House Bill 453 passed the House Government Operations Appropriations Committee on March 10, and Senate Bill 932 passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on March 11. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the bills - sponsored by State Representative Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando and State Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland - make a number of technical changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act.
Is the bill good or bad for the timeshare industry? Some, such as the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), take a positive outlook on the bill while others like Gregory Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, are not so sure.
What the Proponents Say
Proponents of HB 453/SB932 say it modernizes state law. Senator Eisnaugle claims the updates provide protections for consumers, including giving owners more control to terminate or extend a time-share plan on a 60 percent vote. ARDA supports the amendments to the Florida Timeshare Act, stating it would:
- Make needed revisions to modernize the existing timeshare statute to update new product structures (i.e. Real Estate Trusts) and how they will interact with timeshare plans.
- Eliminate a fee timeshare owners now pay twice. This would save owners approximately $400,000 annually. Owners would only be charged once per interest rather than per timeshare plan in which an interest is included.
- Provide a means for owners in older associations to either extend or end their timeshare plan when the plan contains no provisions to do so.
- Add detail to current multi-site disclosure requirements regarding the term of component sites. The term of each component of a plan must be disclosed rather than only the shortest term.
- Add detail to existing substitution provisions limiting the amount a plan can be changed in a given year. Adds new provision that gives owners an opportunity to object to a substitution.
- Revise requirements for continuity in the operation of a timeshare plan when there is a change in plan management.
The Opponents Say
Gregory Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, interprets HB453/SB 932 in a different light than ARDA and lawmakers. He says, "this is a developer-sponsored bill that strips away at consumer-protection mechanisms." He thinks it's good for developers who do not intend to comply with the law.
In a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Smith, an assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina, responded to a proponent statement that the bill would remove property taxes and certain types of common-area expenses from a current 125 percent cap on annual increases in assessment fees paid by consumers. Scott said, "I don't see the logic in creating the exceptions that would allow greater increases. This would harm the image of the industry and remove one of the best-selling points for timeshares, which is that they are affordable."
Another concern voiced by timeshare owners and attorneys is a provision of the bill that reduces liability for timeshare developers if they make errors in contracts. "Nonmaterial" errors or omissions would not allow purchaser cancellation rights after 10 days. According to the Sentinel article, members of a House civil justice subcommittee expressed that there is no clear definition of "nonmaterial". Patrick Kennedy, an attorney who represents timeshare consumers, expressed his concerns saying, "that kind of murkiness will lead to increased litigation."
Opponents also question the motives of some of the backers of the bill. Those backers include:
- Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. – donated $40,000, supports the bill but isn't lobbying for it
- Orange Lake Resort Alliance (Holiday Inn) – donated $10,000
- Realtors Political Advocacy Committee – donated $17,500
- ARDA-ROC – donated $5000
If you would like to express your opinion, submit your views at Timeshare Info. For more information on this legislation, visit ARDA-ROC and The Orlando Sentinel.