Gov. Brown extends ban on price-gouging to six months
Rent increases limited to 10 percent
Under an executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown, protections against price-gouging in the wake of the North Bay fires — including rent increases over 10 percent — will be in effect until at least April of next year.
The ban on price gouging, which originally had a 30-day time limit, is now in effect until April 18, 2018.
The state’s anti-price gouging law went into effect earlier this month after the president and governor issued a state of emergency in California.
These protections prohibit raising the price of many consumer goods and services, including that of rental housing, by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared.
Protections under California’s anti-price-gouging law are not restricted to the city or county where the disaster occurred. The aim is to prevent price gouging anywhere in the state with an increased consumer demand resulting from the declared emergency. State or local officials can extend disaster declarations for additional 30-day periods after the initial declaration expires.
Because the price-gouging law does not set clear parameters for determining where the price controls apply, rent increases exceeding 10 percent — anywhere in California — may constitute price gouging while the declaration is in effect. Members who are unsure whether the price controls apply to their property should seek the advice of an attorney before implementing any increase of more than 10 percent. The California Apartment Association has asked members to refrain from raising rents at all during this state of emergency.
Anyone convicted of violating the statewide anti-price-gouging law can face a year in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, as well as civil penalties. Local ordinances may impose additional penalties.
Local governments also take on price gouging
On Tuesday, the city of Santa Rosa passed an anti-price gouging ordinance which is more restrictive than the state’s own ban on the practice.
This ordinance bases the 10 percent price cap on the amount charged for each particular housing unit immediately prior to the city’s Oct. 9 declaration of emergency.
The ordinance also bars landlords from charging an incoming tenant rent higher than that charged immediately prior to Oct. 9 if the previous tenant of the unit was evicted, regardless of the reason for the eviction.
The ordinance does make an exception to these prohibitions when the amount of an increase is directly attributable to additional costs for labor and materials. CAA recommends consulting with an attorney prior to making such a rent increase. All rental units in the city of Santa Rosa, including single-family homes and new construction, are subject to the ordinance.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors considered a similar ordinance but tabled the matter after the district attorney expressed concerns that the ordinance might interfere with her ability to prosecute violators under state law.
In Lake County, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance barring landlords from evicting tenants to raise rent on particular unit to a higher rate than that charged immediately before Oct. 9. This ordinance applies to all rental units in the unincorporated areas of the county.
- Sonoma County and Santa Rosa approve measures to improve housing availability (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Oct. 24)
- Fines in effect for rent gouging (Record-Bee, Oct. 23)
- With 5% of its housing destroyed by fire, Santa Rosa faces wrenching questions about its future (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24)
- They survived the California fires. Now, the crisis is finding housing (CNN, Oct. 21)
- Got housing? How you can help fire refugees in the North Bay (San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 21)