Trapped in a timeshare? Here’s how to escape

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Getting into a timeshare is easy. Getting out isn’t.

Kathie Asaro knows that. She recently decided that her Rancho Mirage, California, timeshare, which she paid off years ago, wasn’t worth keeping.

“It didn’t fit my lifestyle,” says Asaro, a retired sales manager from Foster City, Calif.

Just one problem: There was no way out. Her contract, like most timeshare agreements, had a perpetuity clause. When she phoned the timeshare company to request that it take back her unit, a representative cheerfully informed her she was stuck with her condo and the $1,300 in annual maintenance fees forever. If she failed to pay her maintenance fees, the company politely threatened to report her to a credit agency.

She’s not alone. A University of Central Florida (UCF) study found that 85 percent of timeshare owners who go to contract regret their purchase. That’s a lot of unhappy timeshare owners. And lately, they’ve been asking me if those perpetuity clauses really are forever.

They’re not.

“Getting out of a timeshare is considerably more difficult than getting in,” says Lisa Ann Schreier, author of the book “Timeshare Vacations For Dummies.” “But it’s possible.”

First, a reality check: No one wants you to be unhappy with your timeshare, especially the timeshare industry. “We want to ensure that timeshare owners have the option to exit their timeshare in a safe and transparent way,” says Peter Roth, a spokesman for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), a trade group that represents timeshare developers.

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