The 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross asks some hard questions about the way the pursuit of money affects us. More importantly for our purposes, it’s set in an office which sells real estate in Florida. Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), and the other salesmen will do almost literally anything to close the deal.
Many people are like James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce). They are smart consumers who give into extreme pressure and make decisions they regret. But rather than going to the salesman to try and “straighten things out,” it’s always best to see an attorney. That’s the best way to enforce your considerable rights in these situations.
The Unilateral Cancellation Period
Florida law is very generous in this area. James Lingk only had three days to cancel his contract. But if you buy a timeshare in Florida, there is a ten day, no questions asked cancellation period. These are calendar days and not business days, so the time will slip away quickly. Once the period expires, it is much harder to get out of a timeshare contract.
To assert their right to cancel, consumers need only provide written notice. Texts, emails, and other electronic communications may not qualify as “written” notice. Regular mail is better. Twin notices regular and certified mail is usually best. The real estate company cannot refuse to sign for the letter and then claim the period expired, and there is near-absolute proof of delivery.
The contract may specify the information which needs to be in the notice. If not, basic name, property address, date, and an unequivocal “I hereby cancel my timeshare contract” is usually sufficient.
Challenging the Contract
A timeshare contract is a contract like any other one. Even if it says certain things and both parties sign it, it may not be a legally-binding contract. All the elements must be present. Some of the more common points include:
Offer/Acceptance: Every aspect of the agreement must be fully negotiable. That includes things like timeshare location, price, payment terms, and so on. A take-it-or-leave-it “contract” is not valid. Instead, such an agreement is an unenforceable contract of adhesion.
Competency: Excessive pressure to sign, and even some false statements, do not invalidate the contract. But if that pressure includes veiled threats or the false statement concerns a material issue, the contract may be unenforceable.
Writing: Generally, the entire contract must be in a single written document. Furthermore, external evidence is usually not admissible in contract interpretation disputes. The words say what they say.
Other defenses may apply as well, depending on the contract terms and the other facts in the real estate case.
There are other options as well. For example, many people donate their unwanted timeshares and write off the fair market value on their taxes. Such transactions are very complex, especially when it comes to things like Medicaid eligibility. So, you definitely need an experienced attorney to advise you.
Timeshare contracts are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced real estate attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, contact The People’s Advocate. After-hours and in-home visits are available.