5 Ways to Help You be a Better Timeshare Consumer

You’re a timeshare owner or thinking about becoming one, and you’ve got some concerns. You’ve heard stories about unscrupulous timeshare companies, resale scammers, promises unkept, ridiculously high maintenance fees, and the list goes on. So how can you protect yourself and enjoy the many positive aspects of timesharing? There are groups available to help you protect your investment - American Resort Development Association, Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, State Department of Justice Consumer Protection—but the number one person to start with is you.

1. Be Your Own Advocate
  • Before and after you purchase a timeshare you must be your own advocate. New buyers need to do their homework. It is never wise to jump into any purchase that requires a sizeable investment before you do the research. Find out all the information you need to calculate the cost of a timeshare. Add up such costs as mortgage payments and all expenses like annual maintenance fees (does the plan have a fee cap?) and taxes, broker fees, finance charges, closing fees and even travel costs. Compare these costs to the cost of renting similar accommodations in the same location for the same length of time and in the same time period. Include amenities too. If the timeshare still looks good after the comparison, then go on to the next step.
  • Check with the local consumer protection agency in the company’s home state to see if there are any complaints against the company. Check out the property, quality of the resort and availability of units. Talk to current owners about their experiences—does the owner keep up the maintenance of the property? Make sure you understand all the paperwork involved, find out about cancellation policy and other issues of concern. Set up an escrow account for undeveloped properties and a written commitment from the seller as to when the facilities will be finished. That way, you protect yourself should the developer default.
  • Once you take the plunge and become an owner you need to continue to advocate for yourself by keeping informed of the latest timeshare legislation, getting actively involved in timeshare advocacy groups, and if you really want your voice heard, become a member of your timeshare’s Board of Directors.

2. American Resort Development Association (ARDA)
Timeshare owners have a fair and unbiased resource as well as a legal advocate with ARDA.  As ARDA’s website states, "our Government Affairs Team has a strong record of successfully advocating for the policies contributing to the growth and vitality of the industry while protecting the vacation ownership experience." ARDA’s website is full of information on the latest news and legislation effecting timeshare. Its 10 advisories, listed on the ARDA website help guide owners through the secondary market that includes timeshare resellers, internet advertisers and resale companies. The ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) helps to protect owners by working to prevent legislation that might have a negative impact on timeshare. Funded by timeshare owners’ contributions (often as little as $1 checked off of the maintenance fee form) owners can take part in protecting and enhancing the timeshare experience.

3. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC is another entity actively involved in helping the industry. Their joint task force, combing federal, state and international law enforcement, has been successful in bringing actions against companies involved in timeshare scams. Their website is an excellent source of information on the ins and outs of buying a timeshare, and recent criminal prosecutions and legislation concerning the industry. 

4. Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Just as you would investigate any business that you’re thinking of working with, investigating the business you’re going to buy your timeshare from is a must. The BBB is a good place to review a business, find out its BBB rating and if there are any registered complaints against it that haven’t been resolved. The BBB also offers its own information about buying a timeshare. Contact your timeshare company’s local BBB for information.

5. State Department of Justice Consumer Protection
As state law varies from state to state, and country to country, you might want to check out the timeshare company through the State Department of Justice or Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection for local laws governing timeshare. For instance, if you purchase a timeshare and then decide to back out, in Florida you have 10 business days to return it for a full refund, in Nevada it’s 5 days, and in Indiana it’s only 3 days. These offices also have access to any pending legislation against companies. 

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