When consumers are sold the ‘opportunity’ of timeshare ownership, highly skilled sales professionals are trained to avoid mentioning many, if not all, of the financial pitfalls of signing a timeshare contract. For more than twelve years, American Consumer Credit has assisted U.S. residents to cancel domestic and international timeshares, and in our client care, we know that the issue of rising timeshare maintenance fees is rarely discussed even though people are experiencing situations where the resorts double timeshare maintenance fees.
How does the timeshare salesman (or woman) get you to endorse a contract that has so many uncertainties regarding cost? We’ll explain how four, very common natural or business events, can involuntarily double or even triple your timeshare costs, creating a financial burden for your family.
Misleading Consumers About Affordability
If timeshare sales teams were honest about the contract they are trying to get you to sign, they would state that your timeshare comes with some significant financial liabilities and uncertainties. Instead, they keep the consumer focused on a false promise of affordability. They claim that it is more economical to own a timeshare than it is to pay for a hotel stay, which in today’s competitive tourist market is simply not true.
For many resorts and popular vacation destinations, occupancy rates are lower than they have been in five years due to downward pressure on consumers by a volatile domestic and international economy. Fewer people are traveling, and with less frequency, which means that hotel deals and all-inclusive vacations are available at bargain prices through sites like Priceline, Groupon, and last minute travel clubs. If you have a computer or a smartphone, you can find plenty of affordable travel options, save for your vacation (much the way you would with a monthly timeshare payment), and avoid being trapped in a predatory long-term contract, that can double or triple in cost, without warning.
While all timeshare contracts are unique, most have hidden clauses that make you, the consumer, responsible for incidental or natural events that are beyond your control. In each scenario, the timeshare can arbitrarily begin charging you more monthly and annually, and why timeshare owners are left with few choices, and the burden of affording fees that they never agreed to.
It’s important to remember that there are no laws that limit the amount of maintenance fee increases that a timeshare can levy against timeshare owners. If they can demonstrate the financial need and cost for maintenance (including improvements), they can pass that cost on to the timeshare owner. And there is nothing the owner can do to stop the increased fee.
1. Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
If you have purchased a timeshare in Florida, or in the Caribbean or Mexico, the areas are known for seasonal severe weather events that can create catastrophic damage. The same pristine resort that you enjoy can be devastated by a hurricane, and sustain severe flood and facility damage, during even the most moderate storms.
Consider the liability of being financially responsible for the damage that is sustained to your resort. Many consumers erroneously think that the resort or timeshare membership club will be responsible solely for the cost of repairs. Check your timeshare contract. In the finest print, we assure you, is a clause that allows for an incremental increase shared by all timeshare owners on the resort, to pay for any damage or necessary repairs.
Why is this a concern for timeshare owners? The 2016 hurricane season was reported to be the most violent, damaging and costly season since 2012, totalling $11.6 billion dollars.
Your timeshare liability for damage is not absorbed by the resort. While the developer’s insurance does pay a portion of the damage for your timeshare, the shortfall or gap between what the insurance company compensates and the real cost of restoring the resort, including recreational facilities, pools, roofing and landscape, are passed on to the timeshare owner. We speculate that many timeshare owners are going to be notified of increased maintenance charges, because of the damages sustained to resorts in 2016.
2. Flooding and Landslides
The most beautiful vacation destinations in the world are most prone to storms, increased rain fall, and landslides that can quickly damage resorts that are frequently beside the ocean, large lakes, rivers or lagoons. Building a waterfront resort that appeals to vacationers is the standard, but it also comes at an increased risk for collateral damage from flooding, and repair costs are passed on to timeshare owners.
3. Resort Bankruptcy
When a timeshare or vacation club goes bankrupt, in virtually all cases, the owners notice little change. Some timeshares have successfully gone through multiple bankruptcies, rebranded and continued to operate as a new entity, while retaining their timeshare contracts. However, depending on the type of bankruptcy, timeshare owners can find an increase to maintenance fees (if improvements are ordered by the new company or resort owner). In some cases membership points may also be impacted, giving you less time for your money, but vulnerable to increased fees.
Some of the most economical “buy in” rates for timeshares are offered at older resorts. Consumers looking for a bargain may look at the stability of the timeshare, if it has been in operation for a long period of time, and bank on long-term affordability and reduced maintenance fees. If a resort isn’t a five-star destination, some believe that maintenance fees will be more manageable.
There have been cases where economical timeshares have lured consumers in for upfront investments (often averaging $14,000 USD), and then pivoted to refurbish the entire resort, including furnishings, interior and exterior amenities. The resorts in this example levied tremendous increases (up to $15,000 or more in some cases) to maintenance fees that members could not afford, and then offered to “buy back” the timeshare contracts, without refunding the investment price. Remember, refusal to pay your membership or maintenance fees can result in legal action, liens and summons to small claims court.
Faced with the lien and cost of legal action, many consumers in the scenario walk away, and hand back their timeshare title. It’s a great way for a resort to gather investment to upgrade their property, and an absolutely morally unfair business practice, but completely legal. Buyers should beware of purchasing older timeshares that may be a timeshare maintenance fees “mouse trap”.
After serving American clients for more than twelve years, our team has reviewed cases that consistently place the timeshare owner, and their financial needs, last. Disputing increases in maintenance fees directly with the timeshare, when their right to increase fees was outlined in your contract, is frustrating and futile.
To take control of your contract and learn your real options to cancel your timeshare for good, call us or chat with us online for a free consultation. We’re ready to help.