Oops, Bought a Timeshare in Mexico: Can I Cancel the Contract?

If you're got a bad case of timeshare-buyer's remorse, act quickly to protect your right to rescind.

If you've fallen for one of those "Spend a free weekend in the Mexico!" timeshare presentation pitches, take heart: You're not the first. And you might not be stuck with the consequences of bought into the heavy-handed sales pitch, either.

The developers who sell timeshares have found multiple ways to lure people in, like offering prizes or gifts (such as free flights or activities) to bring potential buyers to a "timeshare presentation." They then subject potential buyers to a lengthy sales pitch, made by timeshare sales agents who are expert at being pushy and hard to refuse. The sales agents are trained to rebuke any objections, and commonly offer special deals that require a purchase before leaving the premises.

Fortunately, some legal protections are in place that could help you.

State Laws Within the U.S. Give Buyer the Right to Rescind

Most states' laws protect consumers who purchase a timeshare located there, and want out of the deal right after. These laws give timeshare buyers the right to cancel ("rescind") the purchase contract within a specified period of time after signing (sometimes called a "cooling off" period). The time period is typically short, from three days to fifteen days.

The issue for someone who buys in Mexico is that most states' laws protect only people who buy a timeshare that's actually located is that state. Since your timeshare is located in another country, it becomes a matter of whether buyers there are provided similar protection under Mexican law.

Fortunately, timeshare sales agreements in Mexico are subject to a five-day rescission provision. (For more information on your rights, see How to Protect Yourself When Buying a Mexican Timeshare").

Buyers in an EU country have fourteen days within which to back out. Do some online research or hire an attorney to help find any applicable rescission provisions in your timeshare's location.

The Right to Cancel Might Be in Your Purchase Agreement

Also check the terms of your purchase agreement. Sometimes the contract will include a rescission provision even if not required by law. These provisions are often buried in the contract, however, and might take close examination to discover.

If you don't find a cancellation provision in the sales contract, an attorney can help determine whether your purchase is subject to a right of rescission.

Although you might be tempted to look for help from the agent who sold you the property, this is not the best approach. These agents are highly skilled at convincing you of all the reasons not to cancel, and it's possible the agent might employ delay tactics until it's too late.

If your contract is subject to a right of rescission, don't worry if you made a verbal promise, or agreed to a contract provision, waiving these rights. The right of rescission cannot be waived, regardless of what the contract says, or what a sales agent might have told you to the contrary.

If You Have No Rescission Protection

If you want out of a timeshare contract but there is no applicable rescission provision or law, or if the date for rescission has passed, your cancellation options are more limited. You'll need to hire an experienced attorney to look at the facts of the sale, and help determine the best course of action.

Follow All Requirements to Cancel

If a provision or law gives you the right to rescind, and you are within the applicable time period, carefully follow all procedures required. Cancellation procedures typically require the buyer to provide written notice to the seller, postmarked or otherwise dated within the applicable "cooling off" time period. The notice usually must include information such as the property description, contract date, the buyer's contact information, and a request to cancel the contract.

When providing the required notice, send copies of all documentation and keep the originals. Once the seller officially acknowledges and accepts the cancellation, you can hand over any information or original documents requested. Because of the importance of meeting all the legal requirements for a valid rescission, you might wish to contact an experienced attorney for assistance.

Getting Your Money Back

Upon receipt of an effective rescission, the seller must completely refund your purchase money. If you have effectively rescinded your contract, do not agree to pay any "penalty" or other amount requested or demanded by the seller without first obtaining advice from a qualified attorney.

If you have the right to rescind, and follow all the proper procedures, you should be able to walk away from a regrettable timeshare purchase with your money back, unencumbered by a property you didn't want to begin with. And hopefully, next time you'll think twice before agreeing to accept those tempting freebies!

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