A timeshare (vacation ownership) is a property with fractional ownership shared between multiple parties (timeshare owners). Each owner has the right to use the property for a specific period each year. Timeshares are typically located in popular vacation destinations, such as beach or ski resorts. A professional property management company often manages timeshare properties. The management company is responsible for maintaining the property, collecting fees from the owners, and managing the reservations for each unit.
According to a study conducted by Wesley Financial Group, 71% of timeshare owners feel they were misled during their timeshare purchase. Nearly 100% of the survey respondents picked one of 5 lies that occurred during the timeshare sales meeting:
1. Length of timeshare presentation (17%)
2. How easy would it be to cancel the timeshare agreement (20%)
3. The investment value of the timeshare (22%)
4. How easy would it be to book their timeshare (20%)
5. They were told maintenance fees wouldn't increase (20%)
There are 9.9 million timeshare owners in the U.S. Of the estimated 8.4 million people who regret buying a timeshare, the common sentiment is disappointment with their purchase, citing money, fear, confusion, intimidation, and distrust as the reasons for their displeasure. Despite these numbers, the timeshare industry remains one of the most successful vacation providers in the U.S.
The four elements of a timeshare contract are the description of your timeshare, obligations and default notice, forum/venue clauses, and cancellation/rescission clauses.
Before canceling your vacation membership, you should understand the terms and conditions of your timeshare purchase. In purchasing your vacation property, you're legally bound to the rules and regulations of your timeshare developer.
There are three types of timeshares offered in today's market. A deeded timeshare, also known as a fixed-week timeshare. A flexible week timeshare. Or, a vacation club membership (points-based) that, in theory, allows you to reserve time at various timeshare resorts. Each of these options offers a range of flexibility with your vacation. Before canceling your timeshare, know which one you own is best.
In the obligation sections, the resort explains your payment requirements. These include monthly mortgage payments, annual maintenance fees, HOA payments, special assessment payments, and even fees that can be incurred from renting out or reselling your timeshare.
Obligations and default notices, along with the forum/venue clauses, are where many pitfalls occur. Although maintenance and special assessment fees are not scams, per se, they are clauses and contractually binding agreements that lean heavily in favor of the timeshare exchange. You must pay the fees or suffer the consequences of foreclosure.
A venue or forum clause (may be written as a "choice of law" or "venue selection clause") protects the timeshare resort from having legal action taken against them outside of a single court. Worst-case scenario, the venue clause may even state that you cannot take legal action outside of the state in which the resort resides.
Let's say you bought a timeshare in Texas but live in California. In Texas, many laws are pro-business. In California, most laws offer better consumer protection. You were scammed and filed a lawsuit in California against the Texas timeshare company. The Texas timeshare company would dismiss the lawsuit because you failed to read the venue clause.
A rescission or cancellation clause states that you may cancel your timeshare within a few days of purchase. In most cases, it's between 5 and 15 days, but it varies from state to state. A timeshare company will require you to write a cancellation (rescission) letter to legally cancel your timeshare.
Any cancellation letter you send must comply with the terms of the agreement and relevant laws. If it doesn't, there's a good chance your letter won't be successful, leaving you in a difficult situation.
Although your options are slim post-rescission, there are a few ways to negotiate relief with your resort. You can seek point consolidation if you own a points-based timeshare. Or, see if your timeshare company rewards mortgage fulfillment and offers a deed-back program. If these options fail, you may be able to negotiate to pay off your timeshare early. However, don't be discouraged if you cannot agree.
On average, the cost to cancel a timeshare is around a few thousand dollars. The cost of a timeshare greatly depends on the resort, the debt of the owner, the length of timeshare ownership, and the terms of the original timeshare contract.
Many legal options exist for timeshare cancellation. The legal process is detailed below:
The legal process for canceling a timeshare occurs in 3 stages.
After your timeshare purchase, you have a brief rescission period, also known as a "cooling-off" period. You have the legal right to cancel your purchase and receive a full refund in return during this time.
For a successful cancellation, you must declare and deliver your intent to the original seller within this specified time. Once the rescission deadline passes, your chances at an easy cancellation with a full refund are likely over.
Next, knowing relevant state laws regarding your right to rescission is also critical. Each state has different mandates, but most only allow three to ten days for timeshare buyers to rescind the purchase. That is not much time for those on or returning from their vacations. Still, it would be best if you acted within this time window.
The rescission process calls for a cancellation letter to the original resort company that made the sale. When writing a timeshare cancellation letter (detailed guide), it's imperative to follow all instructions outlined in your agreement, get straight to the point of cancellation, and request a confirmation response.
If you require a cancellation letter, be sure to include the following:
Here is a sample template for a rescission letter:
Subject: Notice of Rescission
I am writing to formally notify you of my intention to rescind the agreement between _______________ and _______________, dated _______________.
