Some of them have had enough and are getting out, some are vowing to fight, while others don’t know what to do.
Timeshare owners at Lake Okanagan Resort are speaking out after receiving a letter asking them to vote on a proposal by resort ownership to cease operation of the timeshare business. Most buildings at the resort were destroyed by the McDougall Creek wildfire in August.
The letter suggests a two-thirds vote would terminate the timeshare agreements at no cost to the owner.
The alternative would see the owners have to pay their 2024 fees in full, in addition to the possibility of special levies, despite the inability to use the resort.
The deadline to sign the letter was November 30, 2023.
Carol Stobbe of Abbotsford is one of those who has decided to get out. She says the deteriorating condition of the resort in recent years convinced her to walk away, because she was not able to exchange her week with others to stay in different vacation destinations.
When she first signed up in the 90s, it a was a five-star resort. “We had the nine hole golf course there, we had horseback riding, both dining rooms were open,” says Stobbe.
At that time she lived in Kelowna and would often drop in on a Sunday afternoon for an afternoon at the pool or waterfront, or book an available room for a weekend at a nominal fee. Those days are long gone and she doubts they will ever return in her lifetime.
“We had a 99-year agreement, so I have lost my years, but I have also lost because of my age. So it doesn’t matter anymore.”
“At that time we thought, oh great, we’ll will this to our kids. Well, our kids would not be happy to have it anymore.”
On the other side of the coin is Kay Jauch of Edmonton, who has had a timeshare at the resort since the early 1990s. He tells Castanet that his response to the letter is "heck no."
“They’ve tried a strategy to 'allow' us to buy ourselves out of the contract a few years ago (2018). So, we had gone around the circuit with LOR on that occasion.
“So, they have a record of intimidation, and it seems to be working well for them, because a lot of the Facebook members that we are in touch with, for some reason, feel it’s much easier to just let it go,” says Jauch.
Several timeshare owners have recently posted about the letter on a Facebook group set up after the previous attempt by the resort to get them to buy out their contracts.
One man wrote, “We voted to get out before we found this group and joined. After reading through still think getting out is best. Scared of having to pay much more.”
A woman in the Facebook group said she is nervous to sign as the letter still doesn’t reassure her that a two-thirds majority will be reached. “And how would we know if it is successful when there are no figures noted as to the number of votes needed?”
An anonymous poster says they sent a response to the letter calling for the vote pointing out that a clause in their original contract outlines the terms for pay out in the event of a fire. They wrote that the clause states: “If Vacation Ltd. chooses not to repair the damage, any insurance proceeds should be used to pay out mortgages and financial encumbrances and then a sum of money shall be rebated to each timeshare owner.”
Jauch believes the resort is legally obligated to rebuild after the fire and fulfill its contractual obligations to timeshare owners. He has reached out to the BC Attorney General’s office to ensure the people behind the resort follow through with their commitments.
He has also contacted the Regional District of Central Okanagan to find out if any applications have been submitted yet related to rebuilding of the resort to plans to sell the land.
“The property is a very desirable property. So, it’s certainly not going to end up as a regional park or anything going to public property. Somebody is going to develop something there. I’m not a gambling person but I would say there is a pretty good chance that at some point I can hopefully bring my measly little claim to somebody’s attention who has to listen to it. “
Lake Okanagan Resort was bought out by foreign investors in 2014. Despite the new ownership many long-needed upgrades and repairs were not undertaken in recent years. It was also recently embroiled in a couple of lawsuits and was fined nearly $50,000 in 2022 for sewage system violations.