In property law, a timeshare is generally defined as a type of arrangement made between several joint property owners to share or use a particular piece of real property as a vacation home. The arrangement will typically be governed by a combination of property, contract, and special timeshare laws. It may also be governed by the guidelines set out by the timeshare contract that the parties forming the arrangement have agreed upon.
Although a timeshare can be located anywhere that the owners wish and can include any form of property, timeshares are often found in places that are considered to be desirable vacation destinations. They are usually for a condominium unit that is attached to a resort. Timeshares are also normally reserved for a certain portion of the year (e.g., for summer or winter breaks).
For example, the owners of a timeshare may decide to split the use of a condo in the Florida Keys from June through August. The owners may create a schedule that dictates when each owner will be allowed to stay there throughout the summer and when they will need to leave, so that the next owner can enjoy their stay. Hence the aptly titled name for such a property, “timeshare.”
One final important note about timeshares is the way in which timeshare legal issues are resolved will primarily depend on both the timeshare laws of a particular jurisdiction and on the terms of a single timeshare contract. Thus, the outcome of a timeshare dispute tends to vary on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, you should consider hiring a local real estate lawyer if you are experiencing issues with a timeshare property and/or agreement.
What Are Some Common Timeshare Legal Issues?
As discussed above, timeshare legal issues can involve a combination of property, contract, timeshare, and in some cases, even business laws. Accordingly, some common timeshare legal issues or disputes that may arise in connection with a timeshare property can include:
- Issues that involve the transfer of property rights in a timeshare property (e.g., donating, gifting, giving up, or giving away an owner’s portion of timeshare rights to another party);
- Scams or fraud schemes that are carried out and related to a specific timeshare property;
- Disputes among timeshare owners, such as if the parties did not realize that they had scheduled their trip for the same time period;
- Issues involving default or failure to pay an owner’s portion of the timeshare;
- Default or financial issues that lead to the foreclosure of a timeshare property;
- Conflicts due to the laws of a particular jurisdiction (e.g., conflicts between state contract laws, international treaties for timeshare properties located outside of the United States, and so forth);
- Unforeseen circumstances that lead to the destruction of or inability to use the timeshare property (e.g., hurricanes or not being able to visit due to international conflicts like an embargo); and
- Various other situations that may impact ownership rights or other aspects of a timeshare property.
As is evident from the examples in the above list, a timeshare property may be subject to a wide variety of different types of legal disputes. This is true even though a particular timeshare property may only be occupied for a portion of a calendar year. Thus, it is important that parties who enter into a timeshare arrangement consult a real estate lawyer before signing a timeshare contract.
How Can Timeshare Legal Issues Be Resolved?
The majority of timeshare legal issues can usually be resolved by reviewing the most recent copy of the owners’ valid timeshare contract. In cases where a timeshare legal issue cannot be resolved by simply, then the parties will have no other choice, but to file a claim in court.
Under such circumstances, a lawsuit will likely result in monetary damages being awarded to the party who prevails in the case (i.e., the non-breaching party). In contrast, if the person bringing the lawsuit fails to prove their claim, then the court will likely dismiss the case and thus no damages will be awarded.
For example, a timeshare owner may file a lawsuit against another owner in the event that the owner intentionally destroyed the timeshare property during their stay. Again, while such solutions will normally be found in the timeshare contract, the owners will need to ask a court to intervene if they forgot to include such provisions as part of their contract.
The party who files the lawsuit will then have the burden of proving their claim (e.g., one or several of the timeshare owners were responsible for destroying the property) and the court will either issue damages or dismiss the case, depending on how a particular lawsuit unfolds.
Aside from monetary damage awards, a court may also issue other remedies like an injunction or those that do not involve money. Such remedies are known as equitable remedies under the law, as opposed to legal remedies, which refer to monetary damages.
For instance, if a timeshare owner hires a maintenance business to oversee and take care of the timeshare property when they are not around and the business fails to do their job, then the timeshare owner may sue the business for breach of their employment contract. Depending on the facts surrounding an individual case, a court may order the parties to cancel or amend the employment contract to avoid a lengthy battle in court.
In addition, there are some legal issues that could result in criminal consequences. For example, suppose that a timeshare owner knew that their guests were participating in criminal activities (such as selling illegal drugs) on the premises and did nothing to prevent such behavior from occurring. In this scenario, both the timeshare owner and their guests could be charged with a criminal offense and penalized accordingly (e.g., criminal fines, imprisonment, etc.).
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help With Timeshare Legal Issues?
A timeshare is a great option for persons who are searching for a place to stay when traveling or taking a vacation during a holiday season. Not only do timeshares offer significant financial benefits to the persons traveling, but they can also provide a solid source of supplemental income for those who own the timeshare property.
On the downside, however, timeshares are not without their own host of legal issues. As previously discussed, this may include having to navigate various fields of law that often vary by state. It may also involve combating a wide assortment of legal issues in connection with a particular timeshare property. Such issues will become even more complicated if a timeshare property is located outside of the United States.
Thus, if you are experiencing issues with a timeshare property or are involved in a legal dispute over a timeshare arrangement, then it may be in your best interest to consult a local real estate lawyer as soon as possible.
An experienced real estate lawyer will be able to provide you with valuable timeshare legal advice about the state laws affecting your specific issue as well as can recommend the best course of action to take to efficiently resolve a legal dispute over a timeshare property.
Whether you are being sued or would like to file a lawsuit against another party regarding a timeshare issue, your lawyer will be able to assist you in filing a claim and can represent you in court should it become necessary. Alternatively, if you decide not to go to trial, your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf at a settlement conference instead.