Gov. Gavin Newsom this past weekend declared a wildfire emergency in Siskiyou County, activating protections against price gouging that include limits on rent increases.
The declaration, made Saturday, July 30, came in response to the fast-growing McKinney Fire in Northern California’s Klamath National Forest, as well as the merging of the China 2 and Evans fires. The price-gouging restrictions are slated to expire Aug. 29.
Earlier last week, Newsom declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County in response to the Oak Fire raging near Yosemite National Park. The price-gouging restrictions tied to that fire are set to expire Aug. 22. In both fires, the protections against price gouging can be extended.
The governor’s emergency proclamations trigger Penal Code Section 396, which makes it illegal to increase the price of many consumer goods and services, including that of rental housing, by more than 10% above pre-emergency levels. The anti-price-gouging protections against rent-gouging apply to existing tenants and to rent increases at unit turnover.
Keep in mind that even if a county doesn’t have an emergency declared by the governor, it may be subject to a local emergency declaration issued by a city or county, which can also trigger the limitations of the anti-price-gouging statute.
Enforcement of the state’s price-gouging ban does not stop at the county line. California’s attorney general has interpreted the price-gouging law to apply anywhere in the state with an increased consumer demand resulting from the 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.