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Navigating Inherited Timeshare Troubles: The Simon Coom Case

In 2014, a case surfaced within the complex world of inheritances, highlighting the challenges inheritors of timeshare properties often face. Simon Coom, a private client manager at a reputable Scottish financial firm, inherited four timeshare weeks in Spain from his parents, plunging him into an unexpected financial commitment. Although Macdonald Resorts, the timeshare group, introduced a contract exit plan, Coom’s efforts to free himself from the inherited timeshares and dodge the associated fees met a dead end. This situation vividly illustrates the potential financial troubles linked to inherited timeshares.

― The Circumstances of the Inherited Burden

Simon’s parents, Elsie-May and Bill Coom, initially owned a holiday week at Macdonald’s Forest Hills resort in Perthshire. In 1998, a tempting offer persuaded them to swap this for three weeks in Spain, and they bought an additional week the next year. The timeshare appealed to them as an appreciating asset with the chance to participate in exchange schemes. However, reality didn’t live up to these promises, especially as the couple grew older and couldn’t travel.

In 2012, after his mother passed away, Simon Coom inherited the timeshare weeks, still registered in his mother’s name. This inheritance brought a hefty annual maintenance fee of £2,000 to the Dona Lola resort in Spain. By the time he discovered this, the outstanding fees had piled up to £5,736. Simon tried to sell the timeshares, but this proved useless as they seemed to have no resale value, showing a clear contrast to the initially attractive idea of an appreciating asset value.

― The Exit Impasse

Macdonald Resorts introduced a new contract exit plan to tackle the ongoing timeshare contract liabilities. If passed, this plan would allow timeshare owners to pay four years’ maintenance fees upfront to get a full release from their “in perpetuity” contracts. Many saw this step by Macdonald Resorts as a potential game-changer in the industry. It offered a practical exit route for the 23,000 owners with them, many of whom might have faced similar problems as Simon.

➤ Simon’s Predicament

The exit plan, however promising, presented Simon with a new set of financial challenges. To seize this exit opportunity, Simon was required to pay a sum of £8,000 to Macdonald Resorts and settle the outstanding fees, amounting to £5,736, with the resort’s club. This financial demand was seen as a double-edged sword; on one end it offered a glimmer of hope for a clean break from the timeshare contract, while on the other, it posed a substantial financial burden.

Simon’s situation invoked a broader ethical inquiry surrounding the liability of inheritors in timeshare contracts, especially when such contracts were signed by the predecessors. Simon voiced his exasperation with the phrase, “How can someone be liable in perpetuity for something their parents have signed?” His question resonated with a broader audience, highlighting the moral and financial conundrum inheritors face in the timeshare framework.

The impasse worsened due to Macdonald Resorts‘ lack of communication about Simon’s efforts to negotiate a resolution. Simon withheld further fee payments in protest, but his attempts to engage Macdonald Resorts in negotiations received no response for over a year. This silence from Macdonald Resorts not only extended Simon’s financial dilemma, but also displayed a lack of responsiveness to individual hardship cases amid broader policy changes.

― In Search of Resolution

One of Simon’s initial attempts to alleviate the financial burden was to sell the inherited timeshare weeks. However, the endeavor hit a snag as the timeshares appeared to have no resale value, a stark contradiction to the initial portrayal of timeshares as appreciating assets. This aspect of the timeshare industry, where the resale value drastically depreciates or becomes nonexistent, significantly thwarted Simon’s efforts to find a financial resolution.

➤ Industry’s Response

Facing challenges like Simon and others, the Resort Development Organization (RDO) suggested an exit option for timeshare owners. This occurs when the original owner dies and the family doesn’t want to keep the timeshare. This suggestion showed growing awareness in the industry about the need to address exit issues in timeshare ownership, especially after the original owner’s death.

Macdonald Resorts, though not a member of the RDO, recognized the exit issue and wanted to find ways to allow owners to exit. They rolled out a contract exit plan. Despite having some financial implications, this plan aimed to provide an exit strategy for timeshare owners. However, these broad proposals didn’t resolve Simon’s specific case, showing a gap between broad policy initiatives and individual hardship cases.

A big obstacle in Simon’s quest for resolution was Macdonald Resorts‘ lack of communication. Despite his efforts to negotiate and his decision to withhold further fee payments as protest, Macdonald Resorts stayed silent for over a year. This silence highlighted a possible flaw in the company’s customer engagement approach, leaving Simon in a long struggle to solve the financial problem.

― Conclusion

Simon Coom’s ordeal epitomizes the potential financial quandaries inheritors may face in the timeshare industry. While the proposed exit strategies by organizations like RDO and Macdonald Resorts are steps in the right direction, the effectiveness of such solutions remains to be seen. Simon’s narrative serves as a cautionary tale, illuminating the need for more robust and compassionate policies within the timeshare sector to alleviate undue financial burdens on inheritors, especially in the face of bereavement.


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