Editor’s Note: FairShake is not an attorney, law firm, or financial advisor. Our content team conducts research to the best of our ability to ensure this content is accurate, but it does not replace professional financial or legal advice.
A timeshare is an agreement in which parties share ownership of a property, typically for an allotted period of time. A timeshare purchase agreement generally creates a non-cancellable lifetime obligation.
Shared deeded ownerships are a form of timeshare where a specific property is divided between people who each own a percentage of the title to a property. Your share is treated like another home you might own — it is considered to be real property which your heirs can inherit. Within a shared deeded timeshare, buyers may be able to purchase a specific place/unit for a week (or weeks) in a year.
With a shared leased ownership, unlike deeded timeshares, the timeshare developer holds the deeded title to the property. The buyer essentially signs up for rights to fractionally occupy the property for a certain period of time. The timeshare buyer’s interest expires after a certain term of years, therefore the timeshare interest cannot be inherited.
Points-based timeshare programs, which include the biggest timeshare players like Marriott Vacation Club and Club Wyndham, brag that they give you access to a whole assortment of different properties. You are purchasing an allotment of points (usually a certain number per year) that let you stay at these properties. The potential upsides of points-based timeshare programs can be complicated by things like blackout dates and differential rates across properties and time periods.
Timeshare laws vary by state. In some states timeshares are governed by the laws that apply to other real estate transactions, while others have more extensive laws specific to timeshare programs. Many state laws provide specific protections for buyers and rights to cancellation of purchase. You can find more information on timeshare laws here.
Other consumer protection laws at the state and federal level can also provide protection against things like shady sales tactics, aggressive telemarketing, and other unfair practices.
For single-location properties, as in a shared deeded ownership, your timeshare purchase is typically regulated by the state Real Estate Commission for whichever state the property is located.
For points-based programs like Marriott Vacation Club and Club Wyndham, these might not be considered real estate transactions at all. A consumer rights attorney could review your contract and give you information on which laws apply.
To be honest, timeshare sales people aren’t known for being honest and low pressure. Anecdotally, high pressure and misleading sales tactics used in timeshare pitches can lead consumers into signing up for timeshare programs that they don’t want or need, saddling them with a major financial burden.
So if you think you’ve been lied to when you purchased a timeshare, what can you do?
If you’ve figured out quickly that you got talked into a timeshare you didn’t want, you should know about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s “Cooling-Off Rule.” The Cooling-Off Rule gives you a right to cancel some in-person sales within three days of the purchase. It can depend on where a sale was made, so it may or may not apply to your purchase depending on where the timeshare pitch took place.
However long ago the sale was, buyers can also file a complaint with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov if you believe a timeshare seller like Club Wyndham or Marriott Vacation Club engaged in deceptive or unfair business practices. You can also report timeshare resale scams or other scams related to timeshares and vacation clubs to the state attorney general of the state in which the timeshare is located.
The FTC also wants you to know that some companies promising to get you out of a timeshare contract (“timeshare exits”) may also be taking advantage of consumers and not delivering on their promises.
If you’re having issues with a timeshare contract, tell us about it below.Start a Complaint
There are two major kinds of consumer bankruptcies—a Chapter 7 “liquidation bankruptcy” which wipes out unsecured debts, and a Chapter 13 “wage earners bankruptcy” which results in a plan to pay down debts over time.
Which kind of bankruptcy you choose, and what kind of timeshare you have, can have a different treatment of your timeshare obligations. For information about your specific situation, you’d want to consult a bankruptcy attorney.
You might have an issue with a timeshare, or a timeshare program like Club Wyndham or Marriott Vacation Club, and want to know your legal options. There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all answer, and an experienced timeshare attorney can tell you whether you might be able to sue a timeshare company and how.
If you’re in a situation where you want to learn more about timeshare lawsuits, you can share your complaint with FairShake.
Your complaint will be reviewed for sharing with timeshare attorneys (although most complaints aren’t matched).
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