In the wake of COVID-19, a flood of timeshare owners have tried to cancel their contracts, citing travel bans and health fears that make them untenable.

Disastrous as it is, the pandemic alone is not a valid reason to exit a timeshare, according to timeshare exit companies. However, there are plenty of valid reasons to cancel a contract for a timeshare, including exorbitant maintenance fees, false advertising, and fraud, according to Brandon Reed, the CEO and founder of Timeshare Exit Team and a founding member of the Coalition to Reform Timeshare.

Reed points out that timeshares – a shared ownership in a resort or vacation property – were different in the early years. “When timeshares first appeared in the 1970s, they were less expensive then and allowed people to visit the property on certain dates each year, so owners could plan around it,” he says. But fast forward to 2020:  Millennials, he says, are not interested in timeshares, and companies are trying to make up for it by squeezing an inordinate amount of money from people who buy or already own them.

“The sellers are promising this beautiful property which you can visit any time you want, and often that’s not true at all,” says Reed, a former timeshare owner. “And they’re expensive now, with the average price at nearly $21,455. If you take out a timeshare mortgage at a high interest rate, you could end up paying nearly double that over a 10-year period. And on top of that, you have yearly maintenance fees. But what’s worse — and what people rarely understand — is that nearly two-thirds of these are sold in perpetuity, meaning that you can’t get rid of them! You can try to sell them, sure — eBay has dozens of timeshares selling for a dollar, and even then no one will buy them.”

Many buyers have learned about this the hard way, including Frank and Betty Lusk, who were almost in their nineties when they went on a Caribbean cruise in September 2018 and were approached by a Diamond Resorts salesman on the voyage. Using high-pressure tactics, he persuaded them to buy a $150,000 timeshare that billed them for thousands of dollars each month – landing Betty Lusk in the hospital several times with stress-related illnesses – before they were able to cancel it with the help of Reed and his Seattle-based timeshare exit team.