Timeshare Traps & Your Legal Rights
May 27th, 2009
Expert legal advice about how to get out of a timeshare trap
Introduction and opinions by Richard Markosian (my opinions are not those of Sharifi and Baron Law Office)
I never imagined that one blog-style story about timeshare rip-offs could stir up such a hornet's nest. From the response I received over the past year and a half to Hollywood Dreams and Timeshare Nightmares and four more subsequent stories about our experience in being ripped off by Westgate Resorts, I've received close to 40 comments and timeshare rip-off stories from others who have had a similar experience. Most of the stories point out the following rip-off tactics:
Westgate Resorts lured us into a presentation with free give aways,however, their give aways have proven to be a scam: not delivering what they promise in terms of hotel stays or actual "free shows or dinners".
Introduction and opinions by Richard Markosian: My opinions are not those of Sharifi and Baron Law Office
I never imagined that one blog-style story about timeshare rip-offs could stir up such a hornet's nest. Over the past year and a half, I have received close to 40 comments and and stories in response to "Hollywood Dreams and Timeshare Nightmares" and four more subsequent stories about our experiences with Westgate Resorts. Most of the stories state something similar to the following:
"Westgate Resorts lured us into a presentation, promising free give-aways. However, they did not deliver what they promised in terms of hotel stays, free shows or dinners."
What I had hoped was a fluke in our own presentation, I now hear repeatedly. People are saying that Westgate Resort's sales people are blatant liars and that they omit important fact.
The sales representatives don't tell potential buyers that annual maintenance fees are required even if the condo is never used. Buyers are also often told that timeshares are a "great investment" that often "increases in value." Unfortunately, on the resale market, a timeshare that sold for $30,000 from Westgate's offices often won't resell for even half that amount. (This would mean a lot more if you could quote a source here, otherwise it sounds like you are simply a dissatisfied customer saying something off the top of your head.)
In an attempt to answer questions we receive in legal terms, I have asked the Sharifi and Baron Law Office to for answers. Here is one:
My husband and I just bought a timeshare. I need help. I want to cancel but don't know how. After reading all these reviews I think we made a big mistake. [Edited for grammar and spelling. Timeshare seller's name omitted.]--Maria (last name withheld)
Answer: Maria, I'm sorry to hear that you are regretting your decision to buy a timeshare. As Utah Stories has reported in the past, the companies and salespeople who market timeshares have developed something of a reputation for being misleading. Obviously, not all timeshare marketers are dishonest, but the ones that are can make it very difficult to know if you are getting what you pay for.
Under Utah law, you have a few days to cancel the purchase of a timeshare for any reason whatsoever. If you provide notice to the seller of the timeshare by certified mail or by a hand-delivered letter "not later than midnight of the fifth calendar day following the day on which the agreement [was] signed" you can cancel the contract without giving any reason. Legal holidays and the day the agreement was signed are not included when computing the "fifth calendar day." So, if you signed an agreement on May 1 of this year, you would have until midnight on May 6 to cancel the contract.
If it has been more than five days since you signed the timeshare agreement, it might still be possible to cancel the contract if the timeshares or the timeshare salespeople were not properly registered at the time of the sale. If you believe the timeshares or the salespeople were not properly registered, you have two years to cancel the contract from either the date you signed the agreement, or from the date you knew or should have known of the violation.
If the timeshare and the salespeople were registered and it has been more than five days since you signed the purchase agreement, the law gives you fewer options. Duress, coercion and fraud, for example, could make it possible to cancel the contract, but you will probably want to consult with a lawyer about those terms because the law gives them very narrow definitions. You may also consider filing a complaint with the Division of Real Estate or the Attorney General's Office.
For those considering the purchase of a timeshare, please be careful and make sure that you understand exactly what you are signing before you commit to buying a timeshare, a car, or anything else.
Yossof Sharifi and Joshua Baron are partners at the law firm of Sharifi & Baron where they focus on representing small businesses in everything from incorporation to civil litigation. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (What is their connection to timeshares?)
Disclaimer (from Sharifi & Brown or Utah Stories?): This article provides information about the law designed to help users safely cope with their own legal needs. Legal information is not the same as legal advice, the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend that you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.
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Share your timeshare rip-off story with us; if we receive enough pertinent stories and names we will work towards a class action case against Westgate Resorts.