If you’re one of the many owners that are trying to get out of their timeshares, you will need to approach your situation realistically, evaluate your options carefully, and be very wary of scams.
Let’s look at the things you need to know.
Why People Want to Get Out of Timeshares
💸 Timeshare companies spend a great deal of time and money convincing buyers that a timeshare is a great deal: as much as 60% of the cost of a timeshare goes to sales and marketing expenses.
Many owners find that the reality doesn’t live up to the promise. These are some of the reasons why owners want to give up their properties.
- Maintenance fees. Timeshare maintenance fees average around $1000/year and may increase without warning. Some resorts, especially larger or more prominent ones, have higher fees.
- Special assessments for repairs and improvements are mandatory and unpredictable. They may involve substantial amounts.
- Difficulty getting quality weeks. Many owners report that they had a hard time getting access to the property during premium vacation periods.
- Changing vacation habits. Many owners find that as they age, they no longer want to go to the same type of destination they chose when they bought the timeshare.
- An unwanted inheritance. You can get out of inheriting a timeshare, but people who don’t know how may be stuck with an inherited timeshare they don’t want.
A timeshare can be extremely expensive, and changing financial conditions and vacation preferences leave many owners eager to escape their commitments.
There are two unpleasant realities that you will have to face up to if you’re trying to get out of a timeshare.
- Your timeshare is probably worthless. If you think you can sell your timeshare, you’re probably wrong. Most timeshares have no resale value. The market is filled with people trying to give their timeshares away to escape the fees.
- This won’t be easy. A timeshare agreement is a legal contract. Most of them have “perpetuity clauses” tying you to your timeshare for life. Those clauses aren’t fair, but they are legal. Timeshare contracts are designed to tie you down.
It is still possible to get out of a timeshare. You’ll have to make the right moves, and you’ll have to be careful: there are many scammers preying on people desperate to escape timeshare contracts. Anyone promising a guaranteed easy timeshare exit is probably a scammer.
How to Get Out of a Timeshare
These are the steps you’ll need to take.
1. Use the Rescission Period
If you were persuaded by a high-pressure sales pitch and changed your mind immediately, you can use the rescission period. This is a cooling-off period within which you can back out of a contract.
The length of this period varies with the state the resort is in, but is usually from three to 15 days. If you want to back out of your decision, notify the resort in writing immediately. They will try to talk you out of your decision. Be firm. You have the right to say “no.”
The rescission period is brief, so if you’re trying to get out of a timeshare that you’ve had for some time, you’ll need other methods.
2. Understand Your Contract
The first step is to read your contract thoroughly and understand it. This may not be easy: timeshare contracts are often deliberately complex and obscure. You may need to get a lawyer’s help to analyze the contract.
Even if it’s difficult, it’s still necessary. You need to understand what type of timeshare you have and any stipulations the contract has restricting your ability to give up the timeshare.
Don’t expect good news, Timeshare contracts are typically very one-sided and designed to protect the developer’s interests, not yours. You still need to know what you’re up against.
3. Do You Still Owe Money?
Many people finance their timeshare purchases. Developers encourage this and often bundle financing packages with timeshare purchases during sales presentations. These loans often carry exorbitant interest rates, adding to the burden on timeshare owners.
If you used a loan to pay for your timeshare, check the amount that you still owe. It will be harder to get out of a timeshare if you still owe money on it, especially if you financed your purchase through the resort. You may have to pay off the loan before you can get out of your timeshare.
4. Talk to the Resort
Many timeshare resorts offer “deed-back” or “surrender” programs for owners that no longer want their timeshares. Even resorts that don’t have such a program may take a timeshare back, especially if the owners are elderly or experiencing verifiable financial hardship.
Don’t expect this to be easy. The resort representative will try to talk you out of your decision and may even try to sell you an “upgrade.” You will need to be very firm and very clear on what you want.
It is very likely that the resort will refuse to take the timeshare back. It’s still worth trying before you move on to other options.
5. Sell or Rent Your Timeshare
Most timeshares have little or no resale value. If you wonder why, just look at the second-hand timeshare market. It’s saturated with people trying to give their timeshares away just to escape the fees. Why would buyers pay for something they can get for free?
It still may be possible to sell a timeshare if you have a highly desirable property. It may also be possible to rent your timeshare weeks out to defray or cover the costs until you can find a more permanent solution.
Beware of companies that promise to sell or rent your timeshare for an attractive sum but want a large listing fee upfront. This is a common scam. Most will make little or no effort to find a buyer or renter, but they will keep charging fees. Watch out for promises that sound too good to be true!
You can list your timeshare for sale or rent for a very minimal cost using reputable sites like Timeshare Users Group or Redweek. Don’t let your expectations get too high, but you may be able to make a deal.
You should also be aware that many timeshare contracts allow the resort to come after you if you sell or give your timeshare to someone who subsequently fails to pay.
6. Stop Paying
This sounds appealing, but it can cause multiple problems. There are still some circumstances in which it might be the best option.
If you stop paying your maintenance fees and timeshare loan, penalties will be imposed. The late payments will be reported to the credit bureaus, and your credit will be affected. You can expect vigorous collection efforts at this stage. You will get calls, emails, and letters. You will not be able to use the timeshare unit.
