Q&A: How to escape a timeshare

Dear Liz: How do I walk away from a timeshare? It’s paid off but we have yearly maintenance fees that are now $3,600 each year. This will be prohibitive in retirement, and it’s quite a burden now. The developer won’t let us give it back, and we can’t sell it because the resale companies are sharks that demand money upfront. Can they ruin our credit if we stop paying? Is there any way to protect ourselves?

Answer: If you stop paying your annual maintenance fees, your account can be turned over to a collection agency. That will trash your credit, and you could be sued.

Many people who buy timeshares don’t realize they’re making a lifetime commitment, said Brian Rogers, owner and operator of Timeshare Users Group. Even after any loans to buy the timeshare are paid off, owners owe maintenance fees on the property. Maintenance fees typically rise over time and may be supplemented by special assessments to repair or upgrade resorts as they age.

The good news is that you may be able to get out from under these fees by selling your timeshare, and you don’t have to use a resale company that charges an upfront fee. In fact, you shouldn’t, since those arrangements are frequently scams, Rogers said.

The amount you’re paying indicates that you own a timeshare at an upscale resort. (The average maintenance fee is closer to $800 a year, Rogers said.) If that’s the case, your timeshare may have some value, even if it’s only a tiny fraction of what you paid. Owners at less desirable resorts often find they can sell their timeshares for only $1, and may have to pay others to take the timeshares off their hands.

You can list your timeshare for sale at no or low cost on EBay, Craigslist, RedWeek or Timeshare Users Group, among other sites. To get some idea of what it’s worth, enter the name of the resort into EBay’s search engine and click on the “completed sales” box on the lower left side of the page. Timeshare Users Group and RedWeek offer additional advice on selling timeshares.

You also could consider renting out your timeshare, using those same sites. Many owners discover they can offset or even completely cover their maintenance fees through such rentals, Rogers said.


  1. dumbtimeshareowner says

    We had a timeshare in Cabo that was paid up and quit paying the maintenance fees when they changed to a completely different format. They called repeatedly trying to collect and told us they were going to report to the credit agencies. We said go ahead, we’re not going to borrow money. We found they NEVER reported it, not matter how many times they said they would. Am very skeptical that not paying maintenance fees will impact one’s credit, since there’s no “true balance due” for such an item. We never paid up and after 3-4 years of trying to collect maintenance fees from us, they quit calling, eventually. We told them we would never pay..REPEATEDLY. Even to the point where we were saying HI xxxx and one of the last times, the person said this isn’t “xxxx.” OK. I think we still own the timeshare, but haven’t heard from anyone, via mail, phone or e-mail.

    • Liz Weston says

      Keep checking your credit, as it may turn up the next time the debt is sold. The balance due may be whatever the collector decides to report, probably the maintenance fees you failed to pay plus interest.

  2. Goalie Coach says

    I love your site Liz. I feel so much smarter than so many of the folks you get mail from… I can have a bad day and jump on here and totally understand how people can vote for Perry as a Governor over and over…