Extortion, coercion? You decide.
We are receiving a proportionately large number of phone calls from worried Sutton Hall timeshare owners lately. Sutton Hall is suing owners for non-payment of maintenance fees, so we decided to investigate.
Sutton Hall Timeshare Club Ltd is a company limited by guarantee: it is not a charity. This company runs the timeshare club, using a board of “council members” who are elected each year at the AGM. Every year a third of these members are required to retire, but they can immediately stand for re-election if they so desire. The number of council members can be between 3 and 11 at any one time.
Timeshare owners hold a licence (it’s not ownership) that lasts 80 years from 1982 until 2062. Sutton Hall says:
“As things stand, Members or their successors in title must continue to pay the annual maintenance fee – whether or not their Sutton Hall timeshare is required or used – until 2061.”
Ouch. Another 43 years of paying £500, £600, £700 a year. 2019 fees are £570 and £480 for a 2 bed and a 1 bed apartment respectively. And the fees have gone up around 55% over the last 10 years – that’s about 5% compound a year. That means that 1 week in a 2 bed apartment could cost an owner – wait for it – more than £81,000 in maintenance from now until 2062.
There are 14 apartments (10 x 1 beds and 4 x 2 beds) at Sutton Hall, multiplied by 50 weeks of a year. That’s 700 weeks of timeshare. Based on the above figures, that’s over £50,000,000 (yes, that’s the correct number of zeros [£50m]) of maintenance fee income yet to be collected by Sutton Hall Timeshare Club Ltd.
No wonder they are suing owners for non-payment. There’s serious money at stake.
What does Sutton Hall say about this?
We told Sutton Hall that we might be publishing articles about their business practices and they wrote:
“….we see your threat of using your TCA website as akin to a threat and blackmail. We will be monitoring your TCA website and you can be assured if the slightest inaccurate or defamatory comment is made about Sutton Hall, we will pursue you legally.”
These are strong words from a timeshare resort that also says:
“We are aware that some timeshare resorts do not treat their members well. We are not one of those resorts. All of the key decisions here at Sutton Hall are approved by our members. The resort is managed by a hard-working, appointed council and management team, one who are working tirelessly to give members a good experience and to change the economics and the inherited rules of this business so that those Owners who wish to depart can be allowed to do so under commercial terms that are fair and do not cause the remaining Owners any financial penalties.”
Sutton Hall makes a point of reiterating that the club is run by members – for members. In reality, it is run by the appointed Council of between 3 and 11 members. So, these 11 members dictate critical operational decisions to the rest of the timeshare owners – who, as we say, are not really owners; they are tied into a licence for 80 years, after which time the apartment is handed back to the freeholders.
The Sutton Hall Exit Strategy Policy dated 6th June 2017 blames the original constitution of 1982 for the fact that there has never been any provision for a timeshare owner to exit their Sutton Hall timeshare. It says,
“It is important to remind all Owners that the original constitution was not put in place by this Council. Its fundamental principles were created and implemented by founder members in 1982…..the Sutton Hall Constitution has never provided a route for the member/Owner to exit.”
Sutton Hall seems to be saying that they are a band of ordinary Joes working tirelessly to run this club for no profit or thanks, and these issues are not their fault because they inherited them and can do nothing about it.
So, there is no exit provision for owners in the constitution. Oh, until the Council decides to implement one. We first published the Sutton Hall exit policy in 2015 here. The policy now limits exits to a maximum of 20 per year.
In Part 2, we will explore the finances of Sutton Hall Timeshare Club Ltd, and delve into their exit policy some more.
Posted on: June 24, 2019
For more information regarding this article or assistance in any other timeshare related issues please contact the TCA on 01253 804 318 or email: info@TimeshareConsumerAssociation.org.uk