A "timeshare" is a form of shared property ownership where several owners have the right to use the property for a specified period each year. Often, timeshare properties are resort condominiums, though it's also possible to have a timeshare interest in another type of property like a cabin, RV, or houseboat.
The two basic kinds of timeshare interests are deeded and right to use.
Deeded and right-to-use timeshares can be week-based or point-based. In a week-based system, timeshares are sold in one-week intervals. You may use the timeshare during the week (or weeks) you buy. With a deeded points-based timeshare, you get an ownership interest at one location, usually called your "home resort," and you get a deed to that property. Your interest in the timeshare is also worth a certain amount of points each year. You typically may go to your home resort, or you may use points to visit a different participating resort. Sometimes, with a points-based timeshare, you buy into a timeshare trust. Rather than getting an ownership interest, you get a right-to-use interest.
Sometimes people have enough money to buy a timeshare outright. But in many cases, timeshare buyers have to take out a loan to cover the purchase price. People who take out a loan to buy a timeshare usually intend to keep up with the payments. But in tough financial times, like if you lose your job or face unexpected medical costs, paying for a timeshare can become a low priority. If you have a deeded timeshare and fall behind on the mortgage payments, you could lose the property to foreclosure.
If you have a deeded timeshare, your interest in the property can be foreclosed if you don't make your mortgage payments. If you don't pay the maintenance fees, special assessments, utilities, and taxes, you could also face foreclosure.
State law governs timeshares, and the foreclosure process varies from state to state. Depending on state law, the procedure could be judicial (the lender goes through state court to foreclose) or nonjudicial (where the foreclosure takes place outside of the court system).
The procedure for a timeshare foreclosure might be different than the typical process for residential properties. In Florida, for example, residential foreclosures are judicial, but state law allows the lender to use a nonjudicial process to foreclose timeshare properties. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 721.855 and § 721.856.) (To find out which foreclosure process lenders regularly use for residential properties in a particular state, check our Key Aspects of State Foreclosure Law: 50-State Chart.)
In a foreclosure, the total debt the borrower owes might exceed the foreclosure sale price. The difference between the total debt and the sale price is called a "deficiency."
Example. Say the total debt owed for a timeshare is $15,000, but it only sells for $10,000 at the foreclosure sale. The deficiency is $5,000.
Whether you'll face a deficiency judgment (a personal judgment for the amount of the deficiency) after a timeshare foreclosure depends on state law. In Florida, for instance, the lender can't get a deficiency judgment against you after a nonjudicial timeshare foreclosure so long as you don't object to the nonjudicial foreclosure process. (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 721.81, 721.855, and 721.856.)
Once started, timeshare foreclosures usually move quickly. If you're facing a foreclosure of your timeshare property, consider talking to a qualified attorney who can advise you about your options and inform you about the applicable state timeshare laws.