On many occasions the resort staff fields questions about the line item on the annual assessment invoice that reads “Voluntary ARDA-ROC Donation $3.00.” ARDA-ROC stands for the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. It is an essential component of the association whose mission is to foster the growth of the timeshare industry and serve as the watchdog of owners’ rights. ARDA members form a cohesive voice for the timeshare industry to be heard in the federal and state legislative arenas, which influences the industry around the world. ARDA and ARDA-ROC vigilantly ensure that unfair advantage is not being taken of the timeshare industry or owners.
ROC is the timeshare owners’ political lobbying coalition of timeshare unit owners dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing vacation ownership.
ARDA-ROC is directed by a nine-person governing board, which includes timeshare owners, that determines which issues are of the greatest significance to timeshare owners. When deciding whether or not an issue is worth fighting, a list of criteria is considered:
- Does the issue have an owner implication?
- What kind of campaign will be required to engage the attention of timeshare owners and the general public and mobilize its support or opposition?
- To whom should the campaign be targeted?
- What will the owners and public be asked to do?
- When should the campaign begin and how long will it have to be to accomplish the job?
- Are sufficient funds available—or can they be raised—to conduct a campaign of the necessary scope to get the job done?
- What forces are on the other side of the issue and how much will they be willing to spend fighting for their position and their issue?
- Conversely, what other groups and ARDA members can be counted on to support our position?
- What kind of support or opposition can be expected from the press on the issue involved?
An example of an injustice that ARDA-ROC continues to confront is the TOT—Transient Occupancy Tax. Timeshare owners often unfairly bear a double tax burden. As people who hold a deeded interest in the respective timeshare properties, timeshare owners are different from hotel guests—who are transient—and local property owners—who put the greatest wear and tear on an area’s infrastructure and benefit the most from local services. Local residents, hotel owners and regional government officials often don’t see it that way. They subscribe to a “tax the visitor, not the resident” philosophy. With continued support and participation, ARDA-ROC will keep fighting to transform that view.
In terms of ARDA-ROC successes, there was the recent victory in South Lake Tahoe, where a local ballot initiative proposed a $60 per timeshare owner annual fee to fund local schools. Tahoe homeowners were already paying a $100 fee for this purpose—they were essentially trying to unload the fee in part on people they considered “outsiders.” Thanks to our organizational skills and a war chest totally funded by owners, we were able to mobilize and defeat the measure in just 10 days.
ARDA-ROC is known for doing extensive grassroots organizing on the state and regional level, but not to the detriment of key national initiatives. The 1997 Taxpayer Relief Act victory was monumental. This legislation, H.R. 1350—the Homeowners Association Act of 1997, was written to correct and clarify an unfair tax policy that was set forth by the IRS. The IRS was attempting to tax capital reserves of timeshare homeowners associations that are used for property maintenance and repairs. The IRS wanted to treat the reserves as non-exempt income, even though the homeowners associations are required to maintain these reserves under many state laws.
In April of 1997, ARDA sent out a call to action and many owners responded. The federal legislative success in 1997 was an incredible team effort by individual owners, HOAs (home owners associations), and ARDA-ROC to get the Homeowners Association Clarification Act signed into law. This extraordinary grassroots campaign, funded by ARDA-ROC, was critical to the passage of the Taxpayer Relief Act. Representative Bill Archer, the House Ways and Means Chairman, received over 1,000 constituent letters requesting his attention on a timeshare bill. It is this kind of unified effort that mobilizes action by key congress members.
In addition to becoming actively involved in ARDA-ROC individual owners can make a difference through funding. If all timeshare owners sent a single payment of $5 once a year when they pay their annual maintenance fees—that’s less than 2 cents a day—the contribution would be enormous. As ARDA President Howard Nusbaum said in a recent interview, “We all know that it takes money to get anything done in this world. If we don’t have to worry about funds, we can spend that much more time working for timeshare owners’ rights and interests.”
As evidenced by ARDA-ROC’s great legislative successes and continued efforts, active participation from owners is essential. Superb team effort generates solutions to serious industry problems. As Nusbaum says, “The bottom line is: with unity comes strength.” Help ARDA-ROC, strengthen the industry and watch your business grow.
~Written by Katy Bruski
American Resort Development Association
This article is reprinted with permission from Developments magazine.
You can learn more about the American Resort Development Association by logging on to their website at www.arda.org.