Brexit hasn’t just made driving in Europe a little less convenient. There are consequences for timeshare owners too.
Here’s what leaving the European Union (EU) means for UK timeshare owners, and what to be aware of if you’re considering a timeshare at home or abroad.
What is a timeshare?
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when timeshares were at their peak. They were actively (and often aggressively) sold during the 1980s and 1990s. It’s estimated that there are between 500,000 and 600,000 timeshare owners in the UK.
A timeshare is essentially a product that allows you to stay somewhere overnight for more than one period. It can apply to one or more places of overnight accommodation too. Contracts also need to last for more than a year.
Holiday clubs can also count as timeshares. These typically give you discounts or member benefits with certain resorts or apartments.
Currently, the most popular destination for British timeshare owners is Spain, accounting for nearly half of the market. One quarter (25%) are outside Europe and 20% of timeshares are in the UK.
How has Brexit affected timeshares?
Brexit’s effect on your timeshare will depend on who your contract is with and where your timeshare accommodation is located.
If your timeshare’s in the UK and your contract is with a UK-based firm, then nothing will change. You’ll be bound by the terms of your contract but you can appeal any clauses you consider unfair in a UK court.
It’s essentially the same if you have a contract with a UK firm but for timeshare accommodation in Europe. So long as the timeshare company is in the UK, your contract will be governed by British law, even post-Brexit.
However, if your timeshare contract is with an EU-based company, it’s a bit more complicated and your contract will be bound by the law where the firm is based.
Why is this Brexit change important?
Before Brexit, UK and EU consumer laws were harmonised, so rules governing timeshares were broadly in line. British timeshare owners also had the right to enforce their UK consumer rights within the EU. But this isn’t the case anymore.
Now, if you challenge a clause in your contract and a UK court rules in your favour, getting that decision acknowledged in the EU, against an EU business, could be a lot harder.
This might not seem like a big deal. After all, it makes sense that a contract with, say, a Spanish firm will be subject to Spanish law. The problem is that despite having lots of rules and regulations, the timeshare market still throws up some problems that are tricky (and expensive) to resolve. And with Brexit, trying to resolve those problems is now even harder.
What to be aware of when buying timeshares post Brexit
Most timeshare problems revolve around the same few issues. So, if you’re thinking about signing a contract with an EU company, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into.
It’s worth knowing that under EU law, your contract must be written in your own language (if it’s an official EU contract). You also have a 14-day cooling-off period. This can be longer if you’re not given all the information straight away.
There are a few common timeshare issues to watch for.
Hefty maintenance fees are a big problem for many timeshare owners, as is a lack of transparency over how they’re calculated.
Check you’re happy with the resale process. Some timeshare firms make it purposely difficult for you to sell your share, often with high transfer fees. You may also be told to sell through a particular agent.
A number of timeshare contracts come with ‘in-perpetuity’ clauses. This means you’re bound for life and cannot sell your timeshare in your lifetime. Some contracts go a step further and are bound to your estate. These contracts mean even after your death, your estate is responsible for paying maintenance fees.
Even before Brexit, timeshare scams were a problem. Although it’s easy to get caught out whilst you’re on holiday and your guard is down, remember, if a seller’s promises seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Where to get help with timeshares
If you’ve been mis-sold a timeshare, or feel you were pressured into buying one, you can contact Citizens Advice on their consumer helpline. You can also contact EUROC.org, which supports owners of European timeshares.
And don’t forget that if you are planning a holiday, you can save money on fees with these top travel credit cards. If you are mis-sold a timeshare, these cards can also help to protect you under Section 75 regulations.
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