Wildfire-related protections against rent gouging will remain in effect for at least the rest of 2020 for several California counties.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Dec. 23 extended price-gouging protections until Dec. 31, 2020, for the following counties: Butte, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Ventura.
The governor’s order keeps in effect 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.
Newsom’s office said the extended protections are intended to assist communities across the state recovering from devastating wildfires dating back to 2017.
Newsom’s order comes just days before the implementation of AB 1482, California’s new statewide rent cap. While AB 1482 mainly applies to multifamily housing and corporate owned single-family homes older than 15 years, Newsom’s order covers all housing types, including vacant units, regardless of age, in the affected areas. And unlike AB 1482, which contains an annual limit on rent increases, the 10% cap under Penal Code Section 396 can be extended to apply over multiple years.
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.
The California Apartment Association urges landlords in counties named in declarations of emergency — and anywhere in the state — to seek legal advice before raising rents by more than 10%.
In addition to governor-issued emergencies and bans on price gouging, some cities and counties have instituted their own emergency proclamations and anti-price-gouging measures.