How to Legally Cancel Your Timeshare Contract

That lengthy document that you signed but didn’t read at the end of your marathon like, high-pressure times share sales presentation was a legally binding contract that very likely has no expiration date. It was meant to last forever, even after you are gone. It is also very likely that there is no cap on the fees you signed up to pay and that those fees can and will increase at the whim of the resort.

You were told that if you bought that timeshare, you could go anywhere in the world whenever you wanted, right? How is that working out? Are you able to book anything anywhere at a time that’s convenient for you?

You were probably not told that the resort rents out its accommodations to the general public and that the general public wants to go there the most at the same time you want to go.

You wonder what happens if I quit paying my fees before my contract is legally rescinded. You can be subjected to the harassment of the collections process, your credit can be damaged or ruined, you can be foreclosed upon and incur all of those costs, you can be sued in court, and the resort, your creditor, can even open an estate for you in probate court after you are dead and file a claim against it. The resort can sue whomever inherits the timeshare if they don’t pay the fees. The resort can even report you to the IRS using a 1099 form and you can liable for payment of substantial, additional income taxes.

If you are fed up with your timeshare, what are your options? How to dispose of a timeshare legally? It is really possible to cancel a timeshare?

Depending upon your circumstances, there may be an option for you.

First, you may try the do it yourself option. Contact your resort and see if they have an exit program. Try to negotiate a complete release from your contract. Odds are good that you will be told that the only way to cure your timeshare troubles is to buy more timeshare, or points. Beware of any so-called “exit program” where the resort employee tries to sell more points to you and to take more of your hard-earned money to solve a problem that the resort caused in the first place.  Be sure that any release that is signed is a complete release of any and all claims that the resort may possibly have against you.

If you are not successful in your negotiations with a billion-dollar resort, you may seek legal counsel. Look for an attorney who has two qualifications: 1 ) experience with timeshare law and resorts and 2) litigation experience. Litigation means that your attorney with actually file a lawsuit for you if necessary. Ask your prospective attorney to send copies of the petitions or complaints that she has filed against timeshare resorts on behalf of owners to you. If the firm has never sued a resort, it’s probably time to seek a different firm.

Many resorts are more willing to negotiate with attorneys because they know that most timeshare owners have no experience negotiating with billion-dollar companies and most owners don’t know how to file and handle lawsuits or initiate an arbitration.

Attorneys can hit resorts where it hurts: in the wallet. It costs substantial amounts of money for resorts to defend themselves when they are sued, or when arbitration is initiated. Instead of incurring these expenses, the resorts may choose to just offer an owner a release from their contract, or even give a refund, before the suit is filed or before the arbitration is initiated.  It could very well be less expensive for the resort to just release you as opposed to incurring the legal fees involved with a lawsuit or arbitration.

In your timeshare contract, you may have agreed to arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit in civil court. You may have agreed that the arbitration will occur somewhere across the country. An experienced timeshare attorney can advise you regarding whether the arbitration provision is binding and whether you and your lawyer must really travel across the country to attend the arbitration, or whether there are other options available to you. Often, the resort has to pay the filing fee for the arbitration which can be thousands of dollars.

If you hire an attorney, send your timeshare contract to them immediately. Most resorts will absolutely refuse to share a contract with an attorney who represents an owner unless ordered to do so by a court or arbitrator.

A judge of a civil court or a professional arbitrator has the power to cancel, or rescind, your timeshare contract under certain circumstances. The legal term for canceling a contract is called rescission.

If you were lied to during the timeshare sales presentation, then you were the victim of fraud or negligent misrepresentation. The unlawful merchandising practices act of your state was probably violated. If you were a victim of these practices, then a judge or arbitrator has the power to cancel or rescind your contract, but a lawsuit will need to be filed or arbitration must be initiated before rescission or cancelation can occur. Even then, then are no guarantees. Each situation must be evaluated on a case by case basis. The more lies that were told during the sales presentation, the better the case will be.

Finally, some states grant an owner a much longer rescission or cancellation period after the contract was signed if the resorts do not precisely follow the law in that state. Sometimes the right to cancel or rescind can last for years.  This varies from state to state if this option is available to you at all. You may have been told about a very short rescission or timeshare cancellation period after the signing of the contract that only lasted for five or seven or ten days. This is not always the case. The cancellation or rescission period could last for years. Situations vary in different states, and an experienced timeshare attorney can advise you regarding whether or not you qualify for this type of cancellation which does not require the filing of a lawsuit or the initiation of arbitration.

And always remember that the choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based upon advertising alone.