A New York couple is suing Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort for a refund of their time-share payment claiming the resort company failed to build their holiday home.
Malte and Marlo Lorenz have filed a writ at the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, suing Morritt’s for nearly US$68,000.
According to the writ, the couple has also been paying maintenance fees on the property since November 2006.
Malte and Marlo Lorenz, who own a successful New York-based textile company called Thro, say they arranged to use a timeshare property at Morritt’s through Global Resource Management, a promoter of timeshare properties in Florida in April 2006.
During their visit, they decided to buy their own one-bedroom timeshare property at the resort to use two weeks a year, an arrangement they later upgraded to a two-bedroom unit for use three weeks a year.
The writ stated that they entered into an agreement with Morritt Properties Cayman Ltd. to purchase a property to use two weeks a year and could take up occupancy in 2007. The unit cost US$18,410.25, which the couple paid on 8 May, 2006.
Two weeks later, they upgraded to a two-bedroom unit for an extra cost of US$12,090, and extended their agreement to add an extra week a year at an extra cost of US$27,662.
The writ states that the agreement they signed on 20 May included the clause: ‘A purchaser of an un-built unit, buying on a pre-construction basis, may terminate and cancel the contract, should the unit not be ready at the occupancy date specified in the purchase agreement. Under such circumstances, the purchaser would receive a full refund.’
When Mr. and Mrs. Lorenz showed up at the complex at the end of December 2007, they were told the unit was not ready to be occupied and were placed instead in a fifth-floor unit, an arrangement the family says was unsuitable for their eight-year-old twins.
According to the writ: ‘At all times, the plaintiffs’ owner statements, maintenance fee statements and special assessments did not disclose any delay in the construction of the plaintiffs’ unit nor the fact that it had not been built.’
The writ, filed by Cayman law firm Samson and McGrath, continued that resort representatives assured them orally when the agreement was signed that the apartment would be completed on schedule by December 2006.
It added: ‘To date, no date for completion of the unit has ever been given by the defendants.’
The couple was told in early January last year that the unit was still u-built and no dates for building or occupancy were provided, according to the writ. At that point, they asked for a full refund of their money.
They are suing Morritt Properties Cayman Ltd. and Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort Ltd. for a total of $67,957, plus costs and interest. That includes maintenance payments in November 2006 of $1,610 and in November 2007 of $2,410.
The resort company has filed a defence with the court.
The couple is among more than 10,000 owners at Morritt’s, which suffered $20 million worth of damage in Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Two wooden buildings were razed following the storm, and one was rebuilt as a five-storey, concrete building, known as The Wembley.
Dutch Hoffman, general manager of Morritt’s, said he could not comment specifically on the lawsuit, but said the company had spent $25 million on the resort since Hurricane Ivan and had built units that were available to all owners.
‘We have extra units in the Wembley building and in the meantime we are not selling those units. We have made that inventory available to owners,’ he said, adding that almost all owners had bought on a right-to-use basis, rather than buying particular units to use during specific weeks.
He added that the company had intended to start rebuilding the second building in Autumn last year, but due to the credit crunch, Morritt’s had postponed the work.
‘It’s all ready to go, we’re just waiting for the credit markets to soften a little bit,’ he said.
Mr. Hoffman said the Lorenzs’ case was the first legal action of its kind against Morritt’s.
Speaking from New York this week, Mr. Lorenz told the Caymanian Compass that his experience with Morritt’s had put him off returning to Cayman. ‘We fell in love with the place. We thought it would be a great place to come for Christmas every year and now it’s turned into a horrible mess. I don’t think we’ll be back.
‘On that first trip, we had a ground-floor unit on the beach. That was nice. We have twin eight-year-olds, and it was a real easy location. That’s why we bought a unit on the ground floor on the beach… I would never have bought something on the fifth floor, it changes the whole dynamic of the vacation’ Mr. Lorenz said.
He added: ‘I have had a timeshare in St. Martin and we’ve been going there every year for winter, so Cayman was quite a unique place to us. We had sliding glass doors on the beachfront, with white sand and were just 20 feet from the beach. That was the ideal.’