Can you just walk away from a timeshare?
With most timeshare companies, the answer is no—unless you happen to still be in a “cooling off” period that lasts for just a few days. If you only recently bought your timeshare, you might be able to rescind the contract (which means to cancel it). But that period will be very short, and you need to follow the requirements in your contract exactly.
So what if you’ve owned the timeshare for longer than that? Usually there are maintenance fees that you have to pay as long as you’re the owner, and the contract often requires that they increase every single year. Most timeshare companies won’t let you just walk away because that’s their business model. Once you’re locked in, you’re locked in. In fact, many people have reported that when they went to the timeshare company and asked to walk away or told them they couldn’t pay anymore, they were just pushed into yet another sales presentation trying to sell them a replacement timeshare.
Some timeshare companies have programs to let you walk away, but they may come with strings attached, like forcing you to get on a waiting list, requiring that you show financial hardship, or requiring you to stop using your timeshare for a long period before they let you leave. Ultimately you’re at their mercy if you go this route. It’s not that you shouldn’t try, but you can’t count on it, and you can’t force them to let you go.
Some “exit companies” will claim they have ways for you to get out. These could include writing a series of letters which supposedly have magic language that leads to cancellation, or giving the timeshare to charity, or deeding it to someone associated with a lawyer or an exit company. These generally don’t do anything legally. What happens to people who try this is often that their credit gets ruined because the timeshare company forecloses on their interest and reports them to the credit agencies.
The only real legal solution is to determine if you have a valid legal claim against the company, and to pursue it in a lawsuit or an arbitration. This requires a close look at the contract you signed, at your state’s laws, and at the laws that the contract says apply (which may or may not be binding). Most states have a variety of ways to invalidate a contract. These could include that the contract was extremely one-sided, or fraud involved in inducing you to sign it. You could also have legal claims about the sales pitch or the lack of performance of the promises they made to you which might get you out, or sometimes even let you recover money to compensate you.
Most timeshare companies force you to bring your lawsuit in arbitration, not in court. But this can be a good thing. Arbitration is quicker—and cheaper. We regularly win settlements or awards for our clients in arbitration. It’s very similar to a lawsuit – there is a period to exchange information, and then a hearing (usually done on Zoom) in front of a lawyer who acts in the role of “arbitrator” who judges the case. After that, the arbitrator will issue an “award.” We can then take it to a court and have the award turned into a legal judgment that works just like a judgment in a regular lawsuit.
We sue companies over all kinds of abusive or deceptive business practices, so you’re getting a real law firm whose experience is in winning lawsuits and arbitrations. If you think you may have a legal claim against a timeshare company, call us at 657-845-3100 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.