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'Expect damage': Regina couple watch police raid their Airbnb on doorbell camera

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A Regina couple who own an Airbnb received a surprising phone call from police last Wednesday alerting them their property was about to be raided.

“We got a phone call from SWAT asking us if we were the property owners, we told them yes," Tara Van Sichem said.

"They said basically we have reason to believe that arrests will be made and basically that we’re going in and to 'expect damages.'"

Van Sichem said the call from the police came three days into a 10-day booking at the Airbnb property.

They later saw officers in body armour slowly stalk past their doorbell camera with their guns drawn.

The couple shared the video on their Instagram account Van Show Homes, along with images of the aftermath of the raid on social media.

Van Sichem said the booking request for the home came from a woman and was initially supposed to be for two people coming to Regina to visit family.

“When they checked in though we could see on the doorbell camera that it was actually four younger gentlemen that checked in which didn’t match the booking but we were okay with it and I guess we didn’t really know what to do,” she said

The couple arrived at their Airbnb property the morning after the raid and found significant damage.

“The place was almost completely torn apart,” Van Sichem said. “All the windows were smashed, tear gas was used for the raid and the whole place was completely turned over.”

(Tara Van Sichem)

Van Sichem said they were told by Regina police that officers found weapons, drugs and cash.

Supt. Darcy Koch with the Regina Police Service said following a risk assessment they learned of possible illegal drug activity at the property.

“Our risk assessment came through and the request for SWAT was made and they carried out an operation there,” Koch said.

Koch did not have specifics but believed four people were arrested following the operation.

“At the end of the day, I guess you’re just left to clean up, the police are not responsible for any of the damages, so now we’re just piecing that together," Van Sichem added.

Van Sichem said she and her husband have submitted a claim to Airbnb —which covers guest-related damage in some instances —and are hopeful they won't be on the hook for the damage.

(Tara Van Sichem)

“We have heard from other people with Airbnb properties that have similar stories that they did get coverage and everything was fine,” she said, adding that she's heard the process can take some time.

Van Sichem said they have been offering the home on Airbnb for about six months and the couple believes that what happened to them is a rare occurrence.

According to Koch, the increased availability of Airbnb and Vrbo rentals in Regina attracts more people to the city and in-turn the possibility of more criminal activity.

“Not only does it attract people for vacation and recreation but it also attracts others, we think this criminal activity occurs in these places, but at the same time it can also occur in hotels,” he said.

“The difference we see is that in hotels you have front desk clerks, security and you have doors that lock at night, in Vrbo and Airbnb places you’re given the keys and you can carry on with whatever business you like.”

Koch says Airbnb and Vrbo have good security protocols in place. However, owners can further protect themselves from potential criminal activity by something as simple as asking more questions.

“If things don’t seem right there’s a reason,” he said. “If you ask a lot of questions, I believe this lady had a doorbell camera and was expecting two guests but four showed up – right away start asking questions about that.”

Van Sichem said due to the damage, she doesn't expect they'll be ready to offer the home on Airbnb again until the new year.

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