Monday, May 04, 2015

Florida's Newest Timeshare Bill Stirs Up Controversy

A new bill has made its way through Florida Congress that spells quite a few changes for timeshare owners. Known both as House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932, the controversial legislation makes a great deal of technical changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. The bill's passing
has ruffled some feathers among both individual owners and industry leaders who fear the vague language can be abused. Others hold a more optimistic outlook and believe the bill will provide more stability and inherent protection for timeshare owners. As an owner advocate, RedWeek is committed to providing you with the entire rundown.

The bill was conceptualized with the best of intentions - to streamline and simplify ownership for owners. HB453/SB932 introduces changes like eliminating doubled-up interest fees and providing ways for a contract to end or be extended when the plan does not specify a way to do so. In addition, backers of the bill hold that the changes will provide consumers with more protection and freedom in regards to the fate of their timeshare plan, as well as bring the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act up to speed with modern real estate law.

State Representatives Eric Eisnaugle and Kelli Stargel have spearheaded the crusade for the introduction of HB453/SB932, fervent in the belief that the changes will help owners. The bill is also backed by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee (RPAC) as well as Florida-based developers Orange Lake Resort Alliance (Holiday Inn) and Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. - all of whom contributed monetary donations to the bill.

This endorsement of HB453/SB932 has many skeptics raising their eyebrows, fearing the legislation only gives more sway to developers who already hold the lion's share of power in a timeshare contract. Others are not as concerned with what the bill does say, but rather what it doesn't. Neither compliance nor materiality are adequately defined, giving developers the ability to define exactly what these terms mean in regards to mistakes or omissions in a given contract. Additionally, "nonmaterial" errors would not grant the purchaser cancellation within ten days, as is permitted now.

It's not just owners who are concerned with the implications of HB453/SB932. Industry figureheads like Gregory Crist (CEO of the National Timeshare Owner's Association) are also expressing their concern, stating that the bill is designed to protect developers who have no intention of following the law and that the technical changes will strip away mechanisms intended to protect consumers. Others like Scott Smith (assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina) only see removing property taxes from the 125% cap on annual increases in assessment fees weaken the allure of timeshares as an affordable vacation option.

So what's an owner to do in midst of such changes? If you find yourself wary of the implications of HB453/SB932, we encourage you to check out and sign the Change.org petition to veto the bill. Also, be sure to keep an eye on our partner blog Timeshare Information and our Facebook page for more updates as we hear about them. And of course, let us know your thoughts on the issue!

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