Timeshares were introduced in the 1960s as a budget-friendly alternative to owning your own holiday home and became an increasingly popular option for holiday makers in the early 2000s, with an estimated 22 million households worldwide owning a share in a holiday home.
However, in recent years, it has become evident that these agreements were often too good to be true. Often sold to consumers using aggressive tactics and resulting in long-term contracts, with some lasting ‘in perpetuity’ (or until the death of the consumer), it’s little wonder that lots of Brits are rushing to exit their timeshare agreement.
The law around exiting a timeshare contract is a little murky, so we’ve taken a quick look at how you can legally exit your agreement.
Cooling off period
Under UK legislation, any timeshare sales within the UK are legally required to have a 14-day cooling off period, within which you’re allowed to cancel a timeshare and are not required to give any reasons. Similarly, most European countries have a cooling off period of 10 days.
It’s also illegal for a timeshare company to request any payment during this period and, if they do so, they will be committing a criminal offence.
If you want to cancel your timeshare during this period, you must notify the company in writing before the period ends.
If you’ve bought a timeshare outside of the EU, then you are not protected by this legislation, but many US states offer their own regulations. We recommend getting in touch with a consumer organisation for assistance.
Sell it on
If the cooling off period has passed, then one of the main routes to exiting a timeshare is selling it on.
Ideally, you would be able to get rid of the timeshare as well as all of the additional costs that come with it and get some of your money back.
However, this is easier said than done, with a lot more people looking to sell than buy. In fact, it’s estimated that there are 400 timeshare sellers for every prospective buyer.
If you do choose to go down this route, make sure you use a reputable resale broker recommended by a consumer organisation and avoid any scam companies, who can usually be identified by cold-calling and asking for money up-front.
Hand back to the resort
If you’re unable to sell your timeshare, it may be worth trying to negotiate with your developer. Although this doesn’t always come to anything, it’s definitely worth a shot in order to avoid any legal hassle.
If your resort agrees to take back the timeshare from you, it’s unlikely that you’ll get any money back for it. In addition, some resorts only offer this solution to certain owners, such as those over 75, those unable to travel, or those who are unable to pay for the property.
Alternatively, resorts are usually more willing to part-exchange or convert your timeshare instead. You may be able to trade in your points or weeks for a different resort or for a different time of the year which, although not ideal, could be a solution.
The legal route
The final route is the legal one which, unfortunately, is sometimes necessary in order to exit a timeshare agreement.
In order to undertake legal proceedings effectively, it’s vital that you get in touch with a group aimed at helping consumers to exit timeshares, such as the Timeshare Consumer Association or the Citizens Advice Bureau, who can offer advice.
In a court, you’ll only be able to exit the contract if you can prove that it was mis-sold, that the company used fraudulent tactics, that the contract has been breached, or if you are unable to pay the fees.