Health clubs and gyms
Choosing a health club
Before you sign a contract to join a health club, do a little research to be sure no one is cheating you. The Attorney General advises you to educate yourself by visiting or calling at least two other health clubs to learn about:
- how much membership costs and when you will have to pay dues
- operating hours
- variety and frequency of classes
- your ability to use multiple locations
Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics or feel obligated to sign a contract immediately:
- Tell the health club representative you want time to think about joining the club.
- Ask for free passes to determine if the club is right for you.
- Talk to other members and ask for their feedback.
New York’s Health Club Services Act
Because of deceptive practices in health clubs, the New York State legislature passed the New York Health Club Services Act to protect consumers like you. The act covers contracts for instruction or training in bodybuilding, exercising, weight reduction and figure development, martial arts (including judo, karate, and self-defense), tennis and racquetball, and other types of physical training, as well as spas.
Keep the following important protections in mind as you consider a contract:
- Your contract cannot exceed $3,600 per year (excluding tennis and racquetball facilities).
- Your contract cannot be for a term longer than 36 months.
- You must be able to cancel your contract within three days of signing it.
- You must be able to cancel your contract at any time for any of the following reasons. The health club must include these terms in your contract. It must refund you within 15 days of your cancellation for any of these reasons:
- The health club stops offering the services stated in the contract.
- You move 25 or more miles away from any health club operated by the seller.
- Your significant physical disability, according to a doctor's order, prevents you from receiving the services as stated in the contract for more than six months.
- Your health club cannot assign your contract to another club elsewhere without your written consent.
To protect members who prepay for their memberships, health clubs must file a bond or other type of financial security with the Secretary of State in case the club closes:
- Clubs must mention this bond in all their contracts and must post about the bond in their facilities.
- Clubs do not have to meet this requirement if they do not offer pre-paid memberships, or if payments do not exceed $150, memberships do not exceed one year, and the contract does not contain an automatic renewal provision.
Check whether a club is bonded by doing any of the following:
- Call 518-474-4429
- Fax 518-474-3795
- Write to New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services, P.O. Box 22001, Albany NY 12201-2001
Any contract that does not comply with the New York Health Club Services Act is void and unenforceable. If you believe your health club has violated the act, you can sue in small claims court. if your lawsuit is successful, you could receive up to three times the actual damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees.