If you buy a timeshare in Mexico, U.S. laws don't apply to the transaction. Even if your home state strictly regulates timeshare sales, those state statutes won't apply if you buy a timeshare in another country. Instead, you'll be subject to that place's laws.
So, if you're thinking of buying a timeshare in Mexico, you should learn the applicable laws and consider several different issues. For starters, even though Mexican law protects timeshare purchasers by providing the right to cancel a timeshare contract, it might be difficult to enforce this right. Also, timeshare scams abound in Mexico, and you should take steps to avoid becoming a victim.
In Mexico, foreigners are restricted from owning land within 50 kilometers of the coast or 100 kilometers of an international border. But the majority of timeshares are in beach resorts in places like Mazatlan, Los Cabos, Cancun, Cozumel, and Puerto Vallarta. So, in most cases, when you buy a timeshare in Mexico, you're only purchasing a right to use the timeshare rather than an interest in the real estate. (In the United States, the two main types of timeshare interests are deeded and right to use.)
Generally, with Mexican timeshares, you'll receive the right to use one or more units for a specific number of weeks during a certain number of years. You will have to pay an initial purchase price and periodic maintenance fees, which are likely to go up each year.
By law, in Mexico, you have five business days to cancel a timeshare contract after you've signed it. The sooner you act, the better. Also, be aware that this right to cancel can't be waived. If you try to cancel, some timeshare salespeople might tell you that you waived this right when you signed the contract, which isn't true. Mexican law stipulates that purchasers are legally entitled to cancel a timeshare contract without penalty.
To cancel the contract, notify the developer in writing. It's also a good idea to send a cancellation notification by email, as well as in person, if possible. Be sure to:
The timeshare developer must refund all the money you have paid, without any penalties for canceling, within 15 business days.
Often though, timeshare developers in Mexico are very reluctant to provide refunds. If the developer stalls or refuses to give you a refund, you can file a formal complaint against the company with PROFECO. You might also want to consult with a local attorney to find out how to enforce your rights.
Timeshare developers often hire aggressive salespeople, and thousands of foreigners have fallen for the tricky sales tactics used by numerous timeshare companies in Mexico. If you're thinking of attending a timeshare presentation or purchasing a timeshare in Mexico, it's important to learn how to avoid becoming the victim of a timeshare scam.
If someone approaches you during your vacation and invites you to a complimentary breakfast or offers a free stay at a resort, beware. That person might want to sell you a timeshare. Mexican law prohibits timeshare salespeople from offering gifts, free vacation certificates, or any other promotion strategies without informing the consumer of the specific purpose of the offer, but this prohibition doesn't stop salespeople from using this tactic.
If the salesperson only shows you a brochure of the timeshare property—but not the property itself—run away from the deal. There's very likely some problem with the resort. It's probably in disrepair, or maybe it hasn't even been built yet. You need to visit the resort and the developer's office before you even considering purchasing a timeshare.
Don't sign a contract when you first meet with a timeshare salesperson. Take the documents with you when you leave the meeting so you can spend some time reading the fine print. Review the contract and documents with an attorney.
Certainly, don't sign any documents that are in Spanish only. Even if you're fluent in the language, you might not understand all the legal terminology. If the timeshare salesperson has provided you with a "translation" of the contract, it might not be correct or accurate, so get it translated elsewhere.
Before you purchase a timeshare at a particular resort, run a search on the Internet to find out more about the company that you're dealing with. Timeshare owners who have previously been scammed often post their experiences and warnings about scammers online.
You can also check for complaints about the resort developer at any PROFECO office.
If any promises were made during the sales presentation, make sure those promises are covered in the contract.
If you bought a timeshare in Mexico and want to sell it, watch out for scams. One common scam involves stealing the identity of an attorney in the United States. The scammers set up a bogus website under the attorney's name that offers help in selling a timeshare—for a substantial fee. But the real lawyer isn't involved, and the scammers disappear with the timeshare owner's money. To avoid this kind of scam, always verify that you're dealing with a legitimate, licensed attorney. You can find an attorney's true contact information from the state bar association or state office of attorney regulation.
In another common scam, a potential "buyer" calls you and offers to purchase your timeshare for, say, double what you paid. The supposed buyer (or the buyer's representative) might not ask for an upfront fee, but in the middle of the transaction, you'll have to pay for a "tax fee," "insurance premium," or something similar—but bogus. Fees will keep popping up, and as long as you pay them, the scammer strings you along, maybe telling you that you'll get reimbursed. But no buyer exists, and you won't recoup your money.
New timeshare scams seem to arise all the time. Check online to see what other people have gone through to make sure you don't get similarly taken. The Federal Trade Commission website is a good place to start and be sure to read the comments people post.
If you're thinking of purchasing a timeshare in Mexico—or have already done so—consider hiring competent legal counsel in Mexico as soon as possible to advise you of your rights and responsibilities in the transaction.