Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Timeshare split - Senate approves bill despite some opposition concerns on licensing arrangement

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Tourist Board is moving away from the granting of perpetual licenses, opting instead to put in place a system which will require licensees to reapply periodically.

Senator Noel Sloley, chairman of the Tourist Enhancement Fund (TEF) and a major player in the tourism industry, made the disclosure as the Senate examined the Timeshare Vacations Bill last Friday.

Opposition Senator Robert Montague had questioned the clause in the bill relating to the issue of licenses every three years.

The bill states that a licence granted in respect of any accommodation which is intended to be used as timeshare accommodation shall be for such period as may be stipulated in the licence, not exceeding three years, and may be renewed upon application in the prescribed manner.

But Montague urged that the framework be harmonised, stating that, "to have this license regime for three years while the person has a contract for five years, there is a conflict".

"I now have a contract, I have invested my money, I will be having my vacation one week in every year for the next five years; but in the fourth year, I hear that the place is no longer licensed."

While accepting the point made by Montague, Sloley said the matter of the three-year licensing regime was driven by policy.

"As it has been, licenses are issued in perpetuity, (That is) wrong. It is to find a formula which gives the right balance so that if a property does not do the right maintenance, does not live up to a standard, now you can (act)," said Sloley.

Best for the regulator

"Is that three years or is it five years? The period we are in, we are searching for what is best for the regulator. Three years is being proposed here. It is a policy issue where it proves that five years is just as effective; it could evolve," added Soley.

Similarly, Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the bill through the Senate, said that being that the policy is outside of his remit, he would be out of order to accommodate an amendment.

According to Golding, the movement toward periodic licences gives an opportunity to ensure that standards are being maintained.

He argued that the licence has no bearing on the contract that has been entered into by people in the timeshare.

Montague, dissatisfied with the explanation, called for a vote on the clause. The nine government senators present voted for the clause, three opposition senators — Montague, Kavan Gayle and Tom Tavares-Finson — voted against it, while fellow opposition senators Ruel Reid, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Alexander Williams abstained.

Timeshare is a form of joint ownership or lease of a vacation property by several people who take turns occupying the premises for fixed periods, often one week.

These properties are typically resort-condominium units but can also be single-family homes. From the purchasers' point of view, timeshare or vacation ownership allows the acquisition of future holiday accommodation at today's prices.

Both houses of Parliament have now passed the bill. Sloley said that with no budget in place for the Real Estate Board to manage the implementation of the bill, the TEF will be funding the first year for the arrangements.