‘Frustrating as hell’: Timeshare owners feel trapped by companies promising a way out

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Action 9 exposed companies that targeted timeshare owners who want to end their contracts and expenses. These firms charged thousands of dollars then did not deliver and left owners feeling trapped.

“Frustrating as hell.” Sharon Robison said she thought her timeshare ownership nightmare was over. Instead, a timeshare exit company that guaranteed to end her two contracts disappeared with her $6,500. She still owns her vacation home contracts.

“Very frustrating. I’ll send emails but I do not get a response,” Robison said.

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“Did they take advantage of you?” Todd Ulrich asked Octavia Burgman.

“They did,” she replied.

Burgman feels burned for $3,000 after she paid a timeshare exit firm to end her ownership. She said that never happened. “The biggest mistake of my life.”

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“Did they have a buyer for your unit?” Ulrich asked Bob Wogaman.

“They said they did. $27,900,” Wogaman said referring to the timeshare company that contacted him.

He claims the exit company he dealt with told him they had a buyer for his timeshare but first he would have to pay a $5,500 fee.

“I think they are just doing it to make money.” Wogaman said he later discovered there was no buyer.

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These three consumers wanted to get out of their timeshares, but the companies that guaranteed they could walk away for a fee collected thousands of dollars, and did not deliver on their promises.

Complaints about companies offering to sell or legally challenge timeshare contracts are expected to soar. COVID-19 left many families struggling to pay timeshare fees or unable to travel to use their vacation homes.

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“The goal of these companies is to extract as much money as possible from the consumer,” Brian Rogers said.

Rogers runs the largest website where timeshare users can share information. He says the typical company tells consumers it takes months to get rid of their timeshares, but then within a year or two, the operation is long gone.

“The problem with that is it takes these owners out of their legal right to dispute the charge, even on credit cards,” Rogers said.

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Wogaman paid thousands to Vacation Resales and Rentals after it told him there was a buyer ready to close in days. The company’s address was in an office building in Metrowest. Ulrich went to the location but was told the company was no longer there. It had been a part-time virtual office and all of Ulrich’s attempts to find the company failed.

Burgman said she discovered the same thing about the timeshare company she dealt with. “I went to Google their company again and that’s when I found they just disappeared.”

Ulrich went to the company’s office near International Drive. The door was locked, and through the windows, Ulrich noticed the office looked deserted.

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“You know that once that money is gone, it’s been gone so long you have very few options available to you.” Rogers said any firm that guarantees to end your contract after you pay big fees poses a considerable risk.

“Does this debt haunt you at night?” Ulrich asked Burgman.

“Absolutely. Every day,” she replied.

Consumer advocates say your best bet to end timeshare ownership is contacting the resort management company yourself and asking about a deed-back or surrender program. Consumers should avoid paying anything in advance.

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Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.