According to the terms of the agreement, I have the right to cancel the agreement within _______________ days of its execution. I am exercising this right and hereby provide notice of my intention to cancel the agreement.
Please confirm that you have received this notice and that the agreement has been terminated. I expect to receive a full refund of any payments made under the agreement within _______________ days of the date of this letter.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Just as important as the instructions are when writing your cancellation letter, the delivery instructions are equally significant. Resorts are sticklers with rescission periods, so you must ensure your letter arrives before the deadline. Send it via registered or certified mail to get notified of the delivery. Remember, the timeshare company may let your letter slip through the cracks if you can not prove it was delivered.
If you can no longer make payments on your timeshare and you negotiate with the resort, you may experience a deed-in-lieu contract rather than a foreclosure. Although this prevents a default from being recorded on your record, a deed-in-lieu may significantly impact your credit - especially if you have unpaid maintenance or special assessment fees.
Outstanding payments can prevent you from transferring your timeshare to a reseller, back to the resort, or even to a charity or family member. This can lead to the resort taking legal action to settle debts, affecting your credit score.
The first thing to do when trying to give back your timeshare to the resort is to relinquish your deed via the resort’s deed-back program. You must check your agreement to see if your resort offers a deed-back program. Giving your deed back to the resort allows the resort to reclaim and resell the property to someone else. If you're looking for a low-priced way to get rid of your timeshare, a deed back is your best bet.
When negotiating with timeshare representatives, be sure to do so with caution. Often, owners seek help, and the resort tries to upsell them on an upgrade that will supposedly resolve all of their issues. Rarely do timeshare upgrades ever make an owner's life easier.
Selling your timeshare is difficult, and your timeshare agreement may have a clause like "the right of first refusal" (ROFR), which allows the timeshare developer to buy the timeshare before you can sell it to anyone else. If you missed the rescission period and the resort will not take it back, you may have to do the heavy lifting yourself. One option that timeshare companies recommend is selling your timeshare. However, they fail to mention how complicated reselling them can be.
First, you need to find out whether reselling your timeshare is an option. What are the deciding criteria? It typically comes down to whether or not you are still paying off your timeshare mortgage loan payment. You will not be eligible for the resale market until you repay the loan.
Once you are ready to step foot into the timeshare resale market, be aware that your property is probably not worth much. To better understand your timeshare's listing price, speak with a real estate agent or look up comparable selling values online. However, unfortunately, thousands of owners are looking to get rid of their timeshare. The result is a flooded secondary market with no buyers. So, it’s unwise to expect to profit off of your timeshare resale.
By selling your timeshare, it's nearly impossible to make back what you originally paid. However, it can finally end future expenses, such as those dreadful maintenance fees. Unfortunately, for many, that's more than enough.
An alternative option timeshare companies give clients is to rent their units out to others for a profit. Timeshare salespeople claim you will make enough money to cover your mortgage costs and other timeshare fees by renting it out. The truth is that while renting it out can help to lighten financial hardship, it is often minimal help. If you want to keep your timeshare ownership but need help covering the expenses, listing it for rent may help.
Unfortunately, the timeshare exit strategies listed thus far are not too promising. Rescinding your timeshare or giving it back to the resort will only work under certain circumstances. Selling and renting out your timeshare often delivers disappointing results.
The growing number of unhappy timeshare owners is why we now have this cancellation industry. Timeshare exit services have recently become a hot commodity because they have worked for many people.
So, what is a timeshare exit company? It's a team of timeshare experts who develop exit strategies for their customers. Their solutions are customized to meet the unique needs of each customer.
Avoiding timeshare fraud can be difficult, yet, there are a few tips you can use to avoid being scammed:
Tips to avoid resale fraud:
There are many affordable alternatives to timeshare. Some of the most popular include vacation rentals (i.e. Airbnb), vacation membership programs, or traditional hotels or resorts.
Vacation rentals: the vacation rental industry has exploded with the use of different companies like Airbnb and VRBO. Both of these companies are popular because of their ease of service. You can book a weekend stay within minutes using their mobile apps or online website.
Membership programs: While vacation clubs provide discounted trips, they also have significant initial buy-in costs and high annual fees that are subject to change. So, be careful when looking into this alternative.
Traditional hotels and resorts: Almost all desirable vacation destinations have some fantastic and affordable resort stays in hotel rooms. Short-term payments are why hotels and resorts are such solid alternatives to timeshare locations.
As you can tell, getting out of a timeshare obligation is far from easy. There are very few routes to take toward timeshare freedom, but you must follow one of these strategies to achieve it. Choose which method best suits your needs.
While the timeshare developer may go above and beyond to keep you tied to your agreement, you are now aware that you can cut ties with them for good. You no longer have to endure the unbearable stress of unwanted timeshare ownership.