The case of Porto Carras

Three thousand time-share holders are at risk of losing their contract with the luxury Porto Carras Hotel complex. The new owners of the hotel refuse to recognize the rights of time-share holders, though they have paid a total of approximately 11.75 million euros for the right to stay at the complex for up to two weeks annually until 2040. The court battle that has broken out between the two sides is expected to be settled this coming September at the Supreme Court. The president of the Association of Time-share Holders of Village Inn-Porto Carras, A. Katsaros, relates: «The sale of the time-share began in 1991-92. Back then, a one-week holiday in a studio cost 1.5 million drachmas (4,402 euros) for 50 years. The annual cost of keeping the time-share was 30,000 drachmas (88 euros). Furthermore, we had the option, if we subscribed to RCI, to exchange our week so we could go to another country. «In 1997, the hotel complex was liquidated by National Capital, a daughter company of the National Bank [of Greece]. «During this two-year liquidation period, we were served as usual (according to Law 1652/86, time-sharing is outlined as a way for hotels to pay off loans). Indeed, after this period, new time-sharing contracts were signed. Then, the complex was sold to the highest bidder, becoming part of the ETE group for 11 billion drachmas (32.3 million euros). It was under this ownership until late 1999. That was the last year we took our holidays. «At the end of 1999, it was sold to Olympic Technical, which started making all sorts of excuses for not honoring its responsibilities. We received letters from Potidaia (the daughter company of ETE to which the Porto Carras stocks were transferred) stating their recognition of our rights. The legal status quo does not change when stocks change hands.» In the middle of Easter in the spring of 2000, Olympic Technical issued eviction orders to the time-share holders. At the same time, three professors of the Athens Law School (K. Beis, I. Spyridakis and A. Georgiadis) deemed that the contracts were invalid. They based their verdict on a law of the 1920s by which «the sale of time-shares is not recognized because no prior agreement had been made for them by the banks which had financed the complex.» According to a member of the board of directors of Olympic Technical, A. Klapadakis, «according to laws 1892/90 and 2538/97, our group has only acquired the assets of the old business of I. Carras. The debts these include, and the down-payments for time-shares, burden the liquidator, National Capital.» The time-share holders went to court. As Katsaros explains: «There were hundreds of lawsuits demanding the suspension-cessation of the evictions, which we lost at the first instance court in Polygyros (the law of 1997 contains a tailor-made provision regarding Porto Carras that prohibits the suspension-cessation of evictions when the business is in the process of liquidation). We conducted several feeler suits, which means that we went to court to see whether our contracts were valid or not. Again, we lost at the first-instance courts in Athens and Thessaloniki. Next, we turned to the Thessaloniki Court of Appeals and up to now three verdicts have been passed in our favor. The next step will be the Supreme Court, where we will demand that the contracts establish time-shares with rights similar to ownership.»