Joe and Jan Ragan have lived at the Travel America Inc. RV resort in Four Corners, Fla., near Orlando, for four years, and had visited it often for more than two decades. But that may change soon, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
A mortgage and tax foreclosure at the resort, prompted by a bankruptcy case in Ohio, has landed the Ragans and hundreds of other Central Florida seniors in the middle of a financial nightmare.
It will cost them as much as five times more to stay at the resort, leaving only a few options: pay more, move or curtail their carefree lifestyles.
Either way, they’re out the thousands of dollars invested in lifetime memberships that promised stays for a few dollars a night.
Such memberships can cost $1,800 to more than $8,000, and payments on annual dues were collected quarterly.
“This was our idea of our retired life,” Jan Ragan, 71, said. She and her husband, 70, sold their home in 2000 and hit the road.
But the failure of their membership collective means the price to stay at the south Lake County, Fla., resort, on U.S. 27, climbed from to $15 a day, from $3, during the summer months and to about $450 a month, from about $260, during the winter.
The campground is being run by a receivership appointed by a federal court in Ocala, Fla., under the supervision of manager Andra Chester. She said weekly or monthly stays are discounted.
Travel America, based in Irvine, Calif., was born of the failure of two similar networks — All Seasons Resorts and Thousand Adventures Inc. The Ragans owned memberships in both; they paid $6,300 to join All Seasons and $2,200 for Thousand Adventures.
Now their Travel America membership is in doubt, a problem confronting hundreds in Central Florida who stay at the south Lake resort — the only one in Florida that remained part of Travel America.
“These people, they think they are buying something tangible,” said Dan Hopper, president of a national consumer group whose membership includes RV campers such as the Ragans. “But all they are getting is a gate pass.”
If the Ragans want to move to another property in the network, the closest ones would be in Alabama or Mississippi.
The Lake County property was foreclosed upon in U.S. District Court in Ocala in November by the federal government for unpaid taxes and by Old West Annuity and Life Insurance Co. as the mortgage holder. Travel America’s corporate parent, The Apollo Group, also of Irvine, sought protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in April 2001.
Hopper, who heads the National Association for Members of Campground Resorts, Condominiums and Timeshares, based in Dayton, Ohio, said there are more than 100,000 victims of the Travel America failure nationwide. Thousands of them live in Florida.
Joe Ragan and his wife plan to remain, but others have left.
Elenor LeBlanc, 75, fled when her membership no longer was valid. “It’s worthless,” she said.