Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Help Me Howard: Timeshare
It sounds like a great deal, a vacation condo or home that you can use every year. It's called a timeshare and many people buy them, but what do you do when you don't use it, can't afford it or don't want it. Legally, how can you get out of the timeshare. It's a problem one woman had for Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Like most families, the O'Campo's love to travel.
Carmen O'Campo, Timeshare for Sale: "The whole family went in May on a small cruise and earlier that year we did another one."
So, when a company told Carmen she could have a free vacation for her whole family if she listened to a sales pitch she thought why not.
Carmen O'Campo: "So once you get there, they start talking to you, it's about this timeshare, they make it nice and pretty and colorful."
The salesman was offering this two bedroom condo in Sunny Isles for a week every other year. The price for the piece of ownership $7,700.
Carmen O'Campo: "My husband and I, we looked at each other and we're like we can afford it, I don't think it's that bad, why not."
So Carmen and her husband paid for the time share in full.
Carmen O'Campo: "They kind of pressure you. We felt pressure."
That was in 2001 and in the past 9 years Carmen has never stepped inside her timeshare, not once.
Carmen O'Campo: "Never once, and we just paid and paid and paid."
Never used the timeshare as a vacation getaway because it's too close to home, but they never missed paying the annual maintenance fees.
Carmen O'Campo: "After 2005, 2007, 2009 it just went so high up we're paying close to $1,000."
Fifty-two owners paying $1,000 a year, meaning the maintenance company could be taking in $52,000 a year for the one unit. So, carmen tried to sell their unit back to the people who sold it to her.
Carmen O'Campo: "They said they could buy us back, but for no money."
Carmen then hired a company that re-sells timeshares, paid them nearly $400 and...
Carmen O'Campo: "Time passed and nothing, no resell."
Carmen paid $7,700 for the condo, is charged $1,000 a year in maintenance fees, all for a unit they don't use and no-one wants to buy.
Carmen O'Campo: "We're just paying and paying and we can't really afford it right now."
Carmen then decided to stop pouring good money after bad and stopped paying the maintenance fee.
Carmen O'Campo: "All of a sudden we got this letter from a collection agency."
Doesn't use the timeshare, can't sell it and can't afford the maintenance fees. I believe this is what those of us without fancy law degrees refer to as a mess.
Carmen O'Campo: "I see Channel 7 a lot and I've seen that he's helped many people with different situations and I figured he can help us."
Well Howard, legally what is the best way to get out of this thing.
Howard Finkelstein: "You can't unless you can find a buyer. Carmen has invested so much money and hates to hear it, but it might be best to sell it to someone for a dollar. That way it's out of her hair because if she keeps it and doesn't pay the maintenance fees they will foreclose on her and damage her credit."
When we talked to the company that sold Carmen her timeshare they told us, they do not buy back units. The timeshare companies advice, use the unit or exchange it with a family that owns a unit in another state, and Howard says if you are going to buy a timeshare know your rights.
Howard Finkelstein: "Timeshares can be wonderful if you get them for a good price, in a good location and you put it to good use. But, don't let someone rush you into a purchase, and if you do and change your mind you have 10 days to cancel the contract and get your money back."
Carmen says her time share has taught her a lesson that everyone can use for the rest of their life.
Carmen O'Campo: "If they really don't know what they're getting into don't buy it."
Well it wont make Carmen feel any better, but the Florida Attorney General's Office says they received more than 2,000 complaints about timeshares last year. Many of those complaints are about companies that resell timeshares. To avoid getting taken by one of those companies, list your unit with a licensed real estate broker where the unit is located.
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