BRITISH COLUMBIA: There’s a WAR going on in B.C. between Northwynd Real Estate Trust and timeshare owners at Sunchaser Vacation Villas, and of course it’s about money. Not just increased maintenance fees (though that’s part of it), but a special assessment that has sparked a revolt among Sunchaser owners.

The battle lines have been drawn, attorneys hired, lawsuits pending, and an attempt to overthrow current management is in the works.

The properties in question used to be part of Fairmont Resort Properties Ltd, which was forced into bankruptcy during the early years of the Great Recession. In July 2010 Northwynd purchased its assets, which includes four timeshare properties that now carry the Sunchaser name: the Sunchaser Vacation Villas at Riverside and the Sunchaser Vacation Villas (both located in Fairmont Hot Springs in B.C.), the Sunchaser Vacation Club at Fairway Cottages in Hawaii, and the Sunchaser Premier Oasis Resort in Mesquite, Nevada. (There are other properties as well, which do not bear the Sunchaser name.)

In a nutshell: According to Northwynd the finances of the properties (specifically the Fairmont Springs ones) were in a sorry state primarily due to maintenance fees that were too low and a flood of delinquent accounts. As a result, the properties themselves suffered from deferred maintenance to the tune of $14 to $19 million and were in dire need of refurbishment and repair. Sooo, maintenance fees were increased, with the average today being in the vicinity of $950 per week owned. (The company initially started a sales program to deal with the delinquent/forfeited weeks, but that apparently didn’t go well under the current economic conditions, so it was scrapped in favor of an in-house referral program. Lots of luck with that.)

Then, this year, owners were hit with a special assessment. Big gulp. The company said it needs an estimated $28 to $38 million, excluding management fees of 15% and HST, to do a high-level renovation of the entire resort. This translates to a special assessment of $3,000 to $4,000 (plus/minus) per annual timeshare week or $1,500 to $2,000 per bi-annual timeshare week, payable monthly at $100 per month, interest free.

Northwynd says the majority of those funds must go to replace the Poly-B piping throughout the resort. The plastic piping has been banned because it leaks.

The alternative for owners? Pay in the vicinity of $3,000 to cancel their contract. Stay or Go. Your choice. Either way, it’s gonna cost ya.

The timeshare owners have cried foul, insisting that neither the special assessment nor the rise in maintenance fees are included in their original contracts (which should be honored), nor should they be forced to pay to get out of those contracts. Oh, and Northwynd has been deceitful and has not provided owners with annual audited Financial Statements as required. An initial court hearing on the issues involved is scheduled for June 20.

Do you really want to dig into all the details? There’s no better place for it than The Timeshare Users Group (TUG). Get your popcorn and a beverage; it’s a verrry long conversation!

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