Time-Share Fraud

If time-shares have such a bad reputation, why do so many people buy them? My personal opinion is that the idea of a time-share is appealing to most people, even if it’s not always practical. Who wouldn’t like the idea of owning property in Orlando or Maui, even if only for one week out of the year? The problem is, the time-share industry often keeps important information from people during the sales presentation, so consumers seldom know exactly what they’re getting into. In other instances, the sales crew will shamelessly lie directly to your face.

How Time-Shares are Marketed

The time-share industry understands that face-to-face encounters are the only really effective way of selling a time-share. Thus, the primary marketing strategy of the time-share industry is to get people in the door where they can be pitched one-on-one. They do this by offering prizes and gifts for attending one of their “presentations,” which are nothing more than high-pressure sales pitches. You often won’t realize you’re attending a time-share presentation until you’re well into it. Once you realize what’s happening, you’ll probably feel obligated to stay and won’t want to seem rude by leaving prematurely. The sales staff knows that because you are a decent person, you will be inclined to stay to the bitter end. In this regard, you are not playing on a level field.

Once the presentation begins you’ll be asked if you like to take vacations. Who doesn’t? Assuming you answer “yes,” they’ll next want to know where you’d like to visit: Hawaii? Europe? Australia? As you become more engaged in the presentation, you’ll be told that one of the benefits of owning a time-share is that you can trade it for travel to other glamorous vacation spots around the world. Of course, you can keep using your own time-share each year as well. Time-shares are packaged as the “vacation dream of a lifetime,” which helps explain why so many people buy them. Your salesman is trained to milk this “dream” for all it’s worth.

The Truth About Time-Shares

Once you become a time-share owner, you’ll be stuck with paying maintenance fees and assessments for the rest of your life. Imagine taking a trip to Jamaica, but then being told by the hotel owner that you and the other guests have to pay an additional $500.00 because the hotel wants to put in a new swimming pool. As a time-share owner it will be your responsibility to pay this fee, and you DON’T have a choice about it. Not only are you obligated to pay special assessments such as for swimming pools, you are required to pay a maintenance fee each and every year, which could easily range from $300.00 to $1,000.00, or more. This is true even if you later decide to stop using the property altogether.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for people to learn that certain information given to them during the sales presentation is untrue. For instance, consumers are often told that time-shares rapidly appreciate in value, have a great investment value, and can be easily resold or rented out if not used. The fact is, there is almost no market for time-shares. Few appraisers, if any, will do an appraisal because they don’t know where to begin. Even fewer real estate agents will touch them. People often resort to listing their time-shares on-line, usually for a hefty fee. Whenever this happens, almost nobody lists their time-share for more than they paid, and even at 25% of the purchase price, people have a hard time unloading them.

If you are persuaded at some point to purchase a time-share, you can protect yourself (somewhat) by thoroughly reading the documents you’ll be given after the sale. One of the documents will advise you (in Missouri at least) that you have five days to cancel the transaction. Knowing you have this right, and that it will soon expire, will often be a big incentive to take advantage of it. Additionally, if you were promised something during the presentation but don’t see it anywhere in your documents (or if you see something in the documents that contradicts what you were told during the presentation), this should raise a red flag. Demand that everything you were promised be put in writing! IF YOU DON’T SEE IT, DON’T SIGN IT!

The best protection, of course, is to hire a lawyer with experience in this area of practice. While it may not always be practical to consult an attorney while the transaction is taking place, you should consider doing so at the first available opportunity.