Wildfires are once again wreaking havoc on California residents.

With the Fairview Fire burning in Riverside County and the Mosquito Fire chewing away El Dorado and Placer counties, residents find their homes — and their lives — in danger.

Many are evacuating their homes for the safety of nearby communities. In need of somewhere to live, homeowners and renters alike are turning to temporary rental housing, hoping they will have a home to return to when the wildfires have been extinguished.

This makes the unlawful practice of price gouging during a state of emergency even more exploitative.

Price gouging occurs when a landlord increases the price of rent by more than 10% the normal rental rate after a state of emergency is issued.

Additionally, landlords may not circumvent price gouging by hiding price increases in:

  • gardening services;
  • cleaning services;
  • utilities;
  • short-term lease agreements; and
  • evicting a tenant only to re-rent at a higher rate, according to the Attorney General.

New listing: exploitation doesn’t pay

Landlords who increase the rental rate during a state of emergency are committing a criminal misdemeanor.

Disciplinary action may result in upwards of a year in county jail and a $10,000 fine.

Even with these disciplinary actions in place, price gouging remains an ongoing battle for homeowners and renters during wildfire season.

During 2017’s Northern California firestorm, wildfires tore through several counties in northern California, leaving thousands of homeowners and renters seeking shelter from the flames.

One landlord, hoping to make a profit, was charged with a misdemeanor for price gouging after attempting to exploit evacuees. The landlord raised the price of their rental home in Santa Rosa from $3,400 per month to $10,000 per month after a state of emergency was issued, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Real estate licensees can check if a state of emergency has been declared or received an extension by visiting the proclamation section of the Governor’s website.

Victims of price gouging or witnesses of this malpractice can file a report directly with the Office of the Attorney General.

Related article:

Wildfire risks wreak havoc on California’s housing market