At Silver Travel Advisor, we are always happy to assist our members with their queries, and on this occasion we were able to offer our contacts and advice to help one member in a very tricky situation. Mary B (her name has been changed to protect her identify) tells her story:
In 2007 my brother and his new partner visited Florida and jointly signed a mortgage agreement with a Timeshare company for a one week timeshare at a cost of $19,000.
Unfortunately 6 months later, before they had the opportunity to use the apartment, my brother suffered a stroke at the age of 58 which left him with severe short-term memory problems and impaired vision in his right eye. He was unable to continue working so therefore lost a good income. His partner took care of him and handled all his medical and financial affairs. Two years later she was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died a year later.
Since I was his closest relative I then became responsible for his welfare. Apart from all the difficulties to do with his physical wellbeing, we had to visit his bank and this was when I discovered that they had been paying around $300 a month for over 3 years to a timeshare company for this mortgage . Prior to this I knew nothing about it. To say I was shocked would be an understatement as I knew how restrictive their income had become.
My brother’s lawyer confirmed that my brother and his partner had come to see him six months previously, when her condition was diagnosed as terminal, to request help with an insurance policy which had been obligatory at the time the mortgage agreement was signed. He still had no response from the timeshare company at the time of her death but then actively pursued it and a claim was lodged and eventually settled for $14,000 to the timeshare company to clear the debt.
He also informed me that the interest on the mortgage had been 17.5% per annum. He estimated that the couple had paid around $18,000 to date. If the instalments had been paid for the full 10 year term the total cost would have been $43,000.
My brother received a letter from the company confirming that the mortgage had now been paid and offering help with any questions he may have. On his behalf I sent an email asking what happened next. When could we have proof of ownership of the timeshare in order to dispose of it as my brother was unable to pay the maintenance charges? I did not receive a reply to that or to any subsequent follow-up requests for an answer. Nor did his lawyer.
The bill for Maintenance & Taxes amounting to almost $1,000 had been sent a few months before this and was incurring penalties for non-payment. I was still hoping to receive a reply from the timeshare company but it soon became clear that they did not care about his disability or his inability to pay. When the outstanding amount reached nearer $2,000 they passed it to a debt collecting agency in the US.
By this time my brother had been moved to an assisted living facility as he could no longer stay in his own home by himself. The demands were still coming to his old address but since I was anxious that he have no more upset and worry about this I kept it from him that we still were not finished with the problem. However I was at a loss as to what to do next.
Mary joins Silver Travel Advisor and Silver Travel Forum
As it happens I was a member of Cruising Mates, a forum for people who love cruising, and heard through them about the Silver Travel Forum which I then joined.
I opened a topic and posted a comment asking if anyone had any experience about Timeshare ownership. I was hoping some other member would come along and perhaps advise me about the procedure of getting ’proof of ownership’ in order to dispose of it. I immediately had a response from Peter M who suggested I get in touch with a contact of his who was a lawyer in the US. Although I was grateful for the suggestion I did explain that due to my brother’s financial position the cost of this would be impossible. To be honest, I thought little more about that and just continued to worry about this mounting debt.
However, Peter M had actually spoken to his ‘contact’ who I later came to know as his friend, Del Smith. Between them, Peter M, had made Del Smith aware of my brother’s situation and he kindly offered to try and make some enquiries with the US timeshare company on our behalf.
After we had spoken on the phone I sent him copies of all the correspondence and bills I had. Since that time he has been able to establish ’proof of ownership’ and also spent a lot of time and effort in finding a reputable company that deals with selling timeshares. I have spoken to them this week and after paying a small inclusive fee the timeshare is now being advertised for sale. I knew nothing about timeshare holidays or how much they are now worth but if we can only cover the cost of the outstanding charges I will be delighted to be rid of this troublesome worry.
It was very difficult for me to understand why my brother, or anyone else with a modicum of intelligence, would sign up for that kind of commitment without knowing the full facts about the interest rates. However as he explained to me they were both just so happy to have met each other after some very difficult times with messy divorces. They had just moved in together and thought they would have many years to enjoy their holidays. Now, isn’t that what all us Silver Travellers hope for?
I hope the timeshare does sell but even if it doesn’t I could never got this far without the interest of those involved from Silver Travel Advisor and their friend Del Smith. I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude and will never forget their kindness. Thank you all.