Did you know that there are timeshares all over the world? It’s true!
While many in the U.S. hear the term “timeshare” and immediately think “Florida” or “Hawaii,” there are actually timeshare resorts – both independent and owned by major developers – around the globe. Plenty of Americans own “right-to-use” contracts for timeshares in Mexico and Canada, for instance; there is also certainly a timeshare market in Europe – we were struck, not too long ago, by an article detailing how Brexit would send shockwaves through the timeshare industry in the U.K. and the E.U.
With all of this in mind, it is also not unheard of for non-citizens to own timeshare points or contracts in the U.S.; remember, after all, that it is entirely legal for foreign nationals to buy and sell deeded property in our country, and many do, using that real estate as a vacation home or development property. Why not own timeshare points, as well?
All of this is a long way of saying that foreign visitors to the United States are just as likely to get caught up in a timeshare sales presentation as American tourists at the same resort. Both groups are susceptible to being roped in by the promise of a free gift, and are equally liable to be worn down by an endless barrage of (seeming) discounts and deals. The thrall of the “vacation mindset” – which makes consumers far more willing to sign on the dotted line and which timeshare marketers have long exploited, for just this reason – knows no national boundaries.
In many cases, however, the foreign consumer is put at a particular disadvantage by the timeshare sales and ownership process.
First, there is, in many cases, the issue of a language barrier. Timeshare presentations – and the salespeople who lead them – have long been known for their “hard sell” tactics; imagine how much easier it is to wave away a problem or embellish a problem (protected by the salesman’s “license to lie” clause) when your captive audience doesn’t have a thorough grasp on the English language.
And then there is the matter of the documents that need to be read and signed; the “fine print” of the timeshare contract is dense and confusing under the best of circumstances – imagine being encouraged to sign a contract in English, particularly after being marketed to in your native language. In fact, we currently have a case pending that deals with just this issue; the plaintiffs, who are Brazilian, allege that the resort developer translated brochures, advertisements, and other materials into Portuguese, but not the sales contract that it presented to the plaintiffs, which was written exclusively in English. For more on this case, The Orlando Sentinel has written on the matter; you can read their story here.
Beyond the issue of language, there are some logistical matters that can make U.S. timeshare ownership even more difficult for the non-American. For example, laws differ from country to country, and, in many cases, a non-citizen may have unrealistic or inaccurate expectations about what rights are afforded to them under the law in the U.S. (or at the state level), particularly when it comes to statutory protections like mandatory rescission periods.
The frustrations that, in many cases, are part and parcel of the timeshare ownership experience – including rising maintenance fees and the limited nature of the secondary market – apply to foreign and American owners alike. All consumers deserve equal protection under the law, aggressive representation, and the chance to connect with an advocate with their best interests at heart.
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. Se habla Español!