Any questions: Legal

Monday, May 30, 2011

Any questions: Legal

We cannot afford the final payment due on our terraced bungalow in Spain, which is €128,000 (£113K) including all fees. The developer has not defaulted in any way and I've been in touch with them on numerous occasions to see if they could give our money back without going through the courts. However, all they do is tell me to get a lawyer but we cannot afford to pay out €5,000-€10,000 (£4,420-£8,850) for this. Also, I understand the value of the property has fallen to around €98K (£87K) - we bought in June 2007. Any advice welcome.

This is a very common situation at the moment as many people's circumstances have changed since they entered into a contract to buy an off-plan property. I note that you say that there has been no fault by the developer. Assuming that this is the case and also assuming that the contract is legally valid then I am afraid that you are in difficulty and have very few options available to you.

If you have signed a legally valid contract then you have omitted to buy the property and if you don't then there are consequences associated with this. I haven't seen your contract and therefore can't tell you what these consequences could be but they could range from you losing the deposit that you have already paid to being forced to complete and paying damages.

In the past developers were happier to let buyers pull out - after all, that allowed them to keep the deposit paid and then sell to somebody else at a higher price, therefore making even more money. With fewer buyers and prices having come down, developers need to hold on to all the buyers that they can so will make it more difficult for you to come out of a contract that you have signed.

My advice would be to go and speak to a lawyer so that they can assess your contract. Your lawyer will be able to look at the contract and tell you whether there is a way out of it and, if not, what the implications are. If you can't get out of the contract and you only lose a percentage of the deposit paid then this is a very different situation to being forced to complete.

Similarly there may be something in the contract that your lawyer can use to get you out of the contract completely. You need to understand what the implications are so that you can discuss what, if anything, you can do about this situation.

I currently own Timeshare, which I have been trying to get rid of for some time due to the increasing maintenance fees and the low value of my weeks. I have now been approached by a company telling me that if I buy a couple of more weeks' Timeshare, I can convert it into "Fractional freehold", which will have a proper value and get me out of Timeshare. I don't quite understand how this works but am keen to investigate the options as I wish to get rid of my Timeshare. Any information would be welcome.

The first thing to say is that there are quite a few scams that have arisen from Timeshare over the years. More recently these scams have concentrated on targeting people who wish to sell or dispose of Timeshare.

If you are in contact with a company about getting rid of your Timeshare, there are certain things that should ring alarm bells to you and make you wonder whether it is a scam:

1. Did the company contact you out of the blue? If they did, how did they get your details and ask yourself how they knew you were trying to get rid of your Timeshare?

2. Does the deal sound too good to be true?

3. Have they asked for payment upfront, even though you are being told they have a buyer for your Timeshare? And if there is upfront payment due, does the reason for this sound strange?

4. Are you being persuaded to "upgrade", buy more Timeshare or buy another product?

If one or more of the above is the case then the offer is generally a scam. My advice is to walk away from the offer that you have been given. In your particular case you are being told that buying some more weeks converts your Timeshare into a different product. This is partially true but what will happen in reality is that you will simply compound your problem and end up with more weeks and more maintenance fees. The confusion comes because Timeshare is a way of owning a fraction of a property. The concept of Fractional ownership is basically the same but the products offered under it are very different.

Timeshare could be regarded as a form of Fractional ownership but Fractional ownership is not necessarily Timeshare - one is a subset of the other. Generally Fractional ownership is sold responsibly whereas Timeshare often isn't. Therefore Timeshare salesmen have latched on to the concept of Fractional Ownership in order to give a veneer of respectability to their dealings, which is what appears to be happening in your case.

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