Unloading that Timeshare – Not an Easy Task

Many people enjoy timeshares as they provide an opportunity (and a built-in excuse) to take time away from work and to travel the world.  However, a timeshare is a firm financial commitment – dues are often owed at least on an annual basis.  For many, after a few years of enjoying vacations, timeshare owners often find that they don’t use their timeshares as much – if at all – but are required to continue to pay the dues.  They decide to sell their timeshares when they learn that the secondary market for timeshares is quite grim.

After paying agents or an internet company to list their timeshares for sale and having no luck, some timeshare owners attempt to give away their timeshares but find that the ongoing financial commitment makes them unattractive gifts.  Some then consider simply “walking away” by withholding payment on the dues.  While desperation can make this option seem attractive, a breach of contract is never a good idea and it could introduce a whole host of legal problems.  

On several occasions, clients have asked me the best way to “get out” of a timeshare.  Obviously, most clients expect that I might have a legal solution.  However, sometimes the practical solution is the better strategy.  Over the years, I discovered a number of practical options that have allowed me to develop a process for attempting to relieve clients of the responsibilities of timeshare ownership.  If you are “stuck” with a timeshare, consider the following steps.

1.  Contact the Timeshare Company

In this economy, many people are defaulting on their timeshares just as they are defaulting on other obligations.  Many timeshare companies are currently offering timeshare owners out of their contracts.  Often the conditions require that all outstanding dues or debts be paid, that the timeshare owner surrenders all rights to the timeshare, and that the timeshare owner pay a transaction fee of a few hundred dollars.  The timeshare companies rarely “advertise” this option but if you dig around, you might find that your timeshare company has such a procedure.  If the procedure is available, take it – it is worth the few hundred dollars to unload what has become a financial burden.

2.  Consider Gifting to a Friend of Family Member

While you might not have use for your timeshare anymore, you might have a friend or a family member who wouldn’t mind paying the annual fee.  

3.  Consider Listing the Timeshare for Free on Craigslist

People are interested in all sorts of things on Craigslist.  If you have trouble finding a friend or a family member who would be willing to take a timeshare off your hands by assuming the financial obligation, consider giving it away on Craigslist or a similar online classified website.  Be sure to have the transfer documentation ready so if you find a willing recipient, you can give it away without much hassle.

4.  Consider Donating the Timeshare to Charity

To my knowledge, there is only one charity in the entire country that accepts timeshares as donations.  You sign paperwork agreeing to donate your timeshare to the charity.  The charity attempts to sell the timeshare for a bargain price through a real estate company.  Until the sale is made, you continue to be responsible for all the dues and fees on the timeshare.  Once the charity finds a buyer, the proceeds from the sale are donated to the charity and the timeshare is off your hands.  Furthermore, you receive a charitable deduction.  This worked out for a few of my clients in the past.  However, lately even the charity has struggled to find buyers willing to pay even bottom of the market prices for timeshares.  As a result, despite the potential for a charitable deduction, this option has fallen to last place on my list of options.  

While unloading a timeshare is never easy, the good news is that there are a number of options worth exploring.  In the end, tenacity and prudence make the difference.