If you are a timeshare owner with buyer’s remorse, you’re not alone. One study found that 85% of owners regret their timeshare purchase. Many times, this is because timeshare ownership comes with large and recurring expenses, like annual maintenance fees, exchange fees, and repair assessments.
Other times, owners find that their purchases aren’t as flexible or available as a salesperson advertised in the high-pressure timeshares sales presentation. When they can’t use the units they bought to take vacations at an affordable price, it’s not long before owners start looking for a way out of their timeshares.
Timeshare developers won’t make it easier for you to exit your timeshare, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. As it turns out, there are a variety of ways to cancel a timeshare agreement, though not all of them are good ones.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to cancel a timeshare. Specifically, we’ll take a look at rescinding timeshare agreements, deed-back programs, other developer-led solutions, and the do-it-yourself desperation methods that many owners try, only to make their situations worse.
How to Cancel a Timeshare with Rescission/Cancellation Letters
Person handing an envelope to another person
The quickest, often the best, way to cancel a timeshare is with a rescission or cancellation letter. This is a letter sent to a timeshare developer very soon after you sign a timeshare contract, usually between three and five days afterward. This is a more complicated task than it seems, and there are three particular areas on which you should focus.
1. Know the Law You Have to Follow
The exact amount of time you have to send a cancellation letter for your timeshare will vary by the laws of the state and/or country where you executed the contract.
Nevada’s law, for example, gives you five days to send a letter canceling your timeshare to the developer, after which all money you paid must be refunded. (In some states, this is known as a cooling-off period.) Hawaii allows seven days, and Florida gives you 10. Some states, like North Dakota, don’t have a specific law on the subject.
The most important point about cancellation letters, then, is that you must read your contract and figure out exactly which set of laws applies. Making a mistake as to the applicable law (for example, by applying your state’s law when the contract says Nevada’s is the correct one) could destroy your chance to Cancel Timeshare.
2. Make Sure You Write the Letter Properly
When putting together one of these letters, you have to make sure your language is very precise and does not leave a timeshare developer any wiggle room. You have to reference the date of your contract when you signed it and the specific nature of your purchase. (For example, are you in a vacation club with points? Do you have a fixed-week timeshare? A floating week?)
In your letter, you also need to reference the specific language from the contact that you are using to cancel the contract. If the timeshare cancellation language is in paragraph 38, for example, make sure you mention that. It also doesn’t hurt to quote the language from the contract in your letter and explain exactly how you are following it.
Last but not least, you have to make sure that you are expressly canceling your timeshare in the letter. Don’t beat around the bush. Say that you intend for the contract to terminate with this letter and that you expect a full refund of the money you paid for the timeshare under the law.
3. Make Sure You Deliver the Letter Properly
Just writing the letter and giving it to someone at the developer or dropping it in the mailbox isn’t enough. The contract’s cancellation section will likely tell you exactly where and to whom your letter should be addressed. Again, if you don’t follow the language of the contract exactly, you risk failing your cancellation and being stuck with your timeshare.
Once again, it’s also critical to know what the law of your state requires for an effective letter. Nevada’s law, for example, allows you to send the letter in the following ways:
By certified mail with a return receipt requested to the developer’s business address
By expedited delivery services (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.) to the business address of the developer — make sure that you have proof it was sent and delivered
Via personal delivery (i.e., delivery by hand) to the developer’s office
If you want to protect yourself the most, you should give notice in all ways that you are allowed by law. You should also always have proof that your notice was delivered. For example, hand delivery is fine, but it should be done by a process server or someone else who can legally sign an affidavit indicating that the delivery was successful.
How to Cancel a Timeshare If the Developer Decides to Let You
How to cancel a timeshare: person trying to get out of a maze
Some developers, like Marriott, have their own timeshare exit programs for owners. The details of these programs can vary greatly between different companies. Some are “resale assistance” programs, where the resort will allow you to list your timeshare for sale while charging you significant fees.
Other programs are “deed-back” programs in which you simply give back your timeshare interest to the resort. Though that may not seem appealing to you now, many timeshare owners become so desperate to get rid of their units that they would be happy to do this.
Unfortunately, it is often nearly impossible to get into these developer-led programs. Many times, they won’t even consider owners who aren’t up-to-date on all resort fees and don’t have their mortgage paid off, if they have one. (This is an especially unfair requirement given that the reason most people want out of timeshares is that they cannot afford them.)
Even when you’re all paid up, the developer doesn’t have to let you into its exit programs if it doesn’t want to do so. It may decide that it prefers having you pay your annual maintenance fees and other amounts into its coffers and deny you the exit you need.
The Worst Options: Self-Help, Foreclosure, and Listing Your Timeshare
Woman holding a Foreclosure Notice with a FINAL NOTICE stamped on it
You may be reading this and thinking that the above options are too difficult or perilous. You wouldn’t be alone; many owners feel that way and try to “go it alone.” This approach, though, can lead to financial and legal disaster for you.
For example, many owners decide (either on their own or through the advice of bad exit companies) to just stop making fee and mortgage payments. This is a terrible solution, as it can lead to foreclosure. It can also cause the resort to sue and get a legal judgment against you, destroying your credit score. If you don’t know the foreclosure laws in your state, this is a risky move.
Another common self-help tactic is for owners to list their timeshares on sites like eBay and Craigslist, hoping to sell them that way. Listing a unit for sale without professional help, though, may violate your timeshare contract, which could carry heavy penalties.
Even if an attempted sale doesn’t violate your contract, selling a timeshare is seldom successful due to the lack of a good resale market. The attempted sale, then, presents a lot of legal risk and almost no chance of a good resolution.