Over in Canada, the decision of a Fairmont (BC) timeshare resort has caused ripples of shock throughout the industry.
Up until recently, most of the members of the resort have been very happy with their timeshares. As with many timeshares, an initial lump sum is paid for a 40-year contract allowing the holder the use of the unit for one week per year, with annual maintenance fees also payable. Nothing untoward here.
However, Sunchase Villas has now upset that happy balance.
In 2010, a company called Northmount purchased the resort as part of a bankruptcy proceeding and decided to do renovations. Those renovations, many members were surprised to hear, would be paid for out of their pockets.
They were asked to pay a large additional sum in order to keep their membership, or pay the same amount to walk away from the timeshare. Whatever choice they made, they’d be hugely out of pocket, excluding their annual maintenance fees (not to mention that initial lump sum payment).
Over 1,500 members decided to take the matter further, taking Northmount to court for what they believed were illegal demands. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs were unsuccessful as the judge sided with Northmount. An appeal produced the same result.
Some of the plaintiffs had been advised to stop paying their maintenance fees while the matter was dealt with. However, these people are now being charged nearly 30% interest for late payment of these fees. What’s worse is that some families hit by the judgement have now been asked for up to $100,000 from Northmount and to cover their legal costs.
It’s an utterly shocking story that has led some prominent Canadian lawyers to stand up and say the law needs to change. The decision by Northmount and subsequently the court has destroyed the finances of these 1,500 people, not to mention those who didn’t join the lawsuit and either left or paid to continue with their contracts.
But could the same happen to you?
If you are asked for additional sums from your timeshare resort, to cover renovations or repairs over and above the sum of your annual maintenance fee, think carefully. You should absolutely contact a timeshare legal expert straightaway before taking any action to either stop paying or contest the fees. A legal expert will go through your contract with you and ascertain whether the resort is permitted to charge these additional fees. Either way, they will then be able to advise you as to the best course of action going forward.
The technical answer is that yes, in theory, the same could happen with your timeshare resort. However, the devastating outcome need not be the case for you. Provided you seek legal help from a professional, experienced expert who knows timeshare law intimately, then the situation stands a good chance of being settled in your favour. Whatever happens, it is important not to take the matter into your own hands, lest you meet the same fate of these poor Canadian timeshare members.