Timeshare Options During a Pandemic

Monday, February 22, 2021 | 11:28am

With travel limited due to the coronavirus, timeshare owners may be having second thoughts about their purchases. Making a long-term commitment to an annual vacation spot may have seemed like a better idea before a global pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic limited some travel and caused many consumers to reevaluate personal budgets. While many consumers are pleased with their timeshares, some owners of timeshares want to know their options.

Here are some ways we are seeing the timeshare industry respond. Many of the major timeshare companies have assisted with the financial burden by waiving reservation and cancellation fees for owners who did not use their timeshare in 2020. Some are also allowing owners to bank their points and double their points for this year. Another option, and one of the biggest selling points of a timeshare is that they can be passed on or gifted to a friend or family member.

However, if you still wish to exit, here are some of the best ways to navigate the process of getting out of your timeshare. First, you should call your timeshare company or developer directly and discuss what all of your options are to exit. Working directly with your timeshare company is oftentimes the easiest and least costly option to exist the timeshare. You can also ask them for potential discounts or waiving of some of the fees. In addition, many timeshares have programs that help you through the exit process or can refer you on selling your timeshare altogether.

Remember, anyone assisting you with selling your timeshare should be licensed through the Real Estate Commission. You can confirm their license in Tennessee at our website www.verify.tn.gov. For owners who still owe money on their investment, this is one of the few ways to recover some losses, particularly if the unit is in a desirable vacation destination. Another option is to temporarily ask for a break from your timeshare. Depending on the terms of your contract, you may be able to rent your timeshare out for a year or two while you are not using it. The developer might also give you the option to defer your payments for a period while it is not being used.

In addition, the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) oversees www.responsibleexit.com. Responsible Exit gives owners a selection of vetted and many times free or lower cost exit options. The website gives information from individuals who are trained at helping you understand your timeshare and how to properly exit it.

However, we want consumers to be conscious when working with timeshare exit companies as our Commission has recently seen an influx in scams from these type of companies. Therefore, if you are looking into hiring a third party, be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau to verify they have a trusted track record.

Some consumer protection tips to consider if you do decide to work with exit companies is ask for a driver’s license from them upfront so you know exactly who you are working with and take a photo of their ID for future reference. Next, beware of upfront money requests as scammers will often help you open credit cards to pay them upfront fees and charges. If this does occur, it should be a major red flag to consumers that they are being scammed. Additionally, scammers often target older Americans who are embarrassed to share with family and friends that they have been scammed. This group is particularly vulnerable as they typically have available savings accounts setup that scammers can target. They also tend to lead the demographic of time share owners and those at high risk for contracting coronavirus. Lastly, be sure to watch out for a high volume of documents when signing an exit agreement with a third party because scammers can use this tactic to confuse consumers on what they are agreeing to and try to make it seem like the document is more legitimate. For additional consumer tips and other information please visit our website at www.tn.gov/commerce/regboards/trec. For other questions or concerns please reach out to us at trec.info@tn.gov or (615) 741-2273.

Caitlin Maxwell serves as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Real Estate Commission at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance