Prosecutors Charge Novato Landlord with Price Gouging

News and updates related to PG&E and the Sonoma County Fires

Landlord Charged With Price Gouging

April 27, 2018
In the first prosecution of its kind to arise out of the devastating North Bay Fires of October 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced April 23 that a Novato real estate agent is being charged with three misdemeanors under the state’s anti-price-gouging statue for allegedly imposing an illegal rent hike just days after the fires. In a related move, California Governor Jerry Brown extended the price-gouging ban—which was set to expire April 25—through December 4, 2018.

In what would amount to, if true, a particularly blatant example of price gouging, real estate agent Melissa “Missy” Echeverria, 54, is accused of hiking the rent on her rental home 80% from $5,000 per month to $9,000 per month. The maximum penalty for price gouging is a $10,000 fine and one year in prison.

California’s anti-price-gouging law—found in Penal Code Section 396—makes it illegal in most instances to raise the price of goods or services more than 10% for a certain time period following declaration of a state of emergency, such as was declared for the North Bay Fires. The statute typically applies for 30 days following the emergency, but this time period can be extended, as Governor Brown has chosen to do multiple times due to the extended recovery time required for the building of replacement housing stock.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, the anti-price-gouging statute applies to:

  • Lodging, including rental housing, hotels, and motels
  • Food and drink (including for animals)
  • Emergency supplies such as water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers
  • Medical supplies such as prescription and nonprescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products

  • “In times of crisis, the overwhelming majority of Californians do what is right,” read a statement issued by Attorney General Becerra. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There are some unscrupulous individuals who engage in price gouging, taking advantage of those who are already suffering. It’s wrong, it’s unconscionable, and it’s illegal.”

    If you or someone you know has been a victim of the North Bay Fires, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experience team of attorneys at today for a free consultation!


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