If you still don’t pay, the resort will foreclose and take the property back. That may sound like exactly what you want, but you can expect your credit score to take a ferocious beating.
The timeshare resort could even file a lawsuit to compel you to live up to the contract. If you lose, your wages could be garnished. Your contract may specify that legal action be taken in the state where the resort is located. That would mean costly travel, and states with large timeshare industries often have laws that favor resorts.
This option is most attractive if you’re older and don’t expect to be applying for loans again. You may not care about your credit score, and resorts are aware of the PR mess that suing old people can create.
7. File for Bankruptcy
Filing for bankruptcy may be overkill simply as a way to escape from a timeshare. If your timeshare payments are just part of a larger debt problem, it might be worth considering, especially if you are behind in your timeshare payments.
Bankruptcy is complicated and expensive, and it will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. On the positive side, it can completely eliminate unsecured debts in as little as six months, and as soon as you file, all collection efforts must stop.
You can surrender a timeshare in either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Some ownership or membership fees may not be discharged.
8. Get a Lawyer and Fight Back
Timeshare contracts are incredibly one-sided… so why do people sign them? The answer is that many people buy timeshares at very aggressive, manipulative sales presentations. Those presentations are a timeshare resort’s best sales tool, but they are also a legal vulnerability.
Timeshare presentations typically rely on a bombardment of verbal promises. After the client gives in, contracts are produced, seemingly as a formality. Buyers are often pressured to sign contracts without reading them or getting legal advice.
This is an effective way to coax buyers into signing one-sided and abusive contracts, but it also calls the validity of the contract into question. In most states, a contract can be invalidated for fraudulent inducement: the use of inaccurate or deceptive information to persuade you to sign a contract.
If you bought your timeshare at a sales presentation and any of these things happened, you may have grounds to challenge your contract.
- The cost of the timeshare, including fees and interest costs, was misrepresented.
- The accessibility of the reservation process and the ease of making reservations were misrepresented.
- The company claimed inaccurately that it would help you sell or rent your timeshare.
- The sales staff misrepresented the annual fees, claimed that they could be eliminated or offset, or failed to inform you that they could increase.
- The salespeople described a timeshare as “an investment” or made inaccurate claims about its resale value.
- The duration of the timeshare presentation was misrepresented. For example, if a “90-minute presentation” becomes an 8-hour marathon.
- You were told that the deal you were being offered was good only for that day.
- The resort or its staff lied about or misrepresented any other critical information.
Almost every timeshare sales presentation violates one or more of these conditions. Timeshare resorts rely on fraudulent inducement because nobody that was fully aware of the contents of their contracts would ever sign them.
Timeshare resorts may tell you that their contracts are ironclad and there is no way to give up your timeshare. This is not true. An experienced lawyer can effectively challenge these contracts, and many resorts will take the unit back rather than face expensive litigation.
If you take this route, look for an attorney with experience in timeshare litigation. Expect to answer questions before the lawyer agrees to take your case. Reputable lawyers won’t take your case if they don’t think it’s winnable. Beware of anyone who promises results before they know the details of your case!
Lawyers aren’t cheap, and it may cost from $3000 to $15,000 to get out of a timeshare contract, depending on your contract and the specifics of your case. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it.
9. Use a Timeshare Exit Company
If you take this route, be careful. The timeshare exit world is filled with disreputable players. Many timeshare owners are desperately looking for a way out, and scammers are ready to use that desperation to prey on them.
Watch out for these danger signs:
- A company that promises to sell or rent your timeshare at a dream price but demands a large upfront fee to list it.
- A company that promises to sell or transfer your timeshare to a dummy LLC or donate it to a charity. These maneuvers generally won’t work, and the fees will be high.
- A company that promises to challenge your contract successfully before they even know the details of your case.
- Any company that charges large upfront fees or bases your fees on the value of your timeshare.
There are still reputable timeshare exit companies. You’ll have to do careful research and seek out companies that have strong customer reviews and impeccable reputations.
A reputable timeshare exit company will use the same methods that a lawyer would use to challenge your contract. Like a reputable lawyer, they will ask you detailed questions and accept your case only if they think it is winnable. If they are eager to take your case or accept it without question, that’s a bad sign.
You will have to assess the cost of using a timeshare exit company and decide whether it’s a better idea than hiring an attorney to represent you directly.
Timeshare exit companies typically charge between $3000 and $5000, but the cost can go much higher if your case is complex or if they think they can get more. Some companies charge more for more costly timeshares, even if they don’t require more effort.
One of the reputable timeshare exit companies, Resolution Timeshare Cancellation, charges a flat $2900 for a paid-off property and $4,400 for a mortgaged property. Like most credible companies, they will only accept cases they believe are winnable.
The Bottom Line
Getting into a timeshare contract is easy. Getting out is not. The timeshare industry’s business model is built on maneuvering customers into deals they don’t fully understand and forcing them to stay in those deals.
Getting out is not easy, but it is possible. Use the steps outlined here and be persistent. Don’t expect the resort to cave in easily because they won’t. Stick to your guns, stay focused on your goal, and watch out for scams!