Ilyce Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, television reporter, radio talk show host and bestselling book author. Her syndicated column, Real Estate Matters, appears in more than 100 newspapers and Web sites across the U.S.
My 86-year-old mother cannot get rid of her (paid-in-full) time-share. 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? If no one will accept it, do we, her beneficiaries, have to take it over? Can she just stop paying the maintenance fees?
Your mother is not alone. Many owners have discovered that time-shares can be impossible to unload. And in the current economic malaise, more time-share owners than ever are having trouble making their payments.
While you didn't indicate where your mother's time-share is located, they are usually located in destination resorts such as Orlando, Fla., or near ski areas. Some are found in foreign destinations such as Mexico or Caribbean countries.
When selling a time-share, you should first contact the company that manages your property. Some of the larger management companies offer a service to help sellers sell their time-shares. Frequently these companies will retain a hefty percentage of the sales price, but if you can't sell it on your own and you are willing to give it away, getting something for it is better than nothing.
If your time-share is not part of a national time-share company or hotel management company, you can try to advertise it for sale on many websites set up for that purpose. You can even try to sell it through Craigslist or eBay. While neither of those sites will guaranty a sale, you can attempt to gauge whether there are actually people out there looking to buy a time-share in your development.
You can also engage the services of a real estate agent. There are agents who specialize in time-share sales. While most of these options will not require an upfront fee from you to sell your time-share, some companies do take an upfront fee, and I'm not a fan of that practice.
Another option, especially if your time-share is in a desirable location, is to rent it out. You can list your time-share for rent on sites like VBRO.com. If you are able to rent it out, the money you receive can offset the fees that your mother is incurring in owning the time-share.
One last option available to some owners it to trade their time-share time for another location that may be more desirable to the family. For example, if your mother's time-share is located 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. If you swap the time through the company that manages the time-share or through one of the many other swap companies, your family may be able to use the time-share and give your mom the money that you would have spent on a hotel while on vacation.
Those are some of your options. However, if you've tried all of them or you just want to get rid of the time-share, you might try to advertise it as a free time-share and see if someone will buy it from you for no money.
As you've discovered, you can't just give the time-share to a charity. An organization has to accept it and agree to take it out of your mom'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 time-share.
If you're wondering whether your mother could simply stop paying her annual fees, you should know that the time-share company may have the right to sue your mother for payments she has failed to make.
If your mother lived in a condominium development and stopped paying her monthly dues, the association could sue her for nonpayment. In the end, if she did not pay, could not pay or didn't have funds to pay, the condominium development could sell off her condominium unit to satisfy the debt (assuming the condo wasn't underwater on the mortgage.)
In your mother's case, if the time-share does not have much value but the annual fees are high relative to the value, if she stops paying those fees, the late fees and other charges may quickly rise to be above the value of the time-share. At some point the time-share management company will have to proceed to take action against your mother.
The time-share company could seize the time-share to satisfy the debt, or it could also sue your mom for her failure to pay the expenses she owes on the time-share. If they sued your mom, she would have to defend the action in court and incur those expenses. And if she lost, her other assets would be at risk.
While the time-share management company may decide to simply take the time-share interest for the amount that's owed, your mom might want to talk to an attorney before she simply decides to stop making payments to the time-share company. Even if the time-share company decided not to sue your mom, they could simply transfer the file to a collection company to collect what it could from your mother. Your best option is to see what you can get for the time-share now while you still control it.
Finally, if your mom dies, the time-share company can't go after the beneficiaries of her estate, but if her estate has assets at the time of her death, those assets need to be used to satisfy her debts -- and one of her debts would be to the time-share company.
If she dies without any assets in her name, the time-share company would be unable to get anything from her estate and should not be able to get anything from her family. If she purchased the time-share in her name, her debts do not pass on to her heirs.
(Ilyce R. Glink's latest book is "Buy, Close, Move In!" If you have questions, you can call her radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday, from 11a-1p EST. Contact Ilyce through her Web site, www.thinkglink.com.)