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Yes, you can cancel a timeshare contract but it’s not easy

Experts say there may be better options for those with buyer’s remorse

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People on vacation at a resort often end up in a high-pressure timeshare sales presentation, being persuaded to buy a unit, then having a strong case of buyer’s remorse. 

Maybe they aren’t interested in spending their vacation in the same place year after year. Or perhaps the maintenance fees are higher than expected.

With inflation now eating into discretionary income, some timeshare owners may be looking for a way to exit their timeshare agreements and ads on radio and television assure them they can. But can they?

There isn’t a simple answer because laws covering timeshare sales vary from state to state. But Lisa Schreier, who writes a blog called The Timeshare Crusader, says owners who want out of their contract can usually find a way to do it.

“I advise anyone looking to get out of a timeshare contract to first contact the developer to see what, if anything, they’ll do,” Schreier told ConsumerAffairs. “If that fails, contact a timeshare savvy attorney, not one of a myriad of self-proclaimed exit companies.”

Changes since the 1980s

Robert Persichitte, a financial planner at Delagify Financial, tells us he has worked with several clients who have felt burdened by their timeshare obligations. He says the structure of timeshares began to change in the late 1980s, making most newer timeshares somewhat easier to get out of. 

“In the past, timeshares were commonly tied to a single property,” Persichitte said. “Suppose that property was expensive to maintain, like many mountain properties or beach properties in hurricane-prone areas. As an owner, you generally have a financial obligation to pay for repairs. On the other hand, modern timeshares are connected with multiple properties and act more like a pooled vacation fund. These generally don't have a big financial burden, making them easier to walk away from.”

If the developer is not open to canceling the contract, Persichitte says a lawyer with experience in dealing with timeshare issues may be able to help, but that will require money. 

“You may need to hire an attorney for additional support for more restrictive contracts,” he said. “They will likely charge hourly based on the complexity and will probably have fees upward of $2,000-$3,000. You will probably need an attorney if you believe you were defrauded when you signed the contract.”

Schreier says not everyone who claims they can get you out of a timeshare contract can do it. She says they can often cost more than hiring an attorney.

“I’ve heard charges of $2,000 up to $20,000,” she told us. “Mind you, that’s money out the window more often than not. The owner pays upfront, months or years go by and the mortgage and/or maintenance fees rack up.”

Other options

Both Schreier and Persichitte say there are options short of canceling that might give timeshare owners some relief. Some developers who manage multiple properties maintain rental pools where owners can advertise their unit for rent, offsetting some of their costs.

There are also companies in the business of renting timeshares. Koala is a timeshare rental platform, connecting owners’ listings with travelers seeking resort accommodations.

“For most clients, it makes sense to sell a timeshare rather than surrender or cancel it,” Persichitte said.

Robert, of Colorado Springs, said he used SellMyTimeshareNow to sell his unwanted unit. He said the process doesn’t happen overnight – in his case it took three years – but he said the company ultimately delivered.

“The staff was very responsive to keep me informed of inquiries from potential buyers and to help process their questions,” Robert wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “They also offered strategies, such as a reasonable sale price and ways to enhance interest in my listing.”

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