"My wife and I bought a timeshare a few years ago and it's just not what we expected or want. We've been trying to sell it now for a few months and then hired a company to help us, but we've had no interest from anyone. How can we get out?"
It may be the economy or the fact that maintenance fees are rising for older timeshare properties, but attorney Greg Bonney is seeing more of these inquiries.
Owning a timeshare for a week generally means paying 1/52nd of the maintenance costs of the unit and the unit's share of common area expenses. As the facilities age, the fees typically increase because more maintenance is needed. Bonney has clients who are charged anywhere from $1,200 to $10,000 a year for their share.
His advice? "Before making a decision to sell, look at the contract. Even if you have a buyer, you may have to offer the unit to the developer first, or at least get approval to sell to a particular buyer," Bonney said.
Some people donate their timeshare to a charity for re-sale, but if the charity cannot find a buyer, then the charity is obligated to pay the fees. That means a charity should be careful before accepting a timeshare.
There are companies that can help sell timeshares, but clients have told him about paying upfront nonrefundable fees to companies claiming to have a buyer. But once the fees are paid, there is no further contact from the company.
"There are legitimate companies out there, but you have to be careful," Bonney said. "You should always check the Better Business Bureau and other consumer protection agencies to see if complaints have been filed against the company."
After trying unsuccessfully for years to sell a timeshare, some clients ask Bonney if they could just walk away from it. He reminds them they have a contract and it could affect their credit rating. They also could be sued.
"What I tell people, before they decide to walk away, is that they should contact the developer to see if the developer will accept the return of the timeshare. If not, the timeshare owner can either continue to hold onto the property or they can take the risk that the developer will not bring an action against them to enforce the contract.
To get a hint on how aggressive the company may be, they can check state court records to see if the company has brought lawsuits against other owners," Bonney said.