How to Protect Yourself: Timeshare Sales & ResalesSource: The Florida Attorney General's Office
Vacation timeshares give you the right to use a vacation home for a limited, pre-planned period. Timeshare scams occur both at the time of the original purchase and when you try to resell the timeshare. Victims of timeshare sales companies are contacted either over the phone or are mailed a postcard asking the victim to call a toll-free phone number. Once they call, victims are told that a buyer is ready and willing to purchase their timeshare if they merely pay listing fees or taxes. However, after a victim pays, the sale of the timeshare never goes through and he or she is unable to get a refund. Before you decide to either purchase or sell a timeshare, consider the following:
Know the new laws in Florida.
In the 2011 legislative session, new legislation was unveiled to further protect consumers from timeshare resale fraud, a top complaint received by the Attorney General’s Office. The Timeshare Resale Accountability Act includes the following provisions:
- A timeshare resale advertiser may not misrepresent a pre-existing interest in the owner’s timeshare.
- A timeshare resale advertiser may not mislead a customer as to the success rate of the advertiser’s sales.
- A timeshare resale advertiser may not provide brokerage or direct sale services.
- A timeshare resale advertiser must honor a cancellation request made within 7 days following a signed agreement.
- A timeshare resale advertiser must provide a full refund to a timeshare owner within 20 days of a valid cancellation request.
- A timeshare resale advertiser must not collect any payment or engage in any resale advertising activities until the timeshare owner delivers a signed written agreement for the services.
- A timeshare resale advertiser must also provide a full disclosure statement printed in bold type, with no smaller than a 12-point font, and printed immediately preceding the space provided for the timeshare owner’s signature.
- A timeshare advertising agreement must be put in writing.
- A company who violates these provisions has committed a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act with a penalty not to exceed $15,000 per violation.
Be wary of the hard sales pitch.
When it comes to purchasing a new timeshare, the salesman may try to give you the impression that the papers have to be signed that same day. Remember that you always have the right to leave the sales office and come back later. If you attend a timeshare sales presentation, leave the room if the sales pitch becomes too aggressive or if you feel pressured by the salesperson.
Read your contract to determine what cancellation rights you have after you have signed the papers. Make sure you understand exactly what you are signing, and consider having an attorney look over the contract before you sign it. Before buying a timeshare, you should consider whether you will want to return to the same vacation spot each year. Remember that once you buy it, you may not be able to sell it due to a crowded resale market.
Be wary of too-good-to-be-true claims when it comes to resales.
The company’s salespeople are likely to claim that the market in the area where your resort is located is "hot" and that they are being overwhelmed with buyer requests for your resort. In some cases, the salespeople may even tell you that they have a buyer “waiting in the wings” who wants to buy your timeshare. Be very skeptical of these types of claims.
Consider other options when it comes to resale.
You may want to try selling your timeshare "by owner" by placing an advertisement in a newsletter or magazine read by potential timeshare buyers. Or you may want to list your timeshare with a licensed real estate broker in the area where your resort is located. As an alternative, you could contract with a company which allows you to exchange your timeshare for a unit in a different area.
File a complaint.
If you are defrauded by a timeshare seller or reseller, file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by phone toll-free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Additionally, you may contact the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, Bureau of Timeshares online at www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/lsc/timeshare.html or by phone at (850) 488-1122.
You may also file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which acts as the State's consumer complaint clearinghouse, at www.floridaconsumerhelp.com.