American timeshare company Sea Oats Beach Club changes 20 year ownership contract to ‘forever’ without asking the British owners, leaving them with expensive, unwanted commitment.
Florida Joy and John Palmer were no strangers to timeshare in 2001 when they exchanged to Sea Oats Beach Club in Englewood, Florida. The Cornish couple had owned at local resort Carvynk Cottages since 1989, and visited Florida 11 times before attending a sales presentation on the beach resort on Manasota Key.
“We knew what we were doing,” says Joy, 77. We loved Florida and knew we would be back with our kids and grandkids. The most important thing for us was that the contract duration was 20 years. Timeshares can be a burden when they are for longer periods, as people’s holiday habits change considerably over time.”
Joy, who owns the nationally famous Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary in Liskeard, Cornwall, was therefore stunned to find that her contract was changed from the 20 years she had agreed to, into a contract that tied her into membership (complete with expensive annual fees) forever.
“They told me that they had voted at the AGM to change the all the ownership term lengths to perpetuity They tried to present it as them doing us a huge favour. That’s just bananas. I am 77 now and won’t be travelling back there again. We planned this carefully around the deal we were offered. I don’t walk as well as I used to, and I don’t need the stress of that kind of long distance commitment, let alone the expense of a timeshare week I am not using.”
Joy, whose husband John sadly passed away 7 years ago is dedicated to the wildlife park she owns and takes great pride in the fact that the animals are rescued from zoos or inappropriate environments. “We don’t open now until Easter next year,” says Joy, “but the animals need constant care and I didn’t need this stress. I tried contacting Sea Oats to say I didn’t want this extension. I wanted my membership to end on the originally agreed date.”
Sea Oats Beach Club refused point blank. They told Joy that the vote had approved the change for all members, and she was committed ‘in perpetuity’ whether she liked it or not. “That’s when I really began to panic,” says Joy. “They refused to acknowledge their actions as being anything other than generous in extending the contract forever. In the end I had to get timeshare exit firm to help me, and I am fully aware that a huge amount of them are scammers. Thank goodness I found one that is not.”
“Joy was very lucky,” explains Robert Salmon, a timeshare contracts exit specialist with European Consumer Claims (ECC). “American timeshare companies are notoriously difficult to exit from. What Sea Oats did by extending the contract in her absence was legal and covered in the small print, but Joy was ‘gibbon’ a terrible shock to find she had been saddled with the commitment forever. Thankfully there was a happy ending for her”.
“Brits need to consider very carefully before buying a timeshare in the USA,” adds Andrew Cooper, CEO of ECC. “In the USA timeshare contracts ‘In Perpetuity’ are still popular, and this kind of commitment is exactly what Mr and Mrs Palmer were taking care to avoid .
“The other thing to be aware of is that part of a US timeshare maintenance covers property tax, so there is no chance to stop paying or you are in the unenviable position of owing money to the US government.”
Joy is now free of the unwanted timeshare, and looking forward to the wildlife park opening this coming Easter. Good luck Joy!