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Q. While married, my then-husband and I purchased a timeshare. Our sales agreement and deed said "Week 41," but the timeshare folks recorded it as "Week 39." In our divorce neither of us wanted it and it was not awarded to either of us in our divorce decree. We both agreed to transfer the property to my children, but the Town Clerk said that I could not since I did not own the property I had the deed to. Now the timeshare people have turned our two years worth of non-payment of maintenance fees to a collection agency. I can't transfer it, I can't sell it, I don't want it. How can we walk away without hurting our credit? Can I ask for our money back since the timeshare company sold us something they did not own?
A. Your best bet at this point is to contact the developer or resort company, says Howard Nusbaum, president and CEO of the American Resort Development Association. They may be able to correct the mistake made when the deed was recorded. If that doesn't work, take a look at your original closing documents. They should list the name of the title insurance company that was used when your interest in the timeshare was purchased. "The title insurance company should be able to assist in resolving any title issues," says Nusbaum.
Finally, about that credit score: You should never stop paying maintenance fees on a timeshare. Not only are they part of the deal you signed, but it's your obligation to help maintain the property and pay real estate taxes – both of which come out of those fees. Those fees are paid to the homeowner's association, which is made up of other owners just like yourself, not the developer or management company. Not paying, says Nusbaum, "could not only jeopardize your credit rating but also compromise your ownership use rights under the contract."
In fact, you may even find that outstanding maintenance fees prevent you from transferring the timeshare. If that's the case, you'll have to make good before you can sell it or transfer it to your children. You should also pull your credit report, if you haven't recently, to see just how – and if – this is showing up. You can do that for free at annualcreditreport.com.
Consumer Ally problem solver Jean Chatzky is the "Today Show" financial advisor, a longtime financial journalist and best-selling author.
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