Resort managers work to speed up timeshare foreclosure process
For between $3,000 and $16,000, vacation-minded people can purchase a one-week-a-year timeshare at the River View or Bethel Inn resorts.
They are then responsible for annual maintenance fees of $300 to $500.
But when a timeshare owner falls on hard times and can’t pay those fees, the costs fall to the remaining owners in the association, who must also then share in a foreclosure process as lengthy and costly as that for a $500,000 vacation home, according to Chad McGrew, general manager of the River View.
McGrew and Rep. Jarrod Crockett (R-Bethel) have been pushing for a cheaper, more streamlined process, but so far they have run into a legislative wall.
Until recent years the resorts could simply take possession of delinquent timeshares and give the owners a year to bring the fees current, or ownership reverted to the resort, McGrew said. For a minimal cost, the timeshare could then be offered to the owner base, which for the River View and the Bethel Inn totals 900 and 1,200, respectively.
But several years ago the Maine Legislature passed a law requiring a timeshare unit to go through the same full foreclosure process as a home.
The cost to do that, according to McGrew and Bethel Inn General Manager Allen Connors, is about $1,000.
The remaining owners must shoulder the cost.
“They get hurt by a few delinquent owners who just walk away,” McGrew said.
The River View currently has about 25 such timeshares, he said.
A year ago, shortly after Rep. Jarrod Crockett was re-elected to the Legislature, McGrew (who had run against him) talked to him about getting the law changed back to the earlier, simplified process.
Crockett agreed and submitted a bill, LD 1448.
“You have to go through a full foreclosure process to reclaim abandoned property. It’s crazy,” he said. “The current process is unduly burdensome on the timeshare associations, and causes each timeshareowner to suffer, because the excessive costs of getting an abandoned timeshare back into circulation comes out of the operating budget for the association. This is one of the times when business and the consumer benefit from a simpler process.”
Crockett said the current law was passed before he joined the Legislature. It was his understanding, he said, that the timeshares got inadvertently swept into the rewriting of a larger law on foreclosures.
But this past spring Crockett’s bill never got out of the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member.
McGrew said there were concerns on the committee that a simplified process would not provide enough consumer protection.
But, said McGrew, “[Delinquent owners] aren’t saying, ‘don’t foreclose on me.’ We can’t find these people.”
He also said the shorter process benefits delinquent owners, because it rarely goes on to their credit reports. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said.
Crockett tried to get the bill considered again in the upcoming, second session of the Legislature, but said he was turned down by the Legislative Council, which decides what bills will go forward.
He has now requested the Economic Development Department to ask Gov. Paul LePage to submit a bill.
McGrew is preparing a letter to possibly submit to the governor.
“I truly believe you want to help business and working people in this state, and that you are committed to simplifying regulation to do so. Governor, this seems to be one of the easiest fixes you can make,” he wrote.
If the bill is unsuccessful again this year, it will be submitted again in 2013, Crockett said.