The recent wildfires in Tennessee have left massive swathes of destruction in their wake, affecting homes, forests, and timeshare resorts. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by the blaze.
It’s a tragic situation for residents and visitors to the Gatlinburg, Tenn. area, and it could have been even worse for some timeshare owners, whose resort property was badly damaged. As it stands, the bulk of the repairs needed for Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort “should be covered by the resort’s insurance policy,” meaning that timeshare owners “likely will not need to pay extra for repairs to the property,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Under other circumstances, however, timeshare owners may be expected to pay up “if similar destruction happened at a property they bought” – and many may have no idea that they’re responsible for such payments, as Rob Webb explained to the Sentinel.
As Webb, who is a senior hospitality partner at the BakerHostetler law firm and the treasurer of the U.S. Timeshare Association, said to the Sentinel, “You can bet that very, very few consumers have read any of their governing documents.”
These documents are typically long and complex, and are generally distributed during the timeshare sales process, which can be a whirlwind for consumers. Distracted and often feeling pressured to get things done as quickly as possible, many consumers are led to neglect reading the mountain of paperwork that is given to them. It is these documents, however, that outline financial transactions and expectations such as repair costs and assessment fees.
Webb goes on to give some examples that may pertain to timeshare owners here in Florida. While timeshares here “are required to be insured for full replacement cost,” as the Sentinel puts it, owners may still be liable to pay for special assessments after insurance claims go through. The article continues:
“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.
“Debris removal and landscaping, just as two examples, that’s going to cost a lot of money,” said Webb.
In the case of resort management needing extra money to complete the work, owners may be stuck with a bill that needs to be paid quickly, said Webb.”
And the consequences for consumers who don’t meet due dates, however unexpected, could be severe, including getting locked out of future bookings – “even if they’re current on other annual fees.”
While these timeshare owners in Tennessee may not be on the hook for hefty additional payments this time, owners affected by a similar disaster in the future may not be so fortunate. All of this points to the overwhelming importance of going through all timeshare paperwork with a keen eye, a fine-toothed comb – and, if possible, the unbiased assistance of a professional attorney.