Not easy getting rid of your timeshare

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(3TV/CBS 5) -

A timeshare lets people own a piece of vacation property, but it can be difficult to get out of them. Now, there are companies that promise to help you exit your timeshare agreement for a fee, but not all of them deliver.

"You go there to ski and that's it," Gary Newton said.

For Newton, getting rid of his Lake Tahoe timeshare has been an uphill battle.

"There's no resale market," Newton said.

He's tried selling it, even giving it back to the vacation resort, and finally decided to pay a timeshare exit company $3,600 to get rid of it.

"And the deal was they would initiate the process; they would give me an update every month," Newton said.

The agreement promised a "safe and secure transfer strategy," that "usually takes three to nine months." But a year-and-a-half later, Newton was still waiting.

"It's been 18 months with really nothing," Newton said.

And he's not alone in his timeshare exit troubles. According to timeshare website Red Week at least 1.15 million timeshare owners want out.

"It is possible you could be stuck with it - forever," Wayne Bell said.

Bell is the California Real Estate Commissioner. He warns a glut of properties, and owner's desperate to get rid of them, has created easy prey for unscrupulous timeshare exit companies.

"We want consumers to stay away from companies that aren't licensed, who make bold promises, who charge money up front. The upfront fees are really a huge indicator of fraud," Bell said.

CBS News asked Bell to examine the agreement Newton signed which the commissioner says appears "intentionally vague."

"If you can't explain what they're going to be doing, you definitely don't want to give them money," Bell said.

Tired of waiting, Newton contacted CBS News and they reached out to the company, which agreed to refund his money; leaving Newton right back where he started - stuck with a timeshare he doesn't want and yearly maintenance fees he can't get rid of.

The timeshare industry trade association advises owners who want to get out of their timeshare to first contact the resort or developer directly and try to work out an exit solution.

They also advise never pay an up-front fee to anyone offering to help get you out of a timeshare. Like any other real estate transaction, any fees should always be paid after the sale; at the closing.

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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