Timeshares can be enticing – after all, who wouldn’t want to own a little slice of paradise that you could just escape to?
The definition of buying a timeshare means that you and other people are collectively buying a single property and sharing the time that you spend there among you. The idea sounds great, but sometimes buyers can be scammed if they’re not careful.
Timeshares are usually sold as sale presentations, and it’s not always easy to tell if what the sales person is trying to sell is a scam or not.
You may receive an offer via post or email, promising you a tempting award if you sign up – like a cheap travel package, a free hotel stay or even a new car – which can be claimed when you attend a presentation. People who go to these events are then bombarded by high-pressure sales tactics, designed to persuade people into buying a timeshare.
The first step to avoid getting caught in a timeshare scam is to evaluate any offers that you receive in the mail; if the “prize” seems too good to be true then it’s often the first sign that something isn’t quite right.
Never buy into anything on the spot. Instead, take the time to carefully consider the offer before making any commitments, even verbal ones. Make sure to read the fine print on any offer you receive and check the contract careful. Don’t forget you can leave a presentation at any time – especially if you feel pressured into signing something.
If you are trying to get out of a timeshare and believe a timeshare scam company is trying to scam you, we have put together a guide on timeshare scam companies’ tactics and how to avoid scam companies.
The scam company may inform clients that they have been released from their timeshare contract and even issue clients with a seemingly official certificate stating that this is the case. Be aware that this is not the case. It is important that clients receive direct confirmation from the timeshare company itself. Without this, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that a member has been released.
Scam companies will often tell clients that “they have sent a letter to the timeshare company but have not received a response”. As a result, the scam company will tell the client that they are “out of their membership” because in their opinion a non-response is affirmation. This is not the case: Silence does not amount to acceptance.
Scam companies often inform clients that it is not likely that the timeshare company will sue for non-payment of maintenance fees and that therefore clients can treat their membership as ‘at an end’. This is not correct. The scam company cannot be absolutely certain that the timeshare company will never sue. In contract, a party has 6 years in which to bring a claim from the date upon which the cause of action accrued i.e. the breach. At any time within that period a timeshare company can sue. Memberships are often suspended for non-payment of fees, but it is important to note that a ‘suspension’ is not the same as a ‘cancellation’. Depending on the timeshare company, maintenance will still be payable because there is an ongoing obligation written within the terms / articles of association.
Scam companies may issue clients with their own form of insurance which purports to protect clients if the timeshare company decides to sue. Be aware that the terms are heavily weighted in the favour of the scam company. It is most likely the case that the policy is not worth the paper it is written on.
Clients should pay close attention to the retainers (otherwise known as contracts) that companies offer. Make sure you know what you are signing up to and what the company is being contracted to do.
It is often the case that scam companies speculatively call clients. This can be stressful and worrying for people. Promises are often made (which are untrue) which cause confusion and uncertainty. It is important that you do not get swayed by these companies. Their sole purpose is to syphon as much money from you as possible. They are not there to act in your best interest. Steps can be taken if you are concerned / unsure as follows:
TPS is an option that people can take. They are a free service and it is the official opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.
Contact your network to block numbers and screen your calls. This is the process of evaluating the call prior to deciding to answer it. Check the caller ID display to see who or where the call is from. If you do not recognise the number, then you do not need to answer the phone. Alternatively, allow the call to ring out and then listen to the voice mail afterwards.
If you are receiving persistent calls you can report the activity to Trading Standards. They will be able to investigate the matter further.
You can complain to organisations such as ‘Which?’, who will be able to answer your concerns.
If you are unsure about the company providing the legal service, you can look them up on the Law Society find a solicitor website or on the websites of other approved legal services regulators. The sites are usually very straight forward and easy to use. Alternatively, if the company claims to be SRA regulated, you can ask whether they are SRA registered. SRA accredited will have an SRA number and companies authorised and regulated by other approved legal services providers will have similar registration numbers that uniquely identify them. If the firm/company cannot provide this information then do not entertain or engage in their services.
The SRA and the approved legal services regulators have also recently launched digital badges that are uniquely linked to a genuine and verified website belonging to a regulated entity. Although adoption of the badge is not yet mandatory it will become so later in 2019. Most regulated legal services providers have already adopted this badge to give the users of their websites confidence that they are who they say they are, that they are subject to regulatory obligations and that clients instructing them are robustly protected in the event anything goes wrong.
If you are unsure about the company that you are engaged with, you can check with ‘Companies House’. It is a simple online process which will provide you with information about that company
If you are looking for help to legally leave your Timeshare contract, Sarah Waddington Solicitors are here to help. We are a team of experienced solicitors with expertise exclusively in Timeshare law, and many other areas of regulation and litigation.
If you are being approached by Timeshare scam companies, or you have decided that you would like to legally leave a Timeshare contract that you no longer want to be in, then it’s time to contact us.