Timeshare Sales: Disclosure requirements, cooling-off periods, contract terms

Discover key timeshare sales regulations, including cooling-off periods and disclosure requirements. Learn about buyer rights and seller responsibilities to make informed decisions in the complex world of timeshare ownership.


Timeshare sales have become a significant part of the vacation and property ownership landscape, offering consumers the opportunity to purchase the right to use a property for a specified period each year. However, the complex nature of these transactions and the high-pressure sales tactics often employed have led to stringent regulations governing timeshare sales. This article explores the key aspects of timeshare sales regulations, focusing on disclosure requirements, cooling-off periods, and contract terms.

The importance of understanding these regulations cannot be overstated. For consumers, knowledge of their rights can protect them from making hasty decisions they may later regret. For sellers, compliance with these regulations is crucial to avoid legal repercussions and maintain ethical business practices. As the timeshare industry continues to evolve, staying informed about these legal protections is essential for all parties involved.

The regulation of timeshare sales in the United States has its roots in broader consumer protection laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has played a pivotal role in establishing and enforcing rules to protect consumers in various sales contexts, including timeshares.

One of the most significant developments in this area was the implementation of the FTC's Cooling-Off Rule. This rule, which has been in effect for several decades, was designed to give consumers a period of reflection after making certain types of purchases, including those made through door-to-door sales.

Over time, individual states have also enacted their own laws and regulations specific to timeshare sales, often providing additional protections beyond federal requirements. These state-level regulations have been instrumental in addressing the unique challenges posed by timeshare sales, which often occur in vacation settings where consumers may be more susceptible to high-pressure tactics.

Federal Regulations

At the federal level, the primary regulation governing timeshare sales is the FTC's Cooling-Off Rule. This rule provides consumers with a three-day right to cancel certain sales made at their home, workplace, dormitory, or at a seller's temporary location, such as a hotel or convention center. The rule applies to sales of $25 or more and requires sellers to provide specific disclosures to buyers.

The FTC's official guidance states that the Cooling-Off Rule mandates sellers to inform buyers orally and in writing of their right to cancel the sale within three business days. This information must be provided at the time of sale, along with two copies of the cancellation form and a copy of the contract or receipt.

State Regulations

While the federal Cooling-Off Rule provides a baseline of protection, many states have enacted more stringent regulations specific to timeshare sales. For example, Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. s. 707.47) provides a 5-day cooling-off period for timeshare purchases, which is longer than the federal requirement.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, if there is no cooling-off period in the state where the timeshare is located, Wisconsin's 5-day period applies to any sale made in Wisconsin. This illustrates how state laws can offer additional protections to consumers beyond federal regulations.

Key Components of Timeshare Sales Regulations

Disclosure Requirements

Timeshare sellers are typically required to provide comprehensive disclosures to potential buyers. These disclosures often include:

  1. A detailed description of the property and the specific rights being purchased
  2. Information about any fees, including maintenance fees and property taxes
  3. Explanation of the buyer's right to cancel the contract
  4. Details about the cooling-off period and how to exercise the right to cancel
  5. Information about any restrictions on the use or transfer of the timeshare

Cooling-Off Periods

The cooling-off period is a crucial component of timeshare sales regulations. Key aspects include:

  1. Duration: While the federal rule provides for a 3-day period, some states offer longer periods. For instance, as mentioned earlier, Wisconsin provides a 5-day cooling-off period.
  2. Calculation of days: The cooling-off period typically begins on the day the contract is signed and includes all calendar days, not just business days.
  3. Method of cancellation: Buyers must usually provide written notice of cancellation within the specified period. Some states may require this notice to be sent by certified mail.
  4. Refund requirements: Sellers are generally required to refund any payments made by the buyer within a specified timeframe after receiving the cancellation notice.

Contract Terms

Timeshare contracts must adhere to specific legal requirements, which may include:

  1. Clear language: Contracts must be written in clear, understandable language.
  2. Full disclosure: All material terms of the agreement must be included in the contract.
  3. Cancellation rights: The contract must clearly state the buyer's right to cancel and the procedure for doing so.
  4. Fees and charges: All fees, including recurring charges, must be clearly outlined.
  5. Use restrictions: Any limitations on the use or transfer of the timeshare must be explicitly stated.

Rights and Responsibilities

Buyer's Rights

Timeshare buyers have several important rights under federal and state laws:

  1. Right to accurate information: Sellers are prohibited from making false or misleading statements about the timeshare property or the terms of sale.
  2. Right to cancel: As discussed, buyers have the right to cancel the contract within the cooling-off period without penalty.
  3. Right to disclosures: Buyers are entitled to receive all required disclosures before making a purchase decision.
  4. Right to a fair contract: The terms of the timeshare contract must be fair and in compliance with applicable laws.

Seller's Responsibilities

Timeshare sellers have numerous legal obligations:

  1. Provide accurate information: Sellers must not engage in deceptive or misleading practices.
  2. Deliver required disclosures: All mandated disclosures must be provided to potential buyers in the prescribed manner and timeframe.
  3. Honor cancellation rights: Sellers must respect the buyer's right to cancel within the cooling-off period and promptly refund any payments made.
  4. Comply with contract requirements: The timeshare contract must meet all legal requirements and fairly represent the terms of the agreement.

Common Issues and Challenges

Despite regulatory protections, timeshare sales continue to present challenges for consumers and regulators alike:

  1. High-pressure sales tactics: Some sellers may use aggressive techniques to push buyers into making quick decisions, potentially circumventing the spirit of disclosure requirements.
  2. Complex contracts: Timeshare agreements can be lengthy and complex, making it difficult for consumers to fully understand their commitments.
  3. Ongoing fees: Buyers may not fully appreciate the long-term financial obligations associated with timeshare ownership, including maintenance fees and special assessments.
  4. Difficulty in resale: Many timeshare owners find it challenging to sell their interests when they no longer wish to maintain ownership.
  5. Enforcement challenges: Regulators may face difficulties in enforcing regulations, particularly when sales occur across state or international borders.

Recent Developments or Proposed Changes

The regulatory landscape for timeshare sales continues to evolve. In 2015, the FTC published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on the Cooling-Off Rule. This review process aimed to ensure that the rule remains relevant and effective in light of changing market conditions and sales practices.

Some areas of focus for potential future regulations include:

  1. Enhanced disclosure requirements for online and remote timeshare sales
  2. Stricter regulations on timeshare resale companies
  3. Improved mechanisms for contract cancellation and dispute resolution
  4. Greater standardization of timeshare contracts across different jurisdictions

As the timeshare industry continues to adapt to changing consumer preferences and technological advancements, it is likely that regulations will also evolve to address new challenges and protect consumer interests.

Resources for Further Information

For those seeking additional information about timeshare sales regulations, the following resources may be helpful:

  1. Federal Trade Commission - Cooling-Off Rule: Provides detailed information about the federal Cooling-Off Rule and its application to various types of sales.
  2. State Consumer Protection Offices: Offers links to state-specific consumer protection agencies, which can provide information on local timeshare regulations.
  3. American Resort Development Association (ARDA): While an industry association, ARDA provides resources on timeshare regulations and best practices.
  4. National Association of Attorneys General: Offers information on consumer protection issues, including timeshare regulations, from a law enforcement perspective.

Understanding the complexities of timeshare sales regulations is crucial for both consumers and industry professionals. By staying informed about disclosure requirements, cooling-off periods, and contract terms, all parties can navigate the timeshare market more effectively and ensure compliance with applicable laws.

About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

Counsel Stack Learn

Free and helpful legal information

Find a Lawyer
Counsel Stack Learn

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Counsel Stack Learn.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.