Q: My 86-year-old mother cannot get rid of her (paid-in-full) timeshare. The maintenance fees are hurting her financially. She has tried to sell and/or donate it to a charity without any luck. How can she dispose of it? If no one will accept it, do we, her beneficiaries, have to take it over? Can she just stop paying the maintenance fees?
A: Your mother is not alone. There are many timeshare owners who have discovered that timeshares can be impossible to unload. The current economic malaise means even more timeshare owners are having trouble making their payments.
While you didn’t indicate where your mother’s time share is located, timeshare vacation rentals are usually located in destination resorts like Orlando or skiing locations. Some of these timeshare locations can be within the United States while others might be in Mexico or Caribbean locations.
When selling a time share you should first contact the management company that manages your property. Some of the larger timeshare management companies offer a service to help sellers get their timeshares sold.
Frequently these companies will retain a hefty percentage of the sales price, but if you can’t sell it on your own and you are willing to give it away, getting something for it is better than nothing.
If your timeshare is not part of a national timeshare company or hotel management company, you can try to advertise your timeshare for sale through the many websites that can assist you in your sale. You can even try Craiglist.com or eBay.com. While neither of those sites will guaranty a sale, you can attempt to gauge whether there are actually people out there looking to buy a timeshare in your development.
You can also engage the services of a real estate agent. Some real estate agents specialize in timeshare sales. While, most of these options will not require an upfront fee from you to sell your timeshare, I’m not a fan of companies that take an upfront fee to assist you in the sale of your timeshare.
Another option available to you is to rent your timeshare. If the timeshare is located in a desirable location, you can rent out the time that is available to you. You can list your timeshare for rent in sites like VBRO.com. If you are able to rent it out, the money you receive can offset the fees that your mother is incurring in owning the timeshare.
One last option available to some timeshare owners it to trade their timeshare time for another location that may be more desirable to the family. For example, if your mother’s timeshare is located in California and your mother and most of her family lives on the east coast, you may be able to exchange the time for another one that is closer to home. If you swap the time through the company that manages the timeshare company or through one of the many timeshare swap companies, your family may be able to use the timeshare and give your mom the money that you would have spent on a hotel while on vacation.
Those are some of the options available to you. However, if you’ve tried all of them or you just want to get rid of the timeshare, you might try to advertise it as a free timeshare and see if someone will buy it from you for no money.
As you’ve discovered, you can’t just give the timeshare to a charity. That organization has has to accept it. So you can’t just give it to them without the charity agreeing to take it out of your mom’s name.
Basically that holds true for giving it away to anybody. In order for you to give it away, the recipient must be a willing party to the transaction and willing to assume the obligations of the timeshare.
If you’re wondering whether your mother should stop paying her annual fees, but you should know that the obligation to make those payments could give the timeshare company the right to sue your mother for repayment of the money she has failed to pay.
If your mother lived in a condominium development and stopped paying her monthly dues, the association could sue her for non-payment. In the end, if she did not pay, could not pay or didn’t have funds to pay, the condominium development could sell off her condominium unit to satisfy the debt. (Assuming the condo wasn’t underwater with the mortgage.)
In her case, if the timeshare does not have much value but the annual fees are high relative to the value, if she stops paying those fees, the late fees and other charges may quickly rise to be above the value of the timeshare. At some point the timeshare management company will have to proceed to take action against your mother.
The timeshare company can seize the timeshare to satisfy the debt or it can also sue your mom for her failure to pay the expenses she owes on the timeshare. If they sue your mom and they succeed, your mother would have to defend the action in court and incur those expenses and if she loses her other assets could be at risk.
While the timeshare management company may decide to simply take the timeshare interest for the amount that’s owed, your mom might want to talk to an attorney before she simply decides to stop making payments to the timeshare company. Even if the timeshare company decided not to sue your mom, they could simply transfer the file to a collection company to collect what they can from your mother. Your best option is to see what you can get for the timeshare now while you still control it.
Finally, if your mom dies, the timeshare company can’t go after the beneficiaries of her estate, but if her estate has assets at the time of her death, those assets need to be used to satisfy her debts – and one of her debts would be to the timeshare company.
If she dies without any assets in her name, the timeshare company would be unable to get anything from her estate and should not be able to get anything from her family. If she purchased the timeshare in her name, her debts do not pass on to her heirs.