Lake Okanagan Resort timeshare owners at risk of getting the boot with no compensation or notice
For decades, timeshare owners have contributed a substantial portion of the funds paid into the once glorious Lake Okanagan Resort north of West Kelowna.
Now that the resort has been almost totally destroyed by the McDougall Creek wildfire, hundreds of timeshare owners have been given until Nov. 30 to vote on whether to walk away with nothing back from their investments or risk huge and unknown rebuilding costs.
While some were notified in mid-November at least one, Lorie Regehr of Saskatchewan, told iNFOnews.ca she just go an email on Nov. 27 giving her three days to decide.
“It has been stressful and confusing and we really have no idea what is going on,” TC McGugan said in an email to iNFOnews.ca, asking for help.
“Since we are being asked to make a financial decision, I asked Lake Okanagan Resort to provide the financial information - insurance amount, rebuild amount, fire amount, maintenance fund or whatever they call it in BC - rebuild cost. I think this should have been provided before people voted.”
He and dozens of others are not getting any answers.
The resort was bought by owners from China in 2014 for a reported $9.1 million. That owner was identified as Xiao Dong Liu. The sale followed on bankruptcy proceedings against the previous owner, Fairmont Vacation Villa Assets.
Since the new owners took over there have been growing concerns about a lack of maintenance in what was once such a renowned resort the Commonwealth Heads of State actually vacationed there in 1987.
In 2018, timeshare owners were told they could pay more than $3,000 to end their timeshares or face significantly higher, but unspecified, annual fees.
Some chose to pay out while others did not but the threat was the timeshares would end as of Dec. 31 of this year.
Then came the McDougall Creek wildfire that destroyed 150 units on the property. Some of those were individually-owned homes, some were units held through strata corporations while others were units in the timeshare pool.
The letter Lake Okanagan Resort sent to timeshare holders about two weeks ago says two-thirds of active timeshare holders have to vote in favour of ending their timeshares "for free" in order for that to happen or face unspecified future costs.
“If we do not achieve the required two-thirds majority vote for the termination of timeshare agreements, it is essential to inform you that all timeshare owners will be responsible for paying their 2024 maintenance fees and all future fees,” the letter says. “It’s important to note that these fees have not yet include any assessments and special levies required to rebuild the resort, as the calculations for the additional costs have not been finalized.”
The timeshare owners are expected to vote by Nov. 30, even though the letter says: “We understand the potential financial burden this may pose and will make every effort to ensure that you have all the necessary information and time to prepare for this scenario, should it arise.”
Some members of the "Lake Okanagan Resort Timeshare Termination Letter 2018" Facebook group have proposed a third option.
They want to send in a counter offer asking Lake Okanagan Resort to pay them compensation for the loss of their investments that, despite the threat to terminate the whole thing at the end of this year, may have decades yet to run.
Those owners did not want to be quoted by iNFOnews.ca because they are trying to negotiate in good faith.
“We have offered Lake Okanagan Resort to buy our contract out at a prorated $8,000 and I have contacted the BC Attorney General, Consumer Protection and the Regional District of Central Okanagan West,” Kay and Debra Jauch said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. “The latter to potentially intervene if Lake Okanagan Resort applies for a zoning change to build a big hotel.”
They bought their time share in 1993. It was to continue for 97 years so they have pro-rated the buyout based on having another 30 years to run.
Lake Okanagan Resort rarely responds to calls and its phone mailbox is generally full but Joyce Gao, who works in the office but did not give a job title, did talk to iNFOnews.ca this week.
She did not rule out the third option but said that’s management’s call.
“I would suggest, maybe, that timeshare owners can send a letter or send a request to us and ask to see if there are different options,” Gao said. “Then we will see. At this time, we put in the letter that we just have two options. We will collect the feedback from the owners and count how many go for the different options.”
Since a two-thirds majority of active timeshare owners have to vote in favour for the program to end, not voting at all may also be an option.
Gao did not know how many timeshare owners there are but estimated about 2,000.
She has also not heard from the management team on what plans they have for the future of the resort. Efforts by iNFOnews.ca to reach that team have yet to succeed.
Another person who posted on Facebook said they had paid for a vacation in September so they contacted their bank, asking for a refund, which they’ve received. The bank told them it would contact Lake Okanagan Resort but the money is in the owner’s account.
iNFOnews.ca contacted the Ministry of Attorney General, trying to determine what its role it has in this situation and who, if anyone, polices time share operations.
The Ministry did not respond by publication time.
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