October 21, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver
Last week I made it clear that, in my legal opinion, the way that the timeshare industry deals with owners who want out of their contracts reminds me of racketeering.
Pity the poor timeshare owner who was a victim of lie after lie during the sales presentation and discovers that it is nearly impossible to use the purchase the way it was described.
Should that owner hire an exit company – which is another enormous risk in itself of being scammed – now that there is the very real chance of being sued by the developer?
My advice for people wanting to exit a timeshare was: Never buy one in the first place!
Don’t ever sign one of these non-cancelable contracts that require you to make maintenance payments forever for something that you may never be able to use the way it was sold to you or get out of, even if sick and unable to travel.
But, if you still are interested in owning a timeshare, there are some steps you can take which will reduce the chances of being ripped off. I discussed them with Irene Parker of St. Augustine Florida, founder of TARDA, Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, a 501c4 non-profit.
“Our purpose is to give timeshare members and owners a voice at the legislative level,” she points out. “Our volunteers respond to questions from timeshare owners who don’t know what to do when a dispute arises, or when seeking release from an unwanted timeshare.”
Irene lists what you need to know if considering a timeshare or would like to get out of your existing contract.
1. Buying a timeshare from the resale market instead of directly from the developer saves you a fortune! For example, a $20,000 Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare on the resale market is priced at around $1,500 to $2,000.
1. Do your timeshare math. Ask about the finance charges. Take the purchase price, including any finance charges, and yearly maintenance fees and amortize the cost over your expected lifetime. Spending $30,000 for a vacation plan at age 70 may not be prudent, as opposed to someone 45 years old.
Rarely do the elderly realize they will not live long enough to benefit from the timeshare.
Additionally, if they have heirs, they must be notified that there is no obligation to inherit the timeshare and can decline to accept the timeshare by way of disavowing the inheritance.
A Few Don’ts
1. Don’t buy the same day. Timeshare sales agents rely on emotion and often guilt to force a decision. “Do you love your wife and kids? Well, then, don’t you feel you owe them quality time? Think of the joy vacations bring and that’s what I am offering you.”
2. Don’t rely on statements made by timeshare agents or anyone connected to the sale of a timeshare. When your complaint begins with “The sales agent said …,” you will be directed to the fine print in the contract that states, “I did not rely on oral representations to make my purchase.”
3. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if the signing session is recorded, and insist your question and answer be recorded. This is important because if you later find out the timeshare was misrepresented, the recording will be used against you with, “If this was important to you, why did you not bring it up on the recording?”
When Trying to Get Out of Your Contract
1. Contact your resort to determine if they will be of help.
2. Check social media sites to see how your resort has responded to others in your situation.
3. Be leery of signing up with an exit company — many are scams — and don’t rely on testimonials because they can be fabricated.
4. If they guarantee an exit and want money up front, run! No one can guarantee an exit except the other party to a contract, which is the developer.
5. Don’t rely on money-back guarantees from exit companies. They are not regulated or licensed by the government and do not have escrow accounts for the money you pay them. There are a few exit companies who operate legitimately, but they are few and far between.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.