How do you get out of a timeshare legally?
If you’re trapped in a timeshare, you’re probably wondering what your options are. And you’ve probably seen a lot of companies on the Internet claiming they can get you out of a timeshare will various methods.
The first thing to understand is there’s a lot of misinformation out there about this, and it’s on purpose. There’s a legal war going on between the timeshare companies and timeshare exit companies / timeshare exit law firms, and there has been for years. In our opinion, both sides are trying to scam people.
Many of the timeshare exit companies (and even many of the lawyers) are just as bad as the timeshare companies themselves. Sometimes they even use the same deceptive practices that may sound familiar to you if you got stuck with a timeshare, like inviting you to a “short” presentation and then using hard sales tactics to get you to sign something.
The general way people get scammed twice is that the exit company will promise something that sounds legal, but is really just mumbo jumbo. They may claim that they’ve got a secret system of letters they’ll have you send, and when you’re done, you’re legally out of it. They may say that you can just deed the timeshare away to a company they control, and then you’re free. They tell you to stop paying the maintenance fees on the timeshare, and pay them to the exit company or the law firm instead.
The reality of what happens is that your credit gets ruined. Because you haven’t actually legally cancelled the timeshare contract, the timeshare company either forecloses or reports you to the credit bureaus. The exit company (or a lawyer they work with) will then send you to a “credit repair” company that tries to fight it. But often it doesn’t work, and legally they are on very thin ice even doing it.
The timeshare companies have responded to all of this by suing under unfair competition laws or tortious interference with contract laws. What’s worse, some of the websites you may see online about “exiting” are actually funded by the timeshare industry, and give you what we believe is awful advice. There’s a good chance that if you’re reading a website giving “advice” on what to do, it’s either run by a scammer or the timeshare industry itself.
Part of why our law firm has started taking timeshare cases is because we don’t feel like anyone else (including other law firms) are offering good, legal options to get out of a timeshare. The sad part is that you do actually have legal options. But the lawyer has to do the work. They can’t just write a letter, cash a check from you, and tell you it’s over.
So what are the actual, real options to legally get out of a timeshare?
Cancel During the Rescission Period
This is the best option because it’s free. But you have to do it fast. And you have to be very, very careful to read your contract and do what it says. You will probably have only a few days after you sign to do it. Sometimes it’s as short as three days, and it varies a lot by state. So if you just signed the contract and you want to cancel, this is the very first thing you should do. Read the rules carefully. You will probably have to do it in writing. The contract might tell you to send a letter to a specific place, and it might have to be sent a specific way (for example, certified mail). If you don’t follow what the contract said, they might try to claim you didn’t legally cancel it. Or if you miss it by a single day, they’ll say the same thing.
So if this is you, don’t wait. Get the contract, read it, and send something out right now. The benefit of this is that it’s free and you don’t have to pay a lawyer or anyone else to do it.
Negotiate With the Timeshare Company
This is something you should always consider before hiring a lawyer. Yes, we like making money, but there are some resorts that will let you out for a lot less than a lawyer costs. We’d rather you try first than have to pay us. And it helps your legal case to be reasonable.
The timeshare company might tell you to pound sand. But at least you tried, and if you did it in writing, you have proof you tried. There are a few things to be careful about, though.
First, lots of people report that when they’ve tried to do this with some companies, the timeshare company made them sign a new contract that was actually signing them up for a new timeshare. So be very careful what you sign.
Second, don’t sit on a waiting list forever. As you’ll see below, there are statutes of limitations if you have a legal claim. If they want you to wait months and months, there’s a reason.
Third, don’t pay a ridiculous amount, especially if you have a good legal case.
File a Lawsuit or Arbitration
This is the real, legal way to get out of a timeshare. So why don’t other lawyers or “timeshare exit companies” tell you about it?
The timeshare exit companies can’t. They aren’t lawyers. So they can’t legally go file a lawsuit or an arbitration demand. That’s why they push you to other ways that supposedly get you out, even if it’s not legally effective.
For lawyers, it’s a lot more work. What we’ve seen some lawyers is just writing a letter saying you are out of your timeshare, and charging you thousands of dollars for it. It’s a form letter, so the lawyer is just plugging your name into it and sending it. That costs basically nothing, takes no work, and if your credit gets ruined? Not their problem.
Our firm’s background is in consumer litigation. We don’t just take timeshare cases. We’ve sued under lemon laws, false advertising laws, tenant protection laws, and more. Because more and more companies require arbitration, a large number of our cases are filed there. We have hundreds of arbitrations going at any given time.
Most timeshare companies have clauses in their contract that don’t let you sue in court. And unfortunately those are usually enforced, even if the contract as a whole is invalid. But we’ve leaned into that. Arbitration does has a few benefits. It’s cheaper, quicker, and you can get a legal judgment at the end just like in a lawsuit.
Most of them are done on Zoom. So you would need to set aside a day and be ready to testify. The arbitrator would have a hearing, just like in a court, and hear all the evidence and decide.
To file either a lawsuit or an arbitration, you’d need good legal claims. You can’t just sue for no reason. But the things we hear about timeshare companies doing usually give people both a good reason to sue, and a good reason to cancel the contract. For example, if you were lied to in the sales presentation, that could be both a fraud and a breach of warranty. If you can’t book a vacation without scheduling it years in advance, that’s arguably a breach of contract that could void your obligations under it. Your state may have elder protection laws if you’re a senior citizen that could apply.
All of this depends both on your situation and your state. And no one can promise you that you’ll win. We have a really good record, but anyone who gives you a “guarantee” you’ll win a lawsuit isn’t telling the truth. But the general rule is that if you really were wronged, there usually is a legal way to undo that wrong.
Is it worth it? It likely depends how much you’re stuck paying in maintenance fees. Some of these contracts make people pay thousands a year. That adds up. And it keeps going up. An arbitration could save you a ton of money in the long run, even if you don’t win much in it other than cancelling the contract. And an arbitrator has the power to cancel a timeshare if they rule in your favor.
If you’re looking for a lawyer to help try to get you out of a timeshare, call us at 657-845-3100 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may be able to help.