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Guests with suspected gang ties using short-term rentals in B.C. community, RCMP warn

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Short-term rental hosts in Prince George, B.C., have been urged to "exercise caution" following reports of gangsters booking stays – and in some cases refusing to vacate the properties.

The Prince George RCMP said there have been several incidents over recent months in which short-term rental hosts have discovered their guests were involved in gang activity.

Cpl. Jennifer Cooper, spokesperson for the detachment, said in some cases the alleged gangsters have stayed past their check-out date, or otherwise broke the terms of the rental agreement, creating tense situations for the hosts involved.

"They do live a violent lifestyle if they're involved in gang activity," Cooper said. "So it's not someone the average citizen is maybe used to dealing with, or has the tools and resources to deal with, and that's when police have to get involved."

The warning comes weeks before the B.C. government's Short-Term Accommodations Act – which creates stricter rules for hosts of Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rental properties – is scheduled to take effect across the province.

The legislation includes a principal residence requirement for short-term rentals, meaning people will only be able to rent out the home where they live for the majority of the year. Renting out one secondary suite within a principal residence will also be allowed.

Cooper noted there are added risks to renting part of your primary residence to a gang affiliate.

"What we want people to be considering mostly is the level of violence that we see centred around those involved in criminal gang activity," she added. "If that's happening in your basement suite, that's going to add quite a bit of stress to you and your family life."

Prince George RCMP recommended hosts take extra precautions before accepting bookings, which could include checking if the prospective renter has a "history with the online platform," and if so, whether they have a positive rating.

The RCMP also encouraged hosts to search the renter's name on B.C.'s Court Services Online, which could reveal a criminal record.

Renters offering to pay with "large sums of cash," particularly for one or two months up front, is also considered a red flag, Cooper said. 

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