House renting for SXSW? Here’s what you need to know

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

It’s that time of year again: the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) film, interactive, and music festival and conference is March 13-22.

Thousands of people are about to descend upon Austin with their badges, cameras, and unbridled enthusiasm to explore every inch of our city. Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin has some advice for Austin locals and those coming to town about renting homes.

Many Austinites opt to excuse themselves from the madness by conveniently going out of town during SXSW. Some of those individuals take full advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit by listing their homes on vacation rental sites, allowing them to both enjoy some quiet from the crowds as well as make a few extra bucks. But you have to make sure to follow city rules first.

The Vacation Rental Licensing Program is cracking down on those that have not applied for a vacation rental license. The application requires a $285.00 application fee plus proof of payment of a hotel occupancy tax.

For those looking to rent, be wary of online classified ads promising a low cost rental. Some scammers will use fake pictures to lure unsuspecting renters into a good deal, asking for an upfront wire transfer deposit. It’s not until the renter arrives at the property that they find out that it has already been occupied-so now they’re not only out the money they wired, but also a place to stay.

There are more secure ways of finding a vacation rental rather than just finding an online ad. Legitimate websites exist to protect renters by providing secure payment solutions, visitor comment sections and rating systems.

For those who are looking to rent a room or residence in Austin, BBB offers the following tips:

Be wary if the deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced. If the rental comes in suspiciously low, consider walking away.

Ask for additional photos or information. Request more photos of the property, or ask to be given a virtual tour via webcam. Ask for specific details about the house. Legitimate property owners will be happy to oblige.

Never wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve. Once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse, if any, for getting any money back.

Don’t rent if you feel pressured.  If you receive a phone call or email pressuring you to make a decision on the spot for a rental. Ignore it and move on, don’t be conned into making hasty decisions.

For more tips like this, check out your local