Memberships in clubs are legally enforceable contracts. The club provides a service or facility to you for your enjoyment, and you agree to pay for the service or use of the facility in advance. Usually, payments are made monthly for an extended period of time. Typically, clubs offer something you can't buy on your own, such as a golf course, a pool, or a gym full of exercise equipment.
Some States Limit Provisions
Some states laws limit the amount that clubs can charge you, and for how long. Laws may cap dues over the life of the membership term, such as no more than $4,500 over the course of a three-year contract or agreement. There must be an end date in the contract. Clubs usually can't hold you contractually for the rest of your life with "lifetime" memberships, at least not if membership costs you anything.
Clubs Have Legal Obligations
In exchange for your dues, clubs must deliver and maintain the facilities or equipment promised in the membership agreement. New health clubs and country clubs usually have about six months to open from the date you sign an agreement with them. If they miss the deadline, you can legally cancel your contract. If your country club offers an indoor swimming pool at the time you sign up, it can't remove the pool and install an indoor driving range in that area instead. If it does, you can cancel your contract.
You Can Sometimes Break Agreements
You usually have a short period of time to change your mind after you sign a membership contract, but the period may be as little as three days. Under your state's law, the club may not be able to hold you to the term of your contract if you become disabled and can't use the equipment, but you'll probably have to prove your disability with a physician's report. If you move out of the area, usually 25 miles or more, you may be able to break your contract as well.
You Might Waive Certain Rights
Your membership agreement might include certain waivers. This is particularly true with recreational clubs, such as gyms or golf clubs. If you suffer an injury while using the facilities, you typically can't sue the club. You may relinquish the right of mailing a check each month by authorized the club to debit your account for your dues. Some country clubs will renew your membership automatically at the end of its term and make the corresponding debit to your account. It's up to you to notify the club in advance if you don't want to renew. Otherwise, you might find yourself locked in for another membership term.
A Consumer Law Attorney Can Help
The law surrounding club memberships is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a consumer law attorney.