Florida bill aims to weaken timeshare protections

Florida bill aims to weaken timeshare protections

If you own a timeshare in Florida, or are considering buying one, then a new bill currently making its way through the state legislature could impact you - and not in a good way.

If it passes, the bill will weaken some legal protections currently in place for timeshare owners and buyers. Here's the scoop...

House Chamber at the Florida State Capitol The Florida Capitol, where this timeshare bill will be voted on

Your timeshare fees could go up even faster

This bill (HB 453 in the house, and SB 932 in the senate) proposes changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. It was sponsored by two lawmakers, Republicans Eric Eisnaugle and Kelli Stargel.

The existing Timesharing Act provides some legal limits on how fast your annual timeshare fees can go up. As owners, you're probably happy that those limits are in place.

The current cap on annual increases is 125 percent, which already seems like a pretty steep increase to me. If this bill passes, however, certain items will be excluded from this cap, such as property taxes and certain common area expenses.

Timeshare fees keep going up Timeshare fees could go up even faster

It sounds like this could allow a company to impose the maximum 125% increase for other expenses, and then tack on an additional fee increase for property taxes or common area improvements.

As a timeshare owner, I certainly would not like to see my fees go up like that! 🙁

Hopefully increases this high would be rare, but obviously somebody must want to raise fees faster than they currently can, or there wouldn't be anyone backing this bill.

Who benefits from this? The people who collect the fees - timeshare developers and management companies.

Who pays the price? Timeshare owners.

Verdict = Not good for timeshare owners, since it could allow for greater fee increases. The current law seems to provide for an ample cap on annual increases already.

Making it harder to get out of a timeshare contract

Another provision in the bill is meant to make it harder for a timeshare buyer to get out of their contract, even if the developer made errors in the original contract.

Currently, if there are errors in the contract, then a buyer has a right under Florida law to cancel that contract after 10 days.

Under the new bill, errors or ommissions that are "nonmaterial" would NOT allow a buyer to cancel after 10 days.

Stargel, one of the sponsors of the bill, said that the bill is only supposed to cover technicalities, not major errors or problems. However, there is no definition of what counts as "nonmaterial", leaving that vague provision up to future court cases to decide.

Who benefits from this? Timeshare developers, who can keep buyers locked into contracts more easily, even if the developers themselves have made errors or ommissions on those contracts.

Who pays the price? Timeshare buyers who want to get out of their contract, but cannot, in spite of errors on the contract documentation.

Verdict = Not good for timeshare buyers, since it could make it harder for you to get out of a contract.

They call this "modernizing"?

The timeshare industry association, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) donated almost $500,000 to political parties and PACs in Florida during the 2014 election cycle. This includes about $300,000 to the state Republican party, and $5,000 to Eisnaugle's PAC (one of the bill's sponsors), the Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom.

The ARDA described this legislation as "a bill that modernizes state law." I'm not quite sure how weakening consumer protections counts as "modernizing", though I suppose there are plenty of people who would like to see a "modern" trend towards weaker timeshare consumer protections.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that it may not stop here. I wouldn't be surprised to see similar legislation come up in other states, and even further bills in Florida, which try to chip away at timeshare-related consumer protections.

This bill has already passed the government operations appropriations subcommittee and the regulated industries committee, and could be on its way to final passage.

Read article in the Orlando Sentinel...

Comments? Questions?

Timeshare Owner's Guide to Winning the Timeshare GameAre you a timeshare owner or buyer in Florida, who could be impacted by this bill? I'd love to hear your perspective on it, so please leave any comments in the Reply section below. Thanks!

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Are you getting as much value out of your timeshare as you hoped? If not, there could be some tactics and tricks that would help you get more bang for your timeshare buck. I share a bunch of timeshare tips in this blog, and you can find a whole lot more in my Timeshare Owner's Guide.
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Hi! I'm Deanna, founder of Winning the Timeshare Game, and author of the books. After running an international tour company, I'm now into the fascinating world of timeshares. I enjoy sharing all the tips I discover, and I'd love to see everyone have as much fun with their timeshares as we do!

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12 Comments

  1. R. Santos

    I've been an owner since 1995, each year I would contribute to ARDA when my annual fee's were do, only because ARDA promoted themselves for supporting favorable legislation for timeshare owners. This legislation seems to do harm to owners and outright fraud if ARDA sponsor's or supports this Alec type bill.

    • Hi R -
      Thanks for your comment! That "voluntary contribution" that's added onto every timeshare owner's fee is a good topic that I'll have to write about soon. The money goes to the ARDA-ROC, the "Resort Owner's Coalition", which is associated with the ARDA. This group does support some legislation that seems to benefit owners, but since the developers are on the opposite side of the transaction from the resort owners (ie. they make their money from the owners), it does seem like there's a natural conflict of interest there. What benefits the developers is not always in the owners' best interests. You can stop paying those contributions, though they don't always make that obvious. Thanks!
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Should I cancel my timeshare purchase?

  2. I can't afford paying my fees now WestGate wants &50.00 to take it back I owe nothing . Mr Seigal only cares for his pocket and senios beware

    • Hi Myrna -
      I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It does seem that Westgate and other timeshare companies are interested in boosting their profits, more than doing what's best for timeshare buyers. On our side of the fence (as buyers), we need to be careful, do our research, and make sure we know what we're doing before signing a contract. Unfortunately, the typical timeshare sales process doesn't work that way - they want to rush you into a big decision, before you have a chance to thoroughly understand it.
      Best of luck with it, - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...What is Flexchange, and how can it help you?

  3. thanks for your warning about this new bill. Who should we contact to voice our opinion. everytime you turn around, the fees are increasing every year for one excuse to the next. i would love performing an audit on their books to see what the fees are going.

    • Hi Peggy -
      Thanks for your comment! If you are a Florida resident, you can contact your state representative or state senator to let them know your thoughts, and how you'd like them to vote on the bill. If you're not a Florida resident, you could still contact Florida politicians, but not as one of their constituents.

      As for seeing the budget and where your money is going, if you own a timeshare directly at a resort, you should be a member of the resort's HOA, and should have access to that. Contact your resort and ask them how you as an owner can get a copy of the budget. If you own points rather than owning directly at a resort, it's not so straightforward, since you'll typically be part of a trust, rather than an owner at a resort.

      I think your desire to find out more and get involved is wonderful. Best of luck with it! - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...Should I cancel my timeshare purchase?

  4. rose-irene poirier

    Listen, I agree that timeshare maintenance fees increase every year and it is not to our advantage. another concern is all those people almost harassed us for new meeting each time we are using our timeshare and does come up with new thing to manipulate people like us to buy. therefore as I can see we are the losers not the winners . How can we approach these problems in a professional manners. We owned in Maine , and the Bahamas.. What do we really gain as a points and week owner if we have a platinum membership.. does the maintenances fee will increase because of that and is it really the truth that the people you has the Elite status can have and use 9000 points to reserve or exchange no matter what.. Thanks for your great interest and representing us ...poor consumers

    • Hi Rose-Irene -
      Thanks for your comment. I really do feel for your predicament, and the way it sometimes seems like the deck is stacked against timeshare owners. I'm trying to provide as much helpful information as I can here, in order to help you get more out of your timeshare, but it's a complicated system. Maintenance fees really do go up every year. Part of that is reasonable, since everything gets more expensive each year due to inflation. However, where it becomes a real problem is when the fees go up way too fast to be reasonable or affordable anymore for what you get. I'm afraid that this bill opens the way to faster and steeper fee increases, which is why I see it as a bad thing for timeshare owners. As for the platinum membership, I wrote about it at http://timesharegame.com/rci-platinum-worth-it-in-2014/, so maybe that will help.
      Thanks again, - Deanna
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...5 Ways to Avoid Getting the Exchange You Want

  5. Its actually a nice and helpful piece of information. Im glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. We have had our timeshare since 2003 and has gone from $ 283. 00 maintenance fee to over 700.00 this year and maybe next year average between $600.00. We are now retired and income not good !!! Very disappointed that our lawmakers and Republicans no less and I am one have passed this law benefiting not us the owners and to try to sell or give back is a costly fee what to do ???

    • Hi Gay -
      Boy, that is a steep increase! I can see why you're not happy with the way your fees have gone. I'm not happy about this either. It seems that politicians (of every stripe) frequently favor whoever gives them the most money for their re-election campaigns, rather than protecting the voters they're supposed to represent.
      Thanks for writing and good luck with it, - Deanna.
      Deanna Keahey recently posted...How to get rid of your Diamond Resorts timeshare

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