Memberships in clubs—like athletic clubs and country clubs—typically involve 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. Ordinarily, clubs offer something you can't buy on your own, like a golf course, a pool, or a gym full of exercise equipment.
Some States Limit Provisions
State law might limit the amount that a club can charge you, and for how long. Laws might 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.
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 generally have a certain amount of time, like six months, to open from the date you sign an agreement with them. If the club misses the deadline, you might be able to legally cancel your contract.
If your country club offers an indoor swimming pool at the time you sign up, it usually can't remove the pool and install an indoor driving range in that area instead. If it does, you can probably cancel your contract. (Learn more about getting out of a contract.)
You Can Sometimes Break Agreements
You might have a short period of time, for example three days, to change your mind after you sign a membership contract. Under your state's law, the club might 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, say 25 miles or more, you might 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, like gyms or golf clubs. If you suffer an injury while using the facilities, you typically waive your right to sue the club.
Automatic Membership Renewals
You might have authorized the club to debit your bank account for your dues. Some clubs will renew your membership automatically at the end of the 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.
Talk to an Attorney
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. If you want to find out if you can get out of a club membership contract or need information about your rights and responsibilities under this kind of contract, consider talking to a consumer protection attorney or contracts attorney to get detailed, specific information about your situation.