Watchdog Group: Homeowners Gouging S.A. Final Four Visitors on Home Rentals

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The college basketball championship will bring tens of thousands of fans to San Antonio this year, but when they start booking their trip, many will be hit by sticker shock, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

All of those fans, plus the media, will need someplace to stay when they're not at the Alamodome.  The hottest trend in travel is the use of short term rentals instead of a hotel.  But a scan of the popular website AirBNB shows some of the people renting rooms have jacked up the price.

"We've seen price increases up to nearly 16-hundred percent of what an AirBNB would charge on a normal night," Lauren Windsor with AirBNB Watch says.  "Normally charging $119, but during the Final Four, charging $1,999."

The price hikes in San Antonio are similar to other hikes during the Superbowl in Minnesota and Mardi gras in New Orleans.  Windsor says it's a buzzkill for fans, and damages the city's welcoming reputation.

"Permitting their ‘hosts’ - who many times -- let’s be honest - are real estate professionals - to raise rent by these astronomical rates is a very worrisome precedent that Airbnb is setting at widely attended events," she said.

She's found cases where landlords kick out long time renters because they're finding that they can make more money by running what she calls illegal hotels.

These cases of price gouging come as the city debates how to regulate short term rentals.

Casey Whittington, who sits on the San Antonio Planning Commission, expects surge pricing to be part of the talks.

"In times of disaster, government entities should absolutely protect against gouging, however the Final Four is a luxury and discretionary expense, and the market will support what the market demands. In the case of short term rentals, I do not think the city should be setting price ceilings." 

The current proposal is heavy on making sure homes being rented to visitors are safe.  Floorplans are needed, in case of a fire. 

 There also needs to be a General Liability Insurance policy with minimum limits of 500k.

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