Since fractional real estate first came into being, timeshare companies have been putting their customers through all kinds of turmoil. They periodically trick owners into signing lifelong contracts that are nearly impossible to get out of. Yet all these developers with seemingly no code of ethics are rarely under fire for their actions.
Yes, there are timeshare exit companies that exist to help release owners from their contracts. But many of these are fraudulent timeshare exit companies that promise much more than they deliver. That being said, is anyone attempting to put policies in place to protect timeshare owners from fraud while they are still in their contracts? The American Resort Development Association would like you to think that they do.
The American Resort Development Association, or ARDA, is a trade association for timeshare owners, companies, vacation clubs, exchange companies, resellers, and all other entities with stakes in the timeshare industry. It claims to connect and protect every sector of the timeshare industry, establishing itself as a credible figure among the masses of deceitful developers who periodically trick people into unwanted timeshare purchases.
But does ARDA really deserve to have such a dependable reputation, or are they hiding something? Let’s get into what ARDA really is and why they should not be seen as a trustworthy organization.
Based in Washington, D.C., ARDA acts as a lobbying arm for the timeshare industry at both a federal and state level. They claim to work hard to advocate for the interests of both timeshare owners and developers.
A cause for skepticism, however, is that ARDA explicitly states that their mission is to protect the rights of and affect the growth of the timeshare industry. Though they claim to advocate for the good of both timeshare companies and owners, their lobbying activities seem to heavily favor the former.
ARDA started as a coalition of timeshare companies called ALDA, the American Land Development Association. Formed in 1969, this association was created in response to “marketing abuses” made by illegitimate developers who had damaged the reputation of timeshare companies.
ALDA wanted to re-establish the livelihood of the timeshare industry and restore trust on behalf of consumers who had become skeptical about buying timeshares. By collaborating with legislators and regulators, they set out to generate policy that would protect timeshare buyers from said marketing abuses.
But can you truly protect consumers from fraud while also stimulating constant growth for the timeshare industry?
Since one of the main motivations of ARDA is to promote the fiscal growth of the timeshare industry, they are simply not going to push for policies that help make timeshare exits easier — even if that’s what they claim to be doing with their Responsible Exit program. Let’s dive into what this program actually does and other ARDA policies that don’t truly protect timeshare owners from fraud.
One of the biggest consumer complaints about timeshares is that there is little assistance for owners who find themselves in hard financial times and, therefore, need to pursue cancellation. And as a self-proclaimed advocate for timeshare owners’ rights, ARDA has an incentive to address this issue.
That’s probably why the non-profit branch of ARDA, known as ARDA-Resort Owners’ Coalition (ARDA-ROC), developed a Responsible Exit program in 2018. The Coalition to Reform Timeshare, however, sees this program’s existence as ARDA-ROC trying to create the impression that they are providing “longtime owners with an easy path to terminate their timeshares.”
According to the Resort Owners’ Coalition chairman Ken McKelvey, the main motive of the Responsible Exit program is actually to give developers the “opportunity to upsell” customers. The Coalition to Reform Timeshare believes that this program exists not for ARDA-ROC to help their customers with cancellation but for them to convince these dissatisfied owners to buy more travel points or upgrade to a higher level of membership.
From the perspective of Coalition to Reform Timeshare, this Responsible Exit program seems like a PR stunt to distract lawmakers who would otherwise come down heavily on the timeshare industry’s shady practices.
Though McKelvey acknowledges that major timeshare chains like Marriott Vacation Club and Wyndham have programs for helping members quit their contracts, these programs are heavily unpublicized and extremely hard to qualify for.
Furthermore, ARDA-ROC leads many legal attacks on third-party exit companies like Reed Hein & Associates LLC, a Washington-based firm that charged more than 2,800 timeshare owners thousands of dollars in upfront fees only to leave them waiting on a resolution for years.
While it’s true that Reed Hein & Associates isn’t the only timeshare exit company to commit scams like this, the negative light that ARDA-ROC paints on third parties seems presumptuous. Is ARDA-ROC just upset that these third parties are interfering with the success of the timeshare industry by helping owners get out of their contracts?
Aside from creating cancellation options with their questionable exit program, ARDA claims that one of their goals is to educate consumers on the best vacationing opportunities out there. On their website, ARDA cites the development of exchange programs, points programs, and vacation clubs as major breakthroughs in the timeshare industry. According to ARDA, these so-called innovations have provided owners with an ever-expanding assortment of flexible timeshare products and opportunities that exponentially improve their vacationing experience.
But what they’re really doing here resembles the same goal of their Responsible Exit program: to encourage timeshare owners to invest even more money in the timeshare industry.
Since the American Resort Development Association partners with so many timeshare companies in the industry, the likelihood of your developer being an ARDA member is very high. So if you’re unsure of ARDA’s intentions, it’s imperative that you check your most recent timeshare bill to see if you are unknowingly donating to them every time you make a payment.
If that’s the case, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you can easily opt out of this payment. But the bad news is that many owners don’t and, as a result, are unintentionally funding an association that may not have their best interest in mind.
Since ARDA started, they’ve been working under the guise of helping consumers. But what have they actually done to make this a reality? Not much.
Rather than legitimately helping owners with their contract issues, ARDA works hard to chase out competing exit companies and created an exit program that might just be a front for upselling owners.
ARDA is very open about their intentions of protecting the interests and financial well-being of the timeshare industry and will therefore not support any consumer policies that could potentially get in the way of this. Any timeshare owner who has been a victim of fraud by their timeshare company should be hesitant to trust ARDA because they’ll probably side with your developer in most matters regarding timeshare cancellation.
If you are looking to make a responsible exit with a company that will always be on your side, reach out to Centerstone Group. We are a full-service advocacy group that looks out for the rights of timeshare owners. We provide our clients with honest, unbiased information about the cancellation process and can help you make a smooth exit without ruining your credit or causing you to go into foreclosure.
Our top priority is getting clients out of financial ruin by using our three-pronged strategy for negotiating contract release. Our team of timeshare industry experts work diligently to get you released quicker than any other exit company or firm. If you wish to get out from under the timeshare industry’s control, contact Centerstone Group and see if you are eligible for our services.