Think all of all the reasons you’d like to take a vacation right now – and now think of all the reasons why you may or may not be doing so. While many of us have starry-eyed dreams of taking that perfect trip, life often gets in the way. Family members get sick, work gets hectic, and, often, there simply isn’t enough money in the budget to afford a vacation.
That last point is particularly relevant when it comes to timeshares. Often, consumers buy in after a grueling sales presentation, not really knowing what they’re actually in for in terms of costs – which include maintenance fees, which typically rise every single year, and which must be paid, whether or not the consumer ever actually visits their resort.
Seeking relief from growing costs, many timeshare owners may take the logical first step of going to their resort developer or board – only to find that property owner’s associations and their boards are little more than “paper tigers,” and that major resort developers are quite willing to give owners the runaround, to try to convince them to buy even more points as a solution to their problem, or to guide them toward in-house timeshare relief programs that could most charitably be described as ‘misleading and inefficient.’
After coming up short with the resort and the developer, most timeshare owners will then look to outside sources for help. Some may try to solve their money problems by turning their timeshare interest into a rental, only to find that this can be a difficult and convoluted process, and that the end results are far less lucrative than they may have imagined.
Other owners turn to redemption or resale companies, many of which are little more than listing services that charge owners a fee to put their obligation up on a site akin to eBay for pennies on the dollar. Other third party companies – particularly those that make a point of aggressively reaching out to consumers, unsolicited – turn out to be scams, defrauding consumers of money and then turning around and disappearing without a trace.
It’s important to remember, too, that in all of the above scenarios, you will still be liable for your regular timeshare costs – including interest and maintenance fee payments – until a solution is attained (if, indeed, one ever is, as practically no timeshare exit solution offers a guarantee of success).
With all of this in mind, we maintain that retaining an attorney is one of the most effective avenues for consumers who feel burdened by the costs of an unwanted timeshare.
Beyond the simple fact that it always helps to have a qualified and professional advocate working on your behalf, bringing on a lawyer with knowledge about the workings of the timeshare industry and its insiders offers you several unique advantages over consumers who try to get out from under their obligation on their own.
First and foremost, having an attorney on your side offers key leverage when it comes time to negotiate; with a knowledgeable legal team by your side, you’ll have the benefit of professionals who know the law, and know how it pertains to your unique situation, as well as how to parse the dense language that is part and parcel of many timeshare contracts. What’s more, a consumer with an attorney on their side often has the option of pursuing litigation; wanting to avoid a prolonged legal battle, many resort developers will be more willing to negotiate with a consumer who has retained an attorney than with an unrepresented timeshare owner, or even an owner who has brought on a private timeshare redemption or resale company – which are often only permitted to exist because of their close, symbiotic ties to major resort developers, and, therefore, do little to ever “rock the boat” in favor of the little guy.
And, when it comes to leverage, it’s key to note that in many cases, consumers who have retained an attorney can put off their payments and debts; under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), third party debt collectors are legally prohibited from directly contacting a debtor (such as a timeshare owner withholding a resort payment) if that debtor has retained an attorney. Instead, the debt collector must contact the consumer’s attorney; they may only continue to contact the owner if granted permission, or if the “attorney fails to respond to the debt collector within a reasonable period of time,” according to the CFPB.
The bottom line is that, for many Americans, balancing a budget with a desire to travel can be a tricky proposition under the best of circumstances; timeshares, with their ever-rising fees, pose a unique challenge, one that is not likely to be easily abated if your financial situation should ever change due to illness, a change in employment, or any other unforeseen circumstance.
For help discussing your options, feel free to drop us a line!
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.