travel insurance. They are terrified that, when they die, their loved ones will be saddled with crippling bills because the timeshares will be automatically passed on to their estate.
Desperate sellers are being targeted by unscrupulous firms and resale companies who claim they can find buyers or sell the property. For this they charge a hefty fee. Others simply run off with upfront fees or, in the worse cases, pocket the cash from the sale of the property.
In the first five months of the year, timeshare owners lost more than £466,000 to this type of resale scam. Hundreds of firms are on a blacklist compiled by the Timeshare Consumer Association.
Margaret and John Coddington: Still waiting for their money
Margaret and John Coddington bought a one-week timeshare at the Savoy hotel in Madeira in 1971. In September last year, they decided to sell because Mr Coddington, 73, has a heart condition and can no longer travel. The couple contacted resale firm Klik Timeshare Madeira and paid £90.
In December, they were offered £2,500 for their week in September — £4,500 less than they paid for it 42 years ago. They accepted but though the timeshare transferred to new owners in March they have not received a penny. They say Klik has stopped replying to emails.
Mr Coddington, a retired British Airways employee from Eastbourne, says:
‘We just want our money — I don’t see what can be taking so long’.
Klik would not comment. For Carol Jones and her husband, even staying in the UK is no escape from her timeshare hell. Cold-callers from resale firms relentlessly ring their home phone. The dream they say they were sold at a meeting in 2006 has proved far from the reality. The Jones’ claim the salesmen told them that they could exchange their weeks in Florida for a place in Europe. They paid £22,000 there and then. But they have only ever used their timeshare twice. They have paid £250 to a timeshare broker but haven’t found a buyer. And they are tied in for life.
If they die, they are told their son inherits the timeshare. And they claim they were threatened with legal action if they stopped paying the fees and could be barred from entering the country. Mrs Jones says: ‘We would never have bought it if we’d known it was for life. We feel utterly conned and just don’t know which way to turn.
‘We aren’t gullible people — it sounded like a nice package at the time. There is no way out of the contract. I don’t understand how they can be allowed to hold us to ransom when we can’t afford to pay.’ Westgate Resorts failed to provide a comment.
If you have been mis-sold a Timeshare or need help cancelling a maintenance contract TLW Solicitors are here to help on a no-win no-fee basis. Fill in our enquiry form, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us today.