As the Kincade fire and others rage across the state, Governor Newsom declared of a state of emergency. Today (10/27/19), California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a consumer alert reminding all Californians that price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal under Penal Code Section 396.
“Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food, and other essential supplies. I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint through my Office’s website or call (800) 952-5225,” Becerra wrote in a press release issued Sunday.
Included in this ban is a protection against rent increases over 10%. The prohibition on price gouging ordinarily lasts 30 days from the declaration but can be extended by the Governor or locally. Additionally, “an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make such a declaration” at the local level can declare a state of emergency triggering the price gouging law, and renew it for 30 days at a time. Tenant advocates are encouraging urging local government officials impacted directly or indirectly by the fire displacement to pass such declarations.
Tenants who face rent increases over 10% in areas where the state of emergency has been declared should seek help immediately. Statewide, renters with questions can call the Tenants Together Hotline at (888) 495-8020. San Francisco tenants can reach out to any of the counseling clinics on our resources page.
Recent fires have exacerbated the existing housing crisis statewide. In the aftermath of the 2017 Santa Rosa fires, rents soared despite similar temporary price gouging protections. Homelessness increased, and an estimated 7,000 people (4% of the population) had to leave the city. Undocumented renters and low income people were particularly hard hit. The devastating Paradise fire had a similar impact in Butte County, and advocates fear the impacts of the unprecedented 2019 fires.