How Do I 'Get Out Of' My Timeshare Interest and Avoid a Scam?

Every year, millions of Americans (and others from around the world) buy into a timeshare interest.

Whether they simply succumbed to the well-documented psychological pressures of the timeshare hard sell, or saw a legitimate opportunity for traveling with friends and family, these timeshare owners signed on the dotted line – and got themselves involved in a commitment that could well last a lifetime, complete with ongoing payments, including assessments and rising maintenance fees.

For every consumer with starry-eyed dreams of taking that perfect vacation, there are countless more who no longer see their timeshare interest as an asset, and instead have come to view it as a burden. Whether due to a change in lifestyle, a tightening of personal finances, or an issue with their resort developer or management company, there are numerous reasons why a timeshare owner may seek to find a way out from their obligation.

When this time comes, many owners hit a wall, finding that their options for successfully leaving their timeshare obligation are more limited than they’d imagine – and that the risks of falling victim to a scam or fraud are very real.

Indeed, thousands of individuals fall victim to the all-too-common timeshare cancellation scam every year. You can find numerous stories in our very own “News Room,” where we keep an eye on the industry.

Oftentimes, the broad strokes of the timeshare swindle are largely the same. A consumer, seeking a way out of their timeshare interest, is approached by a company offering to help them resell, rent out, donate, or cleanly cancel their obligation. In order to do so, though, this company requires substantial upfront payments, almost always in the form of direct deposit or wire transfer (methods which make it all-but impossible to cancel your payments or get your cash back). After the consumer pays up, the company fails to achieve their stated goal – or simply drops off the face of the earth altogether, only to resurface later to target their next victim.

Given the prevalence of this scam, many consumers are hesitant to test the waters of the timeshare resale market – and for good reason.

Even when timeshare owners do manage to avoid scams, many find that the resale market for timeshares is anything but hospitable to sellers. It is not unusual to find timeshare interests listed on sites like eBay for as little as $1, with the seller even offering to cover all closing costs or transfer fees on behalf of the buyer.

As we’ve noted before, part of the reason for this dearth of an aftermarket is due to systematic suppression on the part of the major resort developers, who see these marketplaces as a threat to their bottom lines. But, even so, these major industry players do not make it easy to get out of a timeshare by other means.

Over the past few years, we’ve highlighted some of the pitfalls of timeshare rental programs, certain resort buy-back programs, and the limitations that come hand-in-hand with even legitimate timeshare redemption companies, which can offer no guarantee of success and tend to come and go with stunning alacrity.

So what options are left for the timeshare owner, desperate to get out from their costly obligation but feeling lost, adrift, and at wit’s end?

We maintain that a consumer’s best option – and the one they should pursue first and foremost – is to reach out directly to their resort for assistance. Many do offer in-house timeshare exit programs, and will be willing to work with an owner to negotiate a termination of their contracts. But if that should fail, a consumer’s best option may be to consult with an attorney, particularly one with experience working with the timeshare industry.

We refer our readers to the middle of the paragraph above: “termination of their contracts.” As we have noted before, it’s important that timeshare owners don’t think purely in terms of “cancelling their timeshare,” but rather cancelling their timeshare “contracts.”

As we alluded to earlier, when a consumer signs on the bottom line, they have entered into a legally binding agreement with their resort. It follows natural that the solution to a legal matter is to bring on a qualified legal professional.

In addition to offering the ability to carefully review the timeshare owner’s documents and paperwork and represent the consumer in negotiations with their resort, retaining an attorney also offers other benefits to a party attempting to terminate their timeshare contracts.

For one thing, bringing on an attorney offers the opportunity to pursue litigation, should the need arise; this can be a powerful source of leverage when it comes to negotiations with the resort.

Another powerful piece of leverage? It is only an attorney who can safely offer a consumer the option of “strategic default” as a negotiating tactic. You see, only a licensed attorney is in the legal position of insulating his or her clients from third party debt collection activities under FDCPA, which clarifies that third party debt collectors may not contact consumers who are represented by a lawyer. With an attorney’s guidance, this can be an effective tactic for gaining the attention of a resort developer and encouraging them to come to the negotiating table – which may be less likely to occur in a timely fashion should a purchaser’s underlying contractual payments continue on schedule.

And, finally, unlike a private third party company, a licensed attorney has more at stake. In addition to their sworn duty to advocate on behalf of their client, an attorney, as our own Michael Finn has written,

“has a license to lose. Practicing attorneys have worked hard to obtain their law license with three more years of schooling and the passing of the bar exam. They do not want to have their professional reputation damaged, nor do they want to lose their license to practice over a timeshare dispute.”

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to finding a way out from under a costly timeshare interest. It’s important to bring on an advocate who will truly work for you throughout the cancellation process – and who understands the many pitfalls that can arise should you go it alone!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don't hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns. 

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Finn Law Group maintains this website exclusively for informational purposes. It is not legal or other professional advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Finn Law Group or its clients. Please carefully review our full disclaimer (link) before proceeding. Review our privacy policy (link) here.