DON’T GET SCAMMED! How to Protect Yourself in the Vacation Rental Marketplace

In recent years, more and more fraudulent listings have appeared on third party vacation rental websites around the country such as HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, TripAdvisor and Airbnb.  These listings are “scraped” or extracted electronically from legitimate websites such as ours or the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales listings.  Guests show up on the island only to find out that they paid for a rental that does not exist or one that is not actually available for rental.  If this happens during the busiest times, you may not be able to find alternative accommodations once you arrive.  We have helped stranded visitors in this situation and will do our best to help if it ever happens to you.  But we would rather help you avoid this by providing the following tips to keep you from getting scammed:

  1. Rent from a reputable vacation rental management company like Padre Getaways who registers their properties with the City of South Padre Island. The City recently passed an ordinance that requires the registration of any property that is advertised for short term vacation rental.  This ordinance also requires that the rental owner or vacation rental manager provide a 24 hour emergency number for a representative within one hours reach of the island.  This protects you during your stay.  Guests now have a way to identify vacation rental properties that are reputable and in good standing with the City.  Look for the individual property registration number on any property before you agree to a rental.
  2. Call the Chamber of Commerce or South Padre Island Visitors Center to check the reputation of any vacation rental management company. You can also check the registration of individual  properties with the City of South Padre Island.
  3. Never agree to transfer cash or mail a check for your rental. Once you transfer cash you have no recourse should you later find that the rental is a scam.  A reputable vacation rental management company will require credit cards for payment to protect both you and them.
  4. Never rent from anyone who does not charge hotel occupancy tax. It is 14.5% in South Padre Island and is required by state and local law on any short term vacation rental.  If they don’t collect it and you don’t pay it, you are both breaking the law.  A property registered and in good standing with the City of South Padre Island must be in compliance with all regulations and laws.


Our Broker, Eleana Jones, is a member of the Hotel Occupancy Tax Task Force that developed this new ordinance and was active in moving this ordinance forward because we believe that this ordinance is great for the island, great for rental property owners and great for our rental guests.

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