/ Money, Travel & Leisure

The murky world of timeshare resale

Row of colourful holiday homes

Do you have a timeshare you want to sell? If so, don’t fall into the trap of being scammed to the tune of thousands of pounds by unscrupulous resale companies.

Hundreds of timeshare owners are targeted every week by resale companies promising to take their timeshare off their hands. Typically, the companies request large sums of money upfront in order to secure a sale.

We’ve heard from numerous Which? members who have been duped into handing over large sums of money. Once they’d handed over the money however, they never heard from the company again – welcome to the world of the timeshare resale.

Although it might seem obvious not to hand over any money, these companies can be extremely convincing and are adept at delivering the ‘hard sell’. And, because owners are often desperate to sell, they’re more likely to fall for an attractive sales pitch – even if it sounds too good to be true.

Don’t fall for the cold call

Take the case of Geoff Faulkner. Over the years, desperate to sell his three timeshare products, Geoff has paid out thousands of pounds in the hope that one of the companies would deliver on its promise.

None ever has and although he has managed to recover his losses through his credit card company, he is still in possession of timeshares he doesn’t want, paying annual maintenance fees on properties he doesn’t use.

Judging by the letters and emails we’ve received, Geoff is far from being alone. And, with more than half a million British and Irish citizens owning timeshares across 1,300 European resorts, the potential for unscrupulous resale companies to deceive owners is vast.

How to spot a scam

Here are some of the techniques used to part you from your cash:

1. You’re told there’s a buyer ready to buy your timeshare, but first you have to pay a large fee to secure the sale. After this is paid, you never hear from the company again.

2. You receive a call inviting you to attend a presentation under the pretence that the company will sell your timeshare or that you will meet potential buyers. Typically, the presentation turns into a high-pressure sales pitch in which the company tries to sell you one of its own timeshare products.

3. You’re invited to a presentation by a timeshare company and told that if you buy their timeshare you’ll receive a cash-back certificate where you’ll be able to get all your money back. Needless to say, it’s rare you’ll ever get your money back.

Future proofing timeshares

There is some good news on the horizon. New legislation governing the sale of timeshares, resale, timeshare exchange and long-term holiday products comes into force in February 2011. It outlaws the practice of taking payments upfront and states that money should only be exchanged after a sale has taken place.

The legislation means that any company or individual that takes money upfront can be prosecuted. Hopefully this will deter unscrupulous companies and give timeshare owners more power if they do fall for their scams.

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Hi. New on here.

I have a timeshare at Orange Lake in Florida. Because of broken promises I stopped paying them a penny over 2 years ago. I attended a meeting with ITRA, but settled on TESS to handle my case. It was a one-off fee of £1500. I have a copy of a long and dismissive letter towards OL that they sent them. Although I still get the bills from OL, and I still owe money on their financing, I send everything to TESS who tell me regularly when I phone them for peace of mind that the bills are all that OL can do to scare me into paying. I’ve stopped getting the phone calls.

I’ve done research and as far as I’m aware, this is a civil matter under Florida law. For enforcement in the UK, a Judgement that would be awarded in Florida has to then be agreed in the UK where it would be considered under British Law. As OL broke all number of promises this is highly improbable and in any case it’s something OL would be loathe to pursue as if they did, and lost, it would set a precedent.

I have no reason to doubt that TESS are anything but a legitimate company who work for their clients.

My advice to anyone who has a timeshare in Florida is hold your nerve. There is no reciprocal agreement between the US and the UK in civil matters.