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shutterstock_657852628The United States offers a variety of different vacation destinations, from its warm beaches in Hawaii to exhilarating ski mountains in Colorado. Still a trending option, timeshare companies offer consumers partial ownership and regular access to vacation properties, providing them with a consistent and affordable vacation choice. According to the American Resort Development Association, a family of four could save over $25,000 by residing in timeshares as a substitute to hotels during a 20-year period. Investing in a timeshare requires a lot of planning – what is the cost? What type of ownership will you have? Is there flexibility with scheduling?

Consumers considering purchasing a timeshare should think carefully before purchasing. Some other tips to help guide the process:

  • Evaluate the location and quality of the resort or unit. If possible, visit the facilities and talk to current timeshare owners about their experiences to get a better understanding. You can check for complaints about resort developers and management companies with the local Consumer Affairs office or the state Attorney General.
  • Make sure that all the obligations and benefits of the timeshare or vacation plan purchase is written into the contract. Consult with a lawyer or someone with expertise in contracts and real estate before finalizing paperwork.
  • Ask about your ability to cancel the contract. State laws may require, or your contract may include, a “cooling off period,” which is the amount of time a purchaser has to cancel the deal once documents have been signed. If this period isn’t required by law, ask for it to be included in your contract. Massachusetts laws require contracts for time shares allow the purchaser a 3 day right to cancel.
  • Be cautious of scams. AARP Massachusetts describes timeshare resale scams involving fake companies reaching out to consumers claiming they have buyers for timeshares. After asking you to submit credit card numbers and personal documents, they make false promises that you’ll get your money back once the deal closes.
  • Be wary of your source. While you may think you can get a better deal on sites like Craigslist, you’re more likely to get scammed. Take notice of emails with bad grammar and foreign phone numbers.

If a property is not in the condition you expected or your security deposit is not returned as agreed, and you are unable to resolve your complaint with the owner or manager directly, you may have some options, including legal recourse. You may first want to seek mediation assistance through your local consumer group. You can contact Consumer Affairs for a list of mediation services in your area. If mediation assistance is unsuccessful, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law (M.G.L. c.93A) or Small Claims Court are alternatives for resolving complaints. The law requires you to send the owner or company a 30-Day Demand Letter before filing a claim in court. The letter must outline your complaint, the harm you suffered, and how you want the problem to be resolved. It is important to note that the 30-Day Demand Letter is only viable if you are dealing with a Massachusetts-based business or merchant.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

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