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Timesharing is a holiday formula that allows you to buy the right to use equipped and furnished accommodation as a holiday home for one or more weeks during a contractually defined period (e.g. the right to use an apartment for 10 years in a tourist complex on the Costa del Sol during the first two weeks of July). Sometimes, there is also talk of "long-term holiday products" or "part-time use of buildings".
Timesharing seems like an attractive holiday formula, but it can also lead to disappointment and even deception. This is why the sale of timeshare products is regulated at both Belgian and European level.
How does timesharing work?
The attractive thing about the formula, which lies midway between ownership and rent, is first and foremost the financial picture. Buying a holiday home is a major investment and the property purchased, usually abroad, has to be managed on a permanent basis while sometimes only being used for a few weeks a year. By purchasing a timeshare, you acquire, subject to payment of a certain amount, the right to occupy a property each year for a specified period of time, without having to be responsible for its management or maintenance.
Purchase price and costs
The purchase price varies according to the season, duration, occupancy capacity, location of the accommodation, equipment, finishing, luxury and seller's profit margin. There are additional costs on top of the purchase price: the management and maintenance costs to be paid each year (even if the dwelling is not used), the fixed costs (insurances and taxes) and the manager's fees.
Exchanges and swapping points
With most timeshare formulas, the buyer has the ability to exchange his holiday period with another person, by joining a specialised international exchange. The registration for this exchange and the actual swap involve costs; the exchange possibilities for the property vary according to the "bought" period (high season, mid season or low season), the occupancy capacity and the luxury of the location.
Nowadays, sellers offer a more flexible variant: the purchase of points for a fixed value; the points serve as a means of exchange for stays - depending on the type and size of the property, the location, the duration and the period of the year.
Risks and dangers of timesharing
The fact that timesharing does not enjoy the best reputation has to do with the fact that sometimes, it leads to deception. The formula also exposes the consumer to certain malpractices or unfavourable situations:
- Many promoters use aggressive sales techniques: a hastily completed form, customer canvassing by phone or on holiday websites, lotteries, competitions in which you supposedly always win, and so on;
- prospectuses and agreements often do not contain clear and detailed information: additional costs to be borne and what exactly they cover, possibilities for exchange, the right of renunciation, the condition of the property purchased and the financial guarantees available to you in the event that the project in question is not completed;
- the advance payments requested are high;
- it is often difficult to resell or exchange one’s right: only the usage rights for luxury homes in places of interest during a favourable period can be easily exchanged;
- the resale of timeshares by intermediaries subject to prior payment often causes problems: since resale is difficult, the proposal may well be questionable. The consumer risks never seeing his money again while the product is not resold;
- timeshare prices and annual management costs are often very high in relation to the quality offered;
- it usually concerns international contracts - determining the applicable legislation in case of problems is a tricky matter, e.g. if you are Belgian, the promoter is English and the property is located in Spain;
- In the past, the sector experienced numerous bankruptcies, leaving the buyers destitute.
Beware of scams
Sellers with malicious intentions do not hesitate over resorting to deceptive and aggressive sales practices in order to convince you to sign a detrimental agreement when it is not true deception
! Certain methods should alert you.
- you are informed that you won on a scratch card and that you can collect the prize at a luxurious holiday complex;
- you receive an e-mail to inform you that you are the lucky winner of a stay in a holiday home paradise.
But once on site, you risk becoming the victim of vendors who are highly experienced in sales techniques. They will makeyou to get you to sign an agreement that binds you for a long time and can be to your disadvantage.
Do you want to see the back of a timeshare contract? Please note: scam is also commonplace in the resale or exchange of timeshares.
If you have a dispute with a company that sells or resells timeshares, beware of lawyers or law firms who will spontaneously contact you and offer to represent your interests. Some will propose that you take legal action and claim substantial damages, subject to the payment of a substantial advance on fees. Once the money is deposited, you run the risk of never hearing from them again!
This is why the law protects you by giving you a 14-day right of withdrawal and by prohibiting resellers from demanding payment before the timeshare is resold.
Be sure to consult 10 practical tips on timeshares from the European Consumer Centre (ECC-Net).
Belgian legislation on timesharing
In Belgium, the resale of timeshare products is regulated by the Act of 28 August 2011 on the protection of consumers with regard to agreements relating to the use of timeshare goods, long-term holiday products, resale and exchange. This law is the implementation of a European Directive.