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Can I sue the timeshare operator if I'm the victim of a timeshare scam?
5. Can I sue the timeshare operator if I'm the victim of a timeshare scam?
There are several types of claims you might bring against a slippery timeshare seller. The first, breach of contract, involves promises explicitly made and set forth in the sales agreements. If the size, location, condition, or some other important fact about the timeshare is materially different from what you agreed to in the sales contract, you may have a basis for claiming breach of the contract. But beware: These contracts are carefully drawn up by the timeshare sellers' attorneys and are likely to cover almost any contingency -- scrutinize carefully before signing.
You may also bring claims based on tactics used and promises made before you agreed to purchase your timeshare. These claims may be covered under state laws prohibiting unfair business practices or those designed to prevent fraudulent inducement. In both cases, the idea is that the seller used unfair sales tactics -- or outright lies -- to get you to buy the timeshare. You will have to show:
- what the seller said or did
- why it was misleading
- that you wouldn't have bought the timeshare if the seller hadn't used the misleading tactics or promises, and
- that you suffered some monetary loss because of the purchase.
Timeshare sales contracts usually include clauses that disclaim any promises made during the sales pitch. The contract you sign will ask you to agree that you are making the purchase only on the basis of the representations in that contract. Prospective purchasers who notice differences between what is in the contract and what was promised by the salesperson are likely to be told that the contract is only legal jargon. This is not true. If a timeshare salesperson will not put a promise in writing, don't go through with the sale. You will be forced to argue afterwards that you relied on that promise, even though you signed a contract that explicitly says you did not rely on any promises.
If you do successfully prove in court that you are the victim of a timeshare scam, the court may do one of two things. First, it may rescind the contract. This would require the seller to return your money and retake title to the timeshare. Second, the court could award a money judgment to you. Usually the amount awarded is the difference between the amount you paid for the timeshare and its actual value.