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Getting rid of a timeshare, even paid in full, is no easy task

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By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Friday, February 18, 2011; 3:12 PM

Q. My 86-year-old mother cannot get rid of her paid-in-full timeshare. The maintenance fees are hurting her financially. She has tried to sell and/or donate it to a charity without any luck. How can she dispose of it? Do we, her beneficiaries, have to take it over? Can she just stop paying the maintenance fees?

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A. Your mother is not alone. Many owners have discovered that timeshares can be impossible to unload. And in the current economic malaise, more timeshare owners than ever are having trouble making their payments.

Although you didn't indicate where your mother's timeshare is located, they are usually located in destination resorts such as Orlando, near ski areas or in foreign destinations such as Mexico or Caribbean countries.

When selling a timeshare, first contact the company that manages the property. Some offer a service to help owners sell their timeshares. Frequently, these companies will retain a hefty percentage of the sales price, but if you can't sell it and are willing to give it away, getting something for it is better than nothing.

If your timeshare is not part of a national timeshare or hotel-management company, you can try to advertise it for sale on many Web sites set up for that purpose. You can even try to sell it through Craigslist or eBay, which can help you gauge whether there are people out there looking to buy a timeshare in your development.

You can also engage the services of a real estate agent who specializes in timeshare sales. Most of these options will not require an upfront fee to sell your timeshare, but some companies ask. I'm not a fan of this practice.

Another option, especially if your timeshare is in a desirable location, is to rent it out. You can list your timeshare for rent on sites like VBRO.com. The rental money you receive can offset the fees that your mother is incurring in owning the timeshare.

One last option available is to trade timeshare usage for another location that may be more desirable to the family. For example, if your mother's timeshare is in California but she and most of her family live on the East Coast, you may be able to exchange it for something closer to home. Your family might be able to use the timeshare and give your mother the money that you would have spent on a hotel.

Those are some of your options. However, if you've tried all of them or you just want to get rid of the timeshare, you might try to advertise it as a free timeshare and see if someone will take it from you for no money.

As you've discovered, you can't just give the timeshare to a charity. An organization has to accept it and agree to take it out of your mother's name.

Basically that holds true for giving it away to anybody. In order for you to give it away, the recipient must be a willing party to the transaction - meaning that they are willing to assume the obligations of the timeshare.

You should also know that the timeshare company may have the right to sue your mother for payments she has failed to make.


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