No Rent Gouging: Ordinance, $20,000 Fines in Effect
LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (October 20, 2017) – The Lake County Board of Supervisors and County staff are working alongside Sulphur Fire Survivors and the entire Lake County Community, seeking to ensure that unfair treatment and business practices do not compound the disastrous effects of wildfire.
In the wake of the Rocky, Jerusalem, Valley, and Clayton Fires of 2015 and 2016, the County received reports of rent gouging; property owners significantly raising rents or even evicting tenants in order to take advantage of reduced housing supply and lucrative insurance reimbursements.
Housing costs increased for many Lake County residents, only some of whom had lost homes to wildfire.
California Penal Code Section 396 provides consumer protections during a declared State of Emergency or Local Emergency. The law provides that prices of essential goods, including housing, must not be raised to a level greater than 10% above the average market price in the period immediately before the disaster, unless those increases are directly related to a business owner’s actual increased costs.
On October 17, 2017, the Lake County Board of Supervisors acted strongly on behalf of Lake County residents, unanimously passing Ordinance No. 3067. The language of this Ordinance builds upon Penal Code Section 396, making it unlawful to evict an existing tenant in order to rent a dwelling unit, in the unincorporated areas of Lake County, for more than the “average retail price.” Average retail price for housing is the rental price for the dwelling unit during the thirty-day period immediately preceding the State of Emergency.
Violation of Ordinance No. 3067 is a misdemeanor, punishable by fine, up to $20,000. Violation of California Penal Code Section 396 may also result in up to one year in jail, a fine of $10,000 or both.
Such violations can also lead to civil enforcement action. Unlawful business practices and acts of unfair competition can warrant additional penalties of up to $6,000 per violation.
Reports of violations will be forwarded to the District Attorney for investigation.
County Administrative Officer Carol J. Huchingson reminds, "We are a close-knit community. When one person is impacted, the echoes and consequences are felt by us all. We need to face the Sulphur Fire as we have all recent disasters; together, as one Lake County community.”
Adds District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown, “As we respond together, landlords have to do their part."