Most of the major timeshare resort membership programs are self-serving enterprises.
Accommodation is dependent and particular to each timeshare unit or each resort location. Many of the resorts range from modest studios condos to large apartments and hotel rooms with extravagant amenities, such as game rooms, luxurious pools and hot tubs, 5-star onsite restaurants and room service. As the timeshare attorney explained to me, the unscrupulous sales rep tells unsuspecting vacation enthusiasts, the “special” of the day is a timeshare accommodation at “discounted price” and they should NOT pass it up. The deal of 12 thousand dollars allegedly would include access to RV parks, cruise ships, barges, and other various resorts in recent years.
The timeshare developers compete within the vacation industry overall, and the self-catering and holiday package reps trump up their membership offers to appeal to the public in an effort to convert them to owners. Mainly, the resorts compete with package holidays and hotel rentals.
Timeshare resort developers, however, attempt to entice consumers during the point of sale that a timeshare has an advantage over other types of vacation products, because it allegedly offers better long-term investment and value.
Timeshares are comprised of 2 basic forms according to timeshare attorneys:
Fixed week. Where you own rights to a contractually specified week(s), usually in a specific condo unit, which you can either return to every year or exchange the unit for something similar in another desirable location and in another time of the year.
Floating system, which includes points. Instead of owning a specific week, a timeshare owner owns a week (or a time period which may be longer than a week) within a certain seasonal time of year. Each year you have to reserve the specific week that you want, but this is “subject to availability”, and often the resort over book the units with renting them out to the general public as well as timeshare owners.
One of the major weaknesses of timeshares is the uncertainty it gives to owners. The accommodation and associated facilities are registered to the member for the lifetime of the right to use, but the added fees keep increasing over time, and the consumer continues to pay the contracted fees, obligations of the vacation club membership, all the while the consumer has to play a guessing game of when he can take his holiday each and every year.
During the timeshare sales presentation, the travel enthusiasts and would-be owners hear many promises and claims, such as:
The claim: “The annual fee is only payable if you use the accommodation.”
In reality: Annual fees are payable EVERY year or every 2nd year if the ownership is bi-annual, regardless of whether the unit is used by the owner.
The claim: “You can cancel your membership at any time in the future – just let us know.”
In reality: Certainly not always possible. Once one goes past the rescission or “cooling off” period and the resorts will not accept cancellations.
The claim: “Our resort is part of a much larger, popular resort network or have been around for many years.”
In reality: Unlikely to be true as most resort marketing companies are not well known – check with online reviews and the BBB.
The claim: “The annual maintenance fee is only X number of dollars and will not increase.”
In reality: Later you find out that the fees increase by 12-15 % every year, there may also be a “utilities” charge when you use the accommodation, and also special assessment fees charged to cover damages to the resort from a hurricane, fire or flood. Ask for a breakdown of what all the fees collected are spent on.
The claim: “There is no cooling off period to cancel the contract.”
In reality: All timeshare contracts by law have a rescission or cooling off period, which varies by resort. Usually 5 – 10 days after the contract is signed.
The claim: “The resale or trade-in value for your vacation unit is X number of dollars.”
In reality: This is very common tactic to give an inflated resale value to create the impression that the timeshare you are buying is more valuable than it really is. Very often your exact unit is selling for under 10 dollars on eBay or Craigslist.
The claim: “There is no need to read every page of the voluminous timeshare contract.”
In reality: Don’t let the timeshare sales rep deny you the opportunity to read the full contract, or the Purchase Agreement, such as the ‘Rules of Occupation’. There most likely are Rules which go against the rep’s verbal promises and claims.
One timeshare owner reported to his timeshare lawyer, “I need out of timeshare that cost too much to use and they never lived up to their promises. We purchased our unit at the highest level at the time. Diamond then they started offering 2 more levels and downgraded our supposed availability. We upgraded to a higher class hotel and it was never changed.”
Another owner says, “We want to cancel our timeshare contract with GeoHoliday. Our annual maintenance fees keep increasing, and many of the promises that we made to us have not materialized. The pressure sale tactics promised us a marketable product that would increase in value over time. We have determined that our ‘deed’ has virtually no market value at all.
And another owner says, “I was conned by quick talk and phony promises of free trips and gifts and packages to buy a premium membership and want to exit. I tried getting out of my timeshare within a month of my ownership, no luck. The timeshare developer sold me a timeshare with promises that they did not fulfill.”
According to prominent timeshare lawyers, the major timeshare resort developers have unfortunately used deceptive and coercive techniques. Some timeshare companies have given the industry a bad name due to such questionable practices. The worst players in the timeshare world have made the word “timeshare” lose credibility with the general public, resulting in both the honest and the dishonest resort companies claiming their product is “not timeshare”.
Because of this practice, litigation by timeshare attorneys have increased to provide relief for owners and to inform consumers to their rights. Timeshare owners should be fully aware of the new timeshare regulations and laws that came into effect in recent times in an effort to protect all vacation consumers.