Timeshare Company Could Be Forced To Shut Down
Jul. 12, 2007 (KGO) (KGO) -- Washington State authorities are moving to shut down a company which just weeks ago swept through the Bay Area to recruit new customers. The company targets timeshare owners desperate to get rid of their properties. 7 On Your Side looks into why "We Collect Timeshares" is attracting so much scrutiny.
The company first came to our attention when a San Mateo couple came to 7 On Your Side asking for help. We've since learned that authorities in Washington, where "We Collect Timeshares" is based, have received similar complaints.
Abram and Marjorie Smith bought their timeshare in Las Vegas in 2003. It's one of two timeshares they own. They say they haven't made much use of either of them.
Abram Walter Smith, San Mateo: "We decided about a year before we met these people, we'd find a way to get rid of them. We hoped to sell them, frankly."
They tried to sell one of their timeshares with an Internet ad for a year, but received no offers. That's when they decided to accept an invitation to attend a presentation by "We Collect Timeshares."
Abram Walter Smith, San Mateo: "I think basically their pitch is you got a timeshare, you can't get rid of it, you're going to get soaked for it, and if you want help to get out of it, we'll do it for you."
The Smith's liked what they heard and signed on the dotted line.
"We Collect Timeshares" agreed to "accept ownership of the timeshare interests and future obligations for all maintenance fees, taxes and special assessments."
In return, the Smith's agreed to pay $3,800 dollars to "We Collect Timeshares" -- $2,800 dollars to dump their Grand Desert timeshare in Las Vegas; the other $1,000 dollars to rid themselves of their Silver Seas Beach Club timeshare in Florida.
They could hardly wait for the transaction to be completed.
Abram Walter Smith, San Mateo: "They told us we might be able to do it in a week ... but 30 days or so."
The written agreement actually states most transfers are completed within three months. It also says some transfers may take longer.
The Smith's continued to get monthly maintenance bills on their Las Vegas property through May. Each time, the Smith's forwarded those bills to "We Collect Timeshares" along with a letter asking about the transfers.
The bills appeared to have been paid, but they never heard back from the company.
Abram Walter Smith, San Mateo: "We wrote them, I think, eight written inquiries which they simply ignored. They didn't reply to them."
Calls to the company went unreturned too so the couple turned to 7 On Your Side for help. We began contacting the company over and over again. We telephoned seven times over two months, beginning January 29th. There was never a response.
Then on March 29th, the Smith's received a copy of a deed recorded in Broward County, Florida on February 14th. The deed showed the transfer of ownership for the Smith's Florida property was dated December 10th, just one day past three months. Yet by June, "We Collect Timeshares" still had not provided any information about the Smith's Las Vegas timeshare.
Since the company wouldn't return our calls, we went looking for a face to face meeting and caught up with company representatives in South San Francisco last month. We asked why the company wasn't getting back to the Smith's.
Michael Graber, "We Collect Timeshares": "We do what we say we're going to do. We're a good company and we do what we say we're going to do, no matter how long it takes."
We again asked what was happening with the Smith's.
Michael Graber, "We Collect Timeshares": "Have them call the office."
7 On Your Side producer: "Well can you, they've called the office."
Michael Graber, "We Collect Timeshares": "i'm not at the office.))
7 On Your Side producer: "They've called the office. You're from Olympia, Washington. That's the main office?"
Michael Graber, "We Collect Timeshares": "Yes."
7 On Your Side producer: "You're representing the company here."
Michael Graber, "We Collect Timeshares": "Right, but I don't work in the office."
He agreed to have the office look into the issue and have someone get back to us.
Three days later, the county recorder's office in Las Vegas received all the paperwork necessary to transfer ownership of the Smith's Las Vegas property -- nine and a half months after the Smith's signed the contract.
Abram Walter Smith, San Mateo: "I think quite frankly 7 On Your Side scared them. I think they realized they hadn't done things right."
And we're not the only ones looking into the business practices of "We Collect Timeshares."
Documents obtained by 7 On Your Side through a public disclosure request show that on June 26th, Washington state authorities filed a civil complaint against the owners of "We Collect Timeshares" for unlicensed real estate activity.
The Department of Licensing notified the owners of "We Collect Timeshares," Christine and Jonathan Gibbs, saying the Gibbs would be ordered to shut down their operation.
Brad Benfield, Washington Department of Licensing: "I think the message to consumers is pretty clear. They should really scrutinize offers like this that they receive in the mail. And they should check out who it is that their going to be doing business with and make sure they're licensed."
Several other consumers have filed formal complaints similar to the Smith's with the Washington State Attorney General's office and Department of Licensing.
The company says its contracts do not include any deadlines for the transfer of property. And the company's attorney categorically denies:
"All allegations and insinuations made by 7 On Your Side during our interview."
He says the transactions for the Smith's were completed within 30 days. He also questions whether his clients need a real estate license to operate saying they don't sell or resell timeshares, they simply transfer them to new owners.
The company has until July 24th to formally respond to the Department of Licensing and decide whether to appeal the order to shut down. We will monitor this story you and provide updates.